New playground boosts morale at youth center | News | Daily Sun Villages

School is out and it’s a few minutes after 3 p.m. when the first children arrive at the Sumter County Youth Center in Bushnell. The call is made that the playing field is open and the race is on. Leaping off the basketball court, they run towards what is now their new favorite activity at the center. Sumter County Commissioner Doug Gilpin organized an effort to raise $50,000 for the purchase and installation of the playground after learning of the dilapidated condition of the center’s old playground. Gilpin and several business leaders were on hand Friday for the official inauguration of the playground. “I really don’t deserve the credit for that,” Gilpin said. “All I did was ring the bell and rally the troops. When I reached out to the entrepreneur community, it almost became a race to see who could contribute the most, the fastest. That’s how we do it in Sumter County.

“We have dynamic companies that are doing well. Each of these business leaders cares about our children and our future.

When Gilpin was first alerted to the need, he visited the center and found the old equipment obsolete and in poor condition.

When he pledged to support the purchase of a new playground, Della Boushley, the centre’s executive director, said she showed him several less expensive options.

“He looked at the brochure and pointed and said, ‘What about this one? ‘” Boushley said. “I told him one was considerably more expensive. He said to me, ‘That’s the one we get.’

Gilpin was impressed with the playground after seeing it in person for the first time. He couldn’t resist climbing a few steps on one of the climbing columns. The playground also includes slides, ladders, monkey bars and even bongo drums.

Boushley said she was grateful Gilpin made the effort to do something for the kids.

“The best thing for me is just seeing the joy on the kids’ faces,” she said. “I had a huge poster with a picture of the playground for a few months before I got it. Their expectation was huge. They couldn’t wait. Then when they got to play on it, and see how good they were. fun, it’s just a good thing to see. And it gets them out. They’re not inside staring at screens.

The donation was the largest the center has ever received, said Connie Mahan, who sits on the board of the nonprofit which provides after-school care as well as day care to hundreds of children. children during school holidays.

The Sumter Youth Center also has a location in Wildwood. She operates a fundraising thrift store at 930 N. Main St. in Bushnell.

“I know Miss Della speaks for the kids, but on behalf of the council, we can’t thank you enough,” Mahan said. “Someone in the community making a donation like this has never happened. It’s amazing and it’s a blessing.”

Samantha Scott was thrilled to see the upgraded gear. She has close ties to the center as her children used to go there when they were in school. Now his daughter-in-law works at the center and his son volunteers on his days off after serving as a Sumter County firefighter.

“There are hundreds of children being served at this center,” Scott said. “Now not only do they have a place to play that’s safe, but it’s of the highest quality. And they love it. They are so happy.

Gilpin was recognized for his fundraising efforts last year when he received the Community Hero Award at the Red, White and Blue BBQ and Valor Awards sponsored by the Sumter County Republican Party.

Gilpin’s selflessness made him a natural recipient of the award, said Sumter County Republican Executive Committee Chairman John Temple.

“I often hear stories about Commissioner Gilpin and all the things he does behind the scenes for the people of Sumter County,” he said. “He doesn’t do these things to get noticed, but because he really cares about the residents and always wants the best for them.”

Gilpin said any investment in children benefits the county as a whole.

“Years ago we didn’t have a lot of opportunities for kids growing up in Sumter County,” he said. “But now if we raise them right, educate them right, they can come back here and have a wonderful career and a wonderful life. In the past, you had to go somewhere else to do these things. But now you can do it all right here in Sumter County.

Gilpin is now looking to help the organization expand to Lake Panasoffkee in the future.

“I’m really proud of the work that Miss Della and Miss Connie and Miss Samantha and many others have done,” he said. “Shame on me, I didn’t realize everything that was going on here. But once you see it, it’s contagious. When it comes to our kids, we’re not going small, we’re going big. And we will make it to Panasoffkee Lake when the time is right and continue to work for our children.

Specialty Editor Keith Pearlman can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5347, or [email protected]

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