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Good Deeds: Polar pitches in to help fund playground

April 1, 2012

Schools have playgrounds for good reason.

They are places apart from classrooms for kids to stretch muscles, form friendships, share thoughts, blow off steam.

After parents and their students at Worcester’s Union Hill Elementary School, along with Oak Hill Community Development Corp., created an ambitious plan for a playground on school space otherwise defined for play by little more than asphalt and lines, KaBOOM!, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group of Plano, Texas, and Polar Beverages of Worcester stepped up to help fund the project with a Let’s Play grant.

The national partnership between nonprofit KaBOOM! and DPS is designed to get kids moving by building or fixing up 2,000 playgrounds by the end of 2013.

Polar Beverages, the family-owned Worcester bottler and distributor of Polar seltzer, soda and other drinks, also bottles and distributes DPS-owned brands 7UP, A&W, Sunkist, Crush, RC Cola, Diet Rite, Snapple, Sundrop and Nantucket Nectars.

With DPS’ $15 million commitment to build playgrounds with KaBOOM!, Ralph D. Crowley Jr., Polar president and chief executive officer, said Worcester needed to be next on the list.

KaBOOM! said DPS and Polar underwrote 90 percent of the project cost, estimated by Oak Hill at $165,000.

About 50 Polar employees showed up Sept. 24 along with 200 other volunteers — among them students from nearby Worcester Academy and City Manager Michael V. O’Brien — to build the playground. Mr. Crowley hauled mulch and concrete, and Polar made sure people had plenty to drink.

A respite from the classroom but a learning lab in itself, a playground is also a teaching environment. And what Mr. Crowley said he learned that day was twofold: “It was good to see the community come together to get something done,” he said, but, directed here and there with his wheelbarrow by others more used to managing the complexity of playground-building in a day, Mr. Crowley said, it was “challenging for me not to be the boss.”

“What was really noteworthy was the caliber of support from Ralph on down,” said Mullen Sawyer, executive director of Oak Hill. “He worked like a maniac.”

Family Health Center receives grant
Family Health Center of Worcester has been awarded a $40,000 grant by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.

The center is one of 24 community organizations to receive grants totaling $1.2 million. The grants represent the first of two years of funding.

Family Health Center will use the funds to improve access to health care and insurance coverage for low-income individuals and families and increase their self-sufficiency in navigating the health care system.

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