Well Played

“Our common denominator,” says resident and playground volunteer Lisa Lewis (left), “was to get this park built for these kids.”

For the 80-plus kids at Seaside’s Del Monte Manor, the largest affordable housing complex on the Monterey Peninsula, Christmas came early this year: On Dec. 7, after a two-years-long grassroots fundraising effort, the finishing touches on a new playground were finally completed.

“It was a true community effort,” says Erika Matadamas, who was part of a six-member group of volunteers that met every week to get the playground rebuilt.

The new playground replaces a decades-old collection of ramshackle metal structures – some with rusted-off, jagged ends – in a flea-ridden sandbox filled with other potential hazards, like glass shards.

“Our youth deserve so much better,” Matadamas says, adding that the group never lost sight of their goal to deliver a project rooted in dignity that would let the children know they matter.

Critical to the fundraising effort was the Seaside Police Department which, led by Deputy Chief Nick Borges and with an assist from the Seaside Fire Department, held fundraising barbecues to help the residents meet their goal.

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Borges says the relationship between the police and Del Monte Manor residents has not always been strong, and that helping with the new playground was an ideal opportunity to change that.

“This is a message that police do care,” Borges says.

Matadamas says the effort raised $70,000, but with volunteer labor to remove the old structures and install the new playground – much of it done by P.M. Landscaping – she estimates the total project cost was about $200,000.

The playground’s dedication ceremony is Jan. 5.

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