And They Build Beauty For The Rest Of Us!
I’ve been on the Volunteer Bandwagon for a while now as I’ve stood back and watched people give of their time, energy, and money for no reason other than to make something better for others. Week after week volunteers all over this country announce ballgames and keep scoreboards lit. They keep the books for little league teams, and they participate in Read to Me programs at their local elementary schools.
Volunteers help local librarians, and they answer the phones, give visitors directions, and pass out magazines in their local hospitals. Of course, the list is endless as to the often thankless tasks performed by volunteers, but the end results are not. Volunteers give a part of themselves to other people, places, and projects, and they do it expecting no pay in return.
This week as I thought about just how much work has been accomplished by volunteers over the years in Comanche, Texas, it was the park enhancement group known as PEG who immediately came to mind. Of course, when I think of PEG, I think of Nancy Tindol and when I picked up the phone to ask for an interview, it was her number that I dialed.
“Obviously, you are a volunteer, and PEG is a group made up of volunteers,” was the first thing I said to her as we seated ourselves.
“One thing that people don’t always understand is that you don’t have to have a big group to get big things done,” the lady who never stops smiling told me. “It is amazing what 6-8 people can do. It’s just seeing a need and doing something about it. That’s been the case with PEG.”
But what in the world made her think up a group that would almost singlehandedly transform a city park? That’s what you’re wondering, right?
“Several years ago I went to Eastland where they have that wonderful mini-waterpark. Eastland is not that big, and I began to wonder why it was that we never seemed to get things done in Comanche. I thought about it over and over and over, and I started talking to the chamber about what a volunteer group could do. I was told that others had asked and been turned down every single time they asked about putting together a volunteer group that would enhance either the pool or the park.
“Then one day there was an article in the Abilene paper about Breckenridge and Eastland and the waterparks those cities have built. I wrote a letter, enclosed that article, and sent them both to the mayor. I really did not believe that anything would happen because it never had, but I got a call from city hall telling me that they wanted us to do something!”
Of course, there was no “us” at that time because PEG had not been created.
“I told the city that I didn’t know who would help but that I WOULD find people and get a group together. Christy Perkins gave me names of people who had also wanted to do something for the park and been refused as well. And just like that, PEG came into being in October of 2009,” the feisty teacher laughed aloud, “although it did not have a name at that time.”
But…she went on to tell me that the group consisted only of about 6-8 people, “mostly moms and Toby Bills, Sam Cunningham, and Jeffery Jacinto. We’ve never been anything but a very, very small group of volunteers.”
Of course, the first thing that had to happen was to get a name for the group. Christy Harris put an article asking for suggestions in the Comanche Chief, and it was decided that they would call themselves the park enhancement group, PEG for short.
I assume it was due to having seen the great thing that Eastland has done with its swimming pool that made Nancy really want to do something for the Comanche City Pool. However, once the group began its brainstorming, it was decided that since the park is used all year, it would be best to begin with a park project.
“Finally, Toby Bills said, ‘Let’s get this ball rolling,’ and we began talking about fundraisers and what to do first. Our first Penny Auction was held in February of 2010, and the money we raised was combined with city money to purchase the first playscape for the park.
“But first, we researched and researched…companies and equipment, companies and equipment. We knew we wanted to add a good quality, large piece of equipment, but everything was so expensive, and we wanted to get the very best quality that we could get for what we could afford. You have to remember that at the time, all the park had in the way of playground equipment was what had been brought in from Lake Eanes.”
So how expensive was that first playscape?
“The actual equipment was $18,000, but there were others costs to getting the project finished. Finally, the playscape was installed in April of 2010. The city paid $15,000 of it, and PEG paid $7,000. Volunteers from the community, city workers, and PEG members installed it themselves.”
Everyone actually wanted to put a cover over that first playscape, but the group simply could not afford it.
“We really wanted it covered, but we decided that it was more important to add more playground equipment,” she explained.
And for whatever reason, it was at this point that we paused to talk about two groups of people: the volunteers and those who stand back and criticize the volunteers. Believe me, I understood when the always feisty Tindol cranked it up to a new notch!
“It’s true what they say! Twenty percent of the people do 80 percent of the work! So many people have no vision, and they have too much time on their hands…too much time to gripe about others. They need to get a job and get busy!”
And speaking of getting busy, that is exactly what PEG had to do after the first piece of equipment was installed. The group was out of money, and they had to raise more before they could do anything else for the park.
On their second venture, PEG and the city were joined by the CECA who came onboard with them to improve the toddler area of the park in 2011.
“In 2011, we were able to add a small playscape, a rock climbing wall, and a canopy to the existing toddler equipment. This was a joint effort between the CECA, PEG, and the city of Comanche.”
In 2012, the park enhancement group added a skate park to the Comanche City Park and in 2013, they had to face a problem. Oak wilt had claimed the lives of many of the gorgeous old trees in the park so PEG sponsored a tree drive of sorts, where people were given the opportunity to purchase a tree in honor of or in memory of a loved one.
“That year we were also able to do some work on the city pool. A slide and the toddler pool were added, and the foyer was repainted. I remember that the slide was $12,000 and the city did the concrete work itself. The whole project was probably over $20,000. None of these things are cheap!”
In 2014, the bathrooms were painted by PEG members and other volunteers. And remember that very first playscape that the group installed? It was finally covered in 2014!
“We were not able to cover that first playscape, but we never stopped wanting to do that. In 2014, we researched covers and found that they cost about $20,000. Obviously, we could not afford that, but Johnny Conway built us a great one for about $9.000, and the city split the cost with us.”
So what does the future look like for the park enhancement group?
“We would like to do something else with the pool, but that is so expensive. We’ve checked into grants, but they are all matching grants, and our money is gone for this year. We will look to see if they are still available next year and if they are, maybe we will be lucky enough to get one. Of course, we will also have to have enough money to match one.”
And then I asked Nancy the question that I’m sure so many of you are wondering…why do they care? Why do they work so hard?
“So many of our Comanche kids don’t get to go anywhere else; they don’t get to go to Hurricane Harbor or any of the other water parks. They spend all of their time in Comanche, and we want them to be able to have fun.”
“And you plan to just keep on working?” I asked.
“We all want to continue to make improvements so the group will meet and decide what to do next. We are allowed to have two fund raisers per year. We always do a penny auction, and then we choose another one. It’s slow because it’s just us, and we are small, but we all want to keep on keeping on.”
Of course, they could keep on keeping a lot faster with more volunteers and more dollars, but this very industrious group will plug on regardless. They are that committed to making the Comanche City Park be the best it can possibly be for the people (and especially the young people) who visit there.
“Of course, volunteers have come and gone through the years, but Sam, Jeffery, Christy Perkins, Melody Kobb, and I are still hanging in there, and we plan to just keep on working.”
And if we’ve caused you to want to be a part of a group that does get things done, feel free to contact anyone in the group and tell them that you’d like to be a part of what they do. Of course, if you are unable to help physically, PEG will be more than happy to take your donation.
All you have to do is make one quick turn around the city park to see that they will put your money to good use!