A thankful aunt gives credit to the community

Last week, I got in a little aunt/nephew time with my oldest nephew who is three-years-old.

As I just recently moved to Henry County in January, he hasn?t had many opportunities to visit my apartment. So, when I got the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with him, I decided to set up a play date in Mt. Pleasant.

Due to the location of my apartment, I drive by the United Thru Play Playground at least twice a day to get to and from work. As it would look a little odd for a 23-year-old woman to be hanging out on the playground equipment by herself, I had never stepped foot in the park until I suggested to my nephew that we go visit. As you might imagine, it didn?t take much coaxing to get him go there, as he doesn?t have a park like the United Thru Play Playground where he lives.

Since visiting the playground, I can honestly say that not only did my three-year-old nephew have a blast, but my 23-year-old self also had a pretty fun time. Between following him up to the top of the tallest slide in the park, to playing hide and seek inside the playground equipment, we both had a ball making memories and getting in a little exercise.

Without a doubt though, his favorite part of the day was playing the with the scooper tool in one of the sandboxes.

?Watch Aunt Bryce, I am just like Daddy on the bulldozer,? he would exclaim to me each time he scooped up a big pile of sand, imitating his father, who uses heavy equipment as part of his concrete business. ?Look at my muscles! I?m strong like Daddy!?

Now, every time I see him, my nephew asks to come back to Mt. Pleasant to play with me at the playground and dig some holes in the sandbox. He even wants his little brother to come along.

As we left the playground that day (much to the little guy?s dismay) I noticed the plaques displayed outside of the playground listing the names and businesses who had donated their time or money to making the playground for the community.

In that moment, I remembered a mission trip I took in high school to a town near the southeastern coast of the U.S. Unfortunately, the town had major crime issues. Many businesses and community organizations had left the area in the past years due to high crime and poverty rates, which had left the community in a pretty bleak state.

During my time there, I bonded with a woman and her granddaughter who lived in the community. Upon my suggestion that I take the little girl and some of her friends to play at the local playground one sunny day, the grandmother just laughed and shook her head.

?My baby girl has lived here her whole life and she has never played there,? the grandmother told me. ?I won?t let her. Drug users and prostitutes are there all the time, day and night. I don?t want her exposed to that anymore than she already is in this community.?

People, we have it made in the shade with lemonade here in Henry County.

I don?t worry too much about drugs or sex being sold at the playground in the middle of the day. I can walk down the street by myself and live in an apartment as a single woman, feeling relatively safe. Besides the playground, I know I can safely take either of my nephews to places like the public library, the movie theater, or even the park to look at the steam engine.

We are fortunate to live in communities that have organizations like Club M, the Henry County Substance Abuse Coalition, Kiwanis, Healthy Henry County Communities and so many others that are actively trying to improve the quality of life in our county. Those people listed on the playground plaques, who willingly gave so that other families could have a place to have fun together, make our community the friendly place that it is.

I can?t imagine living in a town where kids don?t feel safe enough to play at their local playground or where I couldn?t walk down the street by myself. Mt. Pleasant might not be a perfect town, but in my book, it has its merits.

So, thank you to all Henry County citizens that give regularly to make this county better. My nephew might not yet fully understand how much your contributions mean, but his Aunt Bryce certainly does.