More than a dozen Utility Service Partners, a HomeServe company, employees joined more than 200 other local business people and Seneca Valley Schools pupils and volunteered their time to help re-build an 18-year-old playground, transforming it into “Crocodile Cove,” at Cranberry Township’s North Boundary Park. This $350,000 project was directed by KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to making play accessible to all children. In its more than 20 years, KaBOOM! has helped construct more than 3,000 playgrounds.
“We encourage our employees to volunteer and help with those causes are important to them,” John Kitzie, HomeServe CEO, said. “To promote this, we give them a paid day off to dedicate to the charitable cause of their choice, and we’re so pleased so many decided to help the families of Cranberry Township and answer the municipal league’s call.”
The Cranberry Township Parks and Recreation, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Municipal League, put out the call for 200 volunteers – and Utility Service Partners employees answered. The municipal league, which kicks off their annual conferences with a community service project to help connect them with communities throughout the state, has done eight such builds in partnership with KaBOOM!, and ten builds total.
John Brenner, Pennsylvania Municipal League deputy executive director, noted these projects are important to help demonstrate the advantages that being part of the municipal league can bring communities. He added the conference, in addition to community service opportunities, also brings many educational and networking opportunities.
Prior to the playground build, township officials solicited design input from local children and caregivers. Township Supervisor Mike Manipole, also a health teacher at Seneca Valley, and Seneca Valley Assistant Superintendent Sean McCarty spoke about how teachers and pupils were able to use the design and landscaping phases as part of S.T.E.A.M. education.
“[The playground] is going to be there for a while – up until when they go to college,” Manipole. “Some of them said ‘it might outlast you, Mr. M!’”
McCarty added it was important for the children to be able to see how schoolroom experiences translated to their communities and participating in volunteer activities allows them to appreciate their impact on those around them.
“USP revolves around people – our customers, employees and neighbors,” Tim Redd, People Communications and Engagement director, said. “Responsible corporate citizenship is an important cornerstone of who we are and what we do. So when we heard the league was looking for volunteers, we opened up the opportunity to our Canonsburg office and are thrilled, but not surprised, by the response.”
Redd noted it was not only important for Utility Service Partners to be able to give back to the community, but also to give employees the chance to do so as well.
Despite the nasty weather and muddy conditions, Utility Service Partners employees turned out to lend a hand Oct. 4 to transform the site into what was literally the playground of local children’s dreams.
“One of the things I love about working at USP is the focus on giving back to the communities we serve,” Ashley Shiwarski, Senior Manager of Inside Sales, said. “Knowing that we’re giving back as a corporation is important, because we want our community to be a good place to work and live.”
Ashley has used volunteer days to work on behalf of Best Buddies, an international organization that pairs those with disabilities, such as Downs syndrome and autism, with a “buddy,” creating opportunities for friendship, employment and leadership skills. Ashley has helped at several events, including walkathons and fundraisers.
Mike Chambers, Regional Director of Business Development, noted he also has participated in prior volunteer days, including several playground builds. He had an opportunity to visit a Pittsburgh playground at which he volunteered.
“The kids were running around, playing, and I thought, ‘I helped make that happen,’” he said.
Rainy skies couldn’t dampen spirits as the playground equipment was erected and landscaping completed by volunteers of all skill levels for the community’s children, giving Cranberry Township another world-class playground.