In the mid ‘90s, our town saw the need for a safe public place for kids to play, came together as a city, and built the Kids’ Dugout at the Sportsplex. It has been the site of countless hours of families playing hard, getting exercise, building memories and having fun. Now, nearly twenty years later, it has become obvious to all that the wear and tear on the site has taken its toll, and once again we are looking at the need to upgrade and renovate. This time, however, the plan is to make the “Kids’ Dugout” into the “All Kids’ Dugout,” and renovate it so that those with physical challenges and who are perhaps wheelchair bound can play there, too.
“We are going to do it, because it is the right thing to do,” Mayor Ronnie told me in our bi-weekly chat. Holly Hollman, who is the Grant Coordinator and Communications Specialist for the City of Athens, was also present, and the two of them showed me the plan and set forth the vision, not only for the All Kids’ Dugout, but the renovation of the Sportsplex.
“It is important that people know that we are not going to destroy what a community built, but will only make it better,” said Mayor Marks. It is going to cost $100,000 to complete the Dugout project, which will include shade structures, special swings and other equipment for disabled kids, and all necessary renovations. A 50/50 grant has been applied for through the ADECA program, (Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs,) and once again the community is going to be involved with everything from fund raising to “totin’ barges and liftin’ bales.”
Behind the Badge, which is the community service arm of the police department, has chosen the All Kids’ Dugout as their annual project for 2013. Everyone is determined to make it work, even if the grant doesn’t come through, yet another example of what makes the community of Athens so wonderful.
This leads me to the Mayor’s other point—the concept of city vs. community. He is just back from a conference attended by the mayors of the cities of Alabama, and the keynote speaker was the former Mayor of Abilene, TX, a fellow by the name of Gary D. McCaleb. Mr. McCaleb wrote a book entitled The Gift Of Community, and be advised that there will be several upcoming Ronnie Roll articles that will be discussing various topics covered in the book. I had a chance to skim through it, and was so inspired that I am going to get my own copy. The Mayor’s copy of The Gift Of Community is already highlighted to death, (though he offered to loan me his,) and I want to mark up mine with abandon.
A final word of thanks from the Mayor to the group of women who worked so hard to get the Farmer’s Market off to a super start for the summer. Were these gals paid? Nope. They just love our town and did what it took to get not only produce, but honey, herbs, and other locally produced items available to the people of Athens. We are indeed blessed as Athenians, and as you’ll see soon, our city is truly a community, and one for which to be thankful.
By: Hollie Hollman