Playground present: Fairview Elementary receives playground upgrade

Preparation work was underway Tuesday morning at Fairview Elementary School for new playground equipment to be installed soon. The equipment was made possible by a grant from Ascend Performance Materials in Decatur. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

FAIRVIEW, Ala. – The students of Fairview Elementary School will soon have a fun new addition to their playground thanks to a generous grant from Ascend Performance Materials in Decatur. Employees from Ascend joined FES Principal Marty Hardman, Cullman County School Board Member Shane Rusk and many other parent and community volunteers in the bitter cold Monday morning to begin prepping for the new playground equipment that was delivered Tuesday.

Work on the playground resumed Tuesday morning as the kids returned to school.

Hardman smiled, “The kids are going to be excited about it.”

There will also be new sod around the playground.

“The sod is going to provide them with a new outdoor volleyball court also,” said Hardman. “It’s always been in a low area and there’s always been a lot of water standing and I think we have solved that issue. The county maintenance guys were absolutely awesome in helping us prepare and did so much work.”

When the school learned that Ascend would be providing the equipment, others in the community stepped up to offer additional help. Parent volunteers and community volunteers came out to show their support and help make sure the project was a success. P&E Farms, Simcoe Wood Products and West Fence Company donated labor and materials needed to upgrade the playground.

Said Rusk, “We never could have done or bought the piece of equipment and got all this done without Ascend. It’s greatly, greatly appreciated. Schools are strapped and there’s a lot of projects we can’t do and to have help from this company has been phenomenal.”

Tim Roberts, the project leader from Ascend, explained that the grant program was established by Ascend’s Decatur plant as a result of the 2011 tornado outbreak.

“This program has grown since that time. I think last year, there was right at or over $1 million in grant money given out,” he said. “This is not just Decatur, now; this is Pensacola, Texas, South Carolina- the five plants that are in our organization and even overseas. It’s branched out to our overseas operations. It’s set up now, as employees, we can give a payroll deduction just like you can do with United Way. Our company, Ascend, will match our donation. That’s how the funds have grown like they have.”

“They match dollar for dollar. No limit,” added Tara Gardner, process safety engineer at Ascend and Fairview alumna.

She was excited, despite the frigid temperatures, to be a part of bringing the new playground equipment to her alma mater.

The final amount of the grant is estimated to be around $17,000.

Ascend has helped fund community and school projects throughout north Alabama.

Roberts said, “There may be an opportunity to come back and do some more. We do these projects year-round.”

Roberts and Gardner both have deep roots in the Fairview community and Cullman County, so they hope to bring more community impact grants to the area in the near future.

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Christy Perry