In the Spotlight Greater Johnstown–Somerset Central Labor Council members refurbish playground at Women’s Help Center

Aug. 21—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — On beautiful sunny summer days, children staying at the Women’s Help Center in Johnstown can now spend time running, jumping, smiling and enjoying each other’s company on a remodeled playground thanks to volunteer work done by members of the Greater Johnstown — Somerset Central Labor Council.

Not long ago, old equipment and landscaping were in disrepair.

There was a crooked sliding board, rotted wood, bare spots in the mulch, rusty swing chains and a damaged sandbox.

So CLC members took action.

“We had a huge coat drive last fall here from the Women’s Help Center,” said Craig Horner, the council’s president.

“And, in that process, we noticed the playground needed some good healthy TLC, and we offered, and they accepted.

“Through our conversations, we put it together, then we went to our various unions. … They all donated time, stuff, equipment, people.

“The more we got into it, the more we ended up doing.”

Multiple unions — International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 5; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2047; AFSCME Local 2411; AFSCME District Council 83; United Steelworkers Local 2635; USW Local 2632 and Service Employees International Union Local 668 — participated.

Students from Bishop McCort Catholic High School and Pennsylvania Highlands Community College contributed.

“Everybody took a shovel or a glove or a rake and did something,” Horner said.

“Everybody just kind of fell together.

“We are a well-oiled machine when it comes to union.”

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, Need a Hand Handyman Service and The Long Barn donated supplies.

New equipment, including a sandbox, monkey bar rings, sliding board and picnic table, was installed.

“I went to my company, North American Hoganas. … I had just asked for a very small donation from them, maybe the slide and some swings and stuff,” said John Swanson, vice president of the council.

“They said, ‘Send us the bill.’ I sent them everything I needed and they ordered it all.”

The project was part of the CLC’s mission to help the community.

“We don’t just go to work,” Swanson said.

“This is what we do. We help out places.

“There’s all kinds of union activity. You just don’t hear enough of it.”

Women’s Help Center Executive Director Roxann Tyger said, “It was really nice to be able to make that connection with the unions.”

“They really came to our rescue, truly,” Tyger said.

The area is now used for day-to-day activities, along with special events, such as a Fourth of July picnic and a scheduled Labor Day get-together.

“It has been fantastic,” Tyger said.

“The kids love it. … The kids can have some normalcy, while they’re here and they can play.”

The center, located on Napoleon Street in Johnstown’s Kernville section, provides temporary free emergency shelter, legal advocacy and case management services for women, most of whom have left violent homes.

The playground is meant to be a safe and fun environment.

“It is a completely secure playground for any of the women and their children who are staying here at the shelter,” Tyger said.

“It really is the only secure outdoor space that we have.

“The kids would still go there and play, but I felt like there really wasn’t a whole lot to engage them because half of the things were broken. It was just more like being outside.”

Using the playground is one of the numerous services available for women and children at the house.

“When they’re at the shelter, we provide really everything for them,” Tyger said.

“They get a place to stay, food, clothing, access to a playroom, computers and the Internet, television, access to a kitchen.”

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