Shoppers who take advantage of special downtown store hours next Wednesday evening will be helping to fund a new community playground.
Bread of Life Lutheran Church is sponsoring Diva Night Out with downtown merchants to raise money to construct a playground for the community on its property at 1415-17th Ave. SW. The location is on the east side of 16th Street Southwest, north of the U.S. Highway 2 & 52 Bypass.
"During the flood, we lost so much of our playgrounds and parks," said Michelle Lauckner, a member of the church outreach committee. "On the south side of town, there really isn't much for play areas. With all the people coming into our area, families are living in congregate housing where they may not have access to any kind of play structure or green space."
For those reasons, the outreach committee is spearheading a church project to build a playground. Future construction includes a pavilion where people can picnic or host events such as family reunions and where outdoor worship services can be held.
The church is seeking grants and private donations for a $55,000 children's playground, which is the project's first phase. In celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the church wants to raise $25,000 from within its congregation.
A number of downtown merchants are teaming up to raise additional funds by opening their doors Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. for Diva Night Out. Participating merchants will either donate a portion of proceeds or make outright donations to the playground project.
Shoppers can stop by Lillian's downtown for a list of participating stores. There also will be light appetizers served and door prizes awarded, said Donna Roos, one of the organizers. Weather permitting, there will be outdoor musical entertainment.
"It's going to be a fun time," Roos said.
People who wish to contribute directly also can send donations designated to the playground project to the church.
The Rev. Taryn Montgomery with Bread of Life said the playground location currently is extra space that the church uses for parking. The church is working with Dakota Fence on a playground design and has future plans to invest an additional $5,000 to install accessible playground equipment for children with disabilities.
Montgomery said depending on fund-raising, construction could start this fall or in the spring.