She’s not playing around
SAC CITY – Emily Scott said she didn’t really need to take on one more project.
The energetic Lake View teen is active in 4-H, FFA and sports at East Sac High School, but when she saw a need for a playground at the Sac County Fairgrounds, she met the challenge, investing more than 400 hours of her time and earning the President’s Volunteer Service Award along the way.
“It’s crazy to think I helped do all this,” said Scott, 16, as she surveyed the new playground east of the 4-H building at the fairgrounds. “It’s satisfying to see it completed.”
Scott helped raised more than $16,500 for the project, which includes a bulldozer slide and jungle gym, butterfly climber and other equipment installed in February over an area covered with wood chips.
The idea for the project developed when Scott and fellow members of the Wall Lake Bandits/Viola Visions 4-H Club noted that children didn’t have an easily-accessible play area at the fairgrounds and were causing some issues with the 4-H club’s flower planters in the area.
As Scott thought about building a playground, she knew she had much to learn about fundraising and planning.
“It got me out of my comfort zone,” said Scott, who serves on the 4-H County Council in Sac County.
After receiving approval from the Sac County Fairboard to move ahead with the project, Scott began researching playground equipment options in the summer of 2014.
She focused on Playworld, an online playground equipment provider suggested by her mother, Mollie, who had worked at a daycare center in Sac City. Scott quickly realized how pricey playground equipment can be and discovered that equipment wasn’t the only cost.
“Just the playground equipment cost $9,075,” Scott said. “It also had to be installed by a crew from Kansas City, Kansas, to meet installation requirements, and that cost $3,770. We also needed more than $1,200 to buy the wood chips to cover the playground area.”
As she began raising money, Scott approached Farm Bureau, since her father, John, works for Farm Bureau Financial Services, in Sac City.
Scott contacted Laura Comito from Artworks Studio, in Carroll, to host a canvas painting party at the 4-H building in March 2015.
Nearly 34 people attended the event, which was open to the public and helped raise $225 for the playground.
Next, Scott recruited her 4-H club to sell Memorial Day planters last spring.
The planters, which sold for $15 each, raised $1,110.
Scott publicized these fundraisers through her Facebook page and devoted much of her free time to grant-writing. Taking advantage of teacher inservice days, Scott went to the Carroll County Iowa State University Extension office to complete grant applications.
She said she was excited when she received a $500 grant from DuPont Pioneer through the Iowa 4-H Foundation.
“There were slumps, though, where I wasn’t receiving the grants I applied for,” she added. “I’d worry that I wouldn’t reach my goal.” She persisted, however. Things turned around when Scott received her largest contribution – a $5,565 Wellmark Foundation grant.
“I was so happy I was in tears when I found out Wellmark funded my entire grant request,” said Scott, who also received donations from local community members.
Her advice on fundraising?
“Be brave enough to ask. Even the little donations add up. I found that most people were interested in supporting the playground project.”
Scott, an East Sac High School sophomore, who serves as president of her 4-H club, credits 4-H and FFA with helping her develop confidence in her speaking abilities.
“These groups aren’t just about farming,” Scott said. “You learn leadership skills and meet great people.”
Scott is a terrific ambassador for 4-H, said Steph Erpelding, a Sac County Extension youth coordinator and co-leader of the Wall Lake Bandits/Viola Visions 4-H Club.
“4-H is all about learning how to communicate in front of other people and groups, learning about leadership, growing into leadership positions and giving back to the community,” Erpelding said.
“Emily developed all these qualities through this playground project,” she added. “The skills she learned are what every employer is looking for in an employee. It’s wonderful how 4-H prepares our young people for the future.”
Sac County 4-H nominated Scott last fall for national honors in recognition of her volunteer service.
Candidates’ volunteer activities were judged on personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.
Scott recently received a President’s Volunteer Service Award for her service.
The award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their county, was granted by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program on behalf of President Barack Obama.
“The recipients of these awards demonstrate that young people across America are making remarkable contributions to the health and vitality of their communities,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and chief executive officer of Prudential Financial. “By recognizing these students and placing a spotlight on their volunteer activities, we hope to motivate others to consider how they can also contribute to their community.”
Volunteering is an important part of life, said Erpelding, who is thrilled that Scott won this honor.
“I can’t wait to see the benefits of having the playground on the fairgrounds when it’s filled with little ones enjoying themselves.”
There’s enough room to expand the playground if the need arises in the future, said Scott, who is glad she undertook this project.
“I hope this playground inspires other people to support projects that improve their local community.”
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