Spotlight: Heart of the City Playground

In Community by Michelle Huddleston1 Comment

A community where one person’s idea can become an entire city’s purpose, an entire city’s unification for a common need, an idea that becomes not only one persons’ thoughts, but an entire city’s mission…

The Heart of the City Playground, which is now a reality in Cookeville, TN, for parents who have children with physical limitations, is the best example I can think of. It is the best way to describe how any citizen, at any walk of life, with any skill set, can combine their abilities and skills with those of another citizen; collaborating to build something that changes the lives of families, changes the quality of life for children, and unites the “Heart” of a city.

This was a project, I can fairly say, was named accurately and even prophetically, if you will.  The construction crews gave of their time, skills, equipment, and even worked alongside other construction crews (their business competitors), the clubs, church groups, work colleagues and others who served together on this project, as well as the team who came together to head up such an endeavor… HEART of a City.  A Cookevillian my whole life, I am now raising 3 daughters and teaching them to become the kind of top-notch citizens we have come to expect here in Cookeville.  I can say, also with no hesitation, that there is not much I believe this city could not accomplish when everyone pulls together like we always do in times of need, whether disaster relief or project/program planning.  I am honored for Cookeville to be where my family lives, works, learns and plays, where we call home.

When I speak to students about the value of paying it forward and becoming involved in something larger than themselves, I try to put into perspective what just one hour of their time could mean to another human being.  What if you spent an hour with a group of senior adults, teaching them computer skills and social media?  It is very little of your time, it costs you no money, there is not even physical labor involved.  But, you have just opened up a whole new world to that grandparent who never sees the grandkids because they live across the country.  You have just changed the life of the mother who can now Facebook and Skype with her child who is deployed overseas.

You never can determine what a small amount of your time could mean for the person or the organization you are giving your time to.  This is the same with the volunteers who came together for the playground… we will never know what difference those few months made and will make in the lives of families.  I will leave you with this quote from the former United Way Director for Putnam County and my dear friend who taught me so much about life and living it with purpose…

“Do what you can, where you are at, with what you have”

~ Melinda James ~


  1. I really enjoyed reading this article. I remember those rainy days when the workers were working relentlessly in the rain getting it done! I love seeing the park and how beautiful it is… I agree with you Michelle, it is a wonderful place to raise our kids and a place I am also very proud to call home!

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