EAST ORANGE, NJ - On June 27, 2014, The Shauger Group (TSG) celebrated the grand opening of the Babyland community playground in Newark, New Jersey. The playground is the product of a collaboration between Babyland Family Services, Inc., an organization that devises, organizes, and implements various child development, family development, and community development projects; KaBOOM!, a non-profit group that offers grants and otherwise assists in the creation of play spaces; and Morgan Stanley.
After learning about the project and the mission of its creators to create a safe play space for children in Newark, TSG volunteered its services free of charge to assist in the completion of the project.
At the June 27th ribbon-cutting ceremony, as a special thank-you to TSG for its unsolicited contribution to the project, Babyland presented TSG with a plaque, which read, “For all of your dedication and commitment to the transformation of an urban space into a meaningful play space for children.”
The playground, located at 755 South Orange Avenue, is part of Morgan Stanley’s Healthy Cities initiative, a nationwide effort to prioritize children’s health, safety, and wellness. Through the philanthropic program, Morgan Stanley teams up with various non-profit organizations, providing funding, support, and business expertise—both to serve children’s present needs and to ultimately encourage self-sufficiency in children by giving them access to a healthy start. Emphasizing the importance of “play,” “wellness,” and “nutrition” with each individual program, such as the Babyland community playground, the organizations involved custom design and develop projects most beneficial to communities and their residents.
“It was completely by chance that I first learned about Babyland and its upcoming construction of its Newark community playground,” said Donald Shauger, Executive Vice President of TSG. “We invited Babyland to our office to discuss the project and to see where The Shauger Group’s services would come in hand. What they needed most was not a financial donation, but our ability to provide both construction experience and knowledge as build day quickly approached.”
When TSG first met with Annette McDonald, Director of Children and Family Services for Babyland Family Services, Inc., at its office on June 19, 2014, TSG learned of Babyland’s needs and gained an understanding of what was left to do in the eight days before the project was set to open. TSG made multiple site visits, assessed the current status of the project, and determined the areas in which TSG would be most helpful to the project.
The project was subsequently handled by TSG’s Operations Department, headed by Vice President of Operations, Matthew Mulligan. Assistant Project Coordinator, Jamena Grant, served as the TSG office liaison on the project.
“I immediately handed the job of overseeing this project to one of our newest employees, Jamena Grant,” said Mulligan. “Jamena coordinated with Babyland during all of the phases of services provided by The Shauger Group. Jamena did a fantastic job coordinating and helping make our part of the project a great success.”
Given its short timetable, TSG began its work immediately upon completion of site visits and initial assessments. TSG excavated the site on June 20th and met the excavation requirements set by KaBOOM!, which mandated that a minimum of twelve inches must be excavated—or a retaining wall must be included—before any installation steps would be permissible. TSG’s ability to provide proper manpower and equipment allowed the site to be quickly and efficiently excavated, accelerating the project’s overall progress.
Over the next few days, TSG continued to supply its workers and equipment for a variety of tasks. TSG performed grading and removed the existing partial fence, which was in inadequate condition. Following the fence removal, TSG cleaned up debris to clear the site.
June 27th served as the project’s “build day,” on which day over two hundred and fifty volunteers helped in the construction of the park. TSG offered use of thirty-three tools on build day, including spade shovels, rakes, wheel barrows, manual post hole diggers, drills, sledge hammers, garden hoses, extension cords, and push brooms. TSG lent them the tools ahead of time so that they could also be used on the June 25th and June 26th designated prep days.
A resource for Babyland, TSG also offered creative ways in which Babyland could meet its goals in the most cost-effective manner possible. TSG’s experience in the industry allowed it to offer Babyland the most sensible, safe, and economical solutions. For example, when Babyland expressed concerns over the cost of adding electrical services for lampposts, TSG suggested that Babyland instead hang spotlights off the adjacent Babyland-owned building to diminish the cost of wiring.
The playground is geared to children between the ages of two and twelve years old. As McDonald explained, the playground is divided into four areas, or “learning corners.” According to McDonald, the park is designed to help give children the opportunity to “exercise their skills” on the playground.
“[With the playground], it means that so many more kids have an outlet to play,” said McDonald. “All children should have a place to let out their energy and connect with other children.”
“A child’s well-being, education, and health are at the very core of Babyland’s mission,” McDonald added. “Babyland firmly believes, ‘To change the world, start with a child.’ It is our mission.”
Adjacent to the final playground is a grassy area with tables and seating places. McDonald spoke of Babyland’s desire to have fencing around the perimeter of the playground and lighting throughout the playground. Although a parking lot has not yet been built, Babyland does eventually hope to construct one on the property as well.
McDonald was astounded by how quickly everything came together and could hardly believe Babyland’s luck in its final days of the project. A simple case of being in the right place at the right time led to McDonald being introduced by Assemblyman Thomas Giblin to Donald Shauger. When Assemblyman Giblin, who represents Legislative District 34, highly recommended Babyland’s endeavor, Shauger immediately asked what he could do to help McDonald and donated TSG’s services for the remainder of the project.
“Donald Shauger is like Santa Claus to me and to all of the people here,” said McDonald. “None of this would have been possible without Donald Shauger and The Shauger Group.”