Playground built one penny at a time.
By Zach Vester
On October 20, 2013, New Life Baptist Church in Davenport celebrated the dedication of a new playground. The ceremony marked the completion of a multiyear project that was made possible by the church’s “Penny March.” The Senior Pastor of New Life, Dr. Roger Vester, explains how the Penny March works, “Every Sunday our children collect pennies, change, and dollar bills from our congregation before they head out to Children’s Church. Over the years these pennies and the sacrificial gifts of our church family have allowed us to install a beautiful commercial playground. You could say, our playground literally was built one penny at a time.” The playground includes a main play structure that has four slides, two climbers, 2 play panels, and is designed to meet ADA guidelines promoting inclusive play for all children. The playground also has a toddler play structure, two picnic tables, an A-frame swing for adults, and six swings one of which is an adaptive or handicap accessible swing.
While the playground will be a place for fun and fellowship, NLBC prays the playground will be much more. Dr. Vester describes the heart and philosophy behind the playground, “A lot of thought and prayer went into this playground. Our playground team set out to accomplish four goals and I believe they did.” The first goal was to provide the children of NLBC a safe place to have fun and fellowship together. The second goal revolved around outreach. The team desired to provide the children’s ministry a tool to reach out to kids and their parents with. The third goal was rooted in a desire to communicate to the community. The team wanted the playground to communicate that the church cares about and invests in children, desires to protect children, and encourages children to be children. Dr. Vester comments, “Our kids are forced to grow up so quickly nowadays. We hope our playground helps them enjoy the wonders of childhood. We also hope our adults can gain a new appreciation of what Christ meant in Mark 10:14, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.’ There is a lot to this verse. We’ve put the verse on our playground sign so our adults can think about it as they watch the kids play.” The fourth goal involved stewardship. Dr. Vester explains, “Our team set out to skillfully use and maximize the property God has given us, and I firmly believe they accomplished this goal!”
While the playground dedication was a time of celebration, the ceremony was also a time of remembrance. To remind the church family of the power of the small gifts given over the years in the Penny March, the children of NLBC presented the congregation with commemorative bookmarks that included a single penny. On the topic of the Penny March, Dr. Vester states the church is excited to now use the Penny March as a way to give to the NLBC’s Missions Fund. During the dedication the church honored the Playground Team which included Pastor Zach Vester, Bethany Vester, Shelly Hodson, Jeff Howland, Krista Fleshhood, Marguerite Ford, and Gary Moorhead. The church also paid tribute the memory of Bob Kem who served on the Playground Team until he went on to see the Lord in 2012 the day after he helped construct the playground’s main play structure. Carline Kem, Bob’s widow, cut the ribbon and officially opened the playground. Looking back on the day Dr. Vester states, “The dedication was a beautiful time to honor the many volunteers and gifts which made the vision a reality. We pray this playground stands as a monument to our church’s love for children, our community, and our Savior Jesus Christ.”