The small city of Pembroke got a big response from the community to receive a grant toward new playground equipment.
Pembroke is one of 40 winners nationwide of $25,000 grants through State Farm insurance company’s Neighborhood Assist program. City officials and local State Farm representatives had a ceremonial check presentation Tuesday at the city’s recreation area on Lanier Street, where the playground will be erected once the remainder of the funding is raised.
The 40 winners were determined by online voting. Pembroke’s playground project garnered 86,184 votes during the 20-day voting period.
“I was astonished when I saw the numbers,” Pembroke City Councilwoman Tiffany Walraven said. “It was very exciting, very humbling to see that many people supported our project.”
With a population of approximately 2,600 people, Pembroke is the smallest community among this year’s 40 grant winners. The largest is New York City.
“Despite our size, when people work together for a cause, anything is possible,” Walraven said. “I am honored that a community of our size will receive such a large grant to help with our playground project. This is a big win for the children and families of Pembroke.”
Pembroke has received about $15,000 from community and corporate donors toward the approximately $60,000 cost of the project, according to city officials. The addition of the $25,000 State Farm grant puts the city two-thirds toward the goal.
“We’re very relieved because that takes a load off where we’re going to get the money,” Pembroke Recreation Director Mandy Toole said.
The new playground is not a budgeted item and is being funded entirely by contributions. The city is reaching out to corporate donors to raise the remaining $20,000.
“Now, it’s time to keep working,” Toole said.
Individuals who would like to donate can do so at City Hall, Walraven said. Also, the city has set up an account on the fundraising site GoFundMe.com, at www.gofundme.com/x4j27k.
“We’ve had a lot of people ask how they can donate personally,” Walraven said.
Once all the money has been raised, the playground equipment can be in use approximately 45 days after it’s ordered, Toole said — about 30 days for shipping, followed by roughly 15 more to erect it.
The city hopes that will happen in the next three to six months, according to Walraven. She acknowledged that isn’t much time, but she is positive the community will come through again.
“I am confident that we will be able to raise this money quickly and break ground on the project soon,” Walraven said.
For years, Pembroke had a playground on Lanier Street behind the J. Dixie Harn Community Center. However, the city’s only public playground was shut down last year and eventually dismantled after safety concerns arose about the aging equipment that was beyond repair.
The new playground will be erected on the same spot where the old one stood — between the city’s swimming pool, softball field and skate park. The playground the city plans to purchase will be suitable for children ages 5-12 and have an expected usage of at least 15 years, according to Toole.
Two of this year’s 40 Neighborhood Assist grant recipients are in Georgia, and they are neighboring communities. Georgia’s other winner is Effingham County’s Backpack Buddies program, which provides food for at-risk children when school meals are not available.
“The record number of people who participated and voted in this year's program demonstrates the passion of the Coastal Empire to help with community issues,” said Sarah Clem, a public-affairs specialist for State Farm. “We look forward to seeing the change that will happen in these two Georgia communities because of the Neighborhood Assist grants.”