~ Lowe’s Home Improvement grant financing major Waverly revitalization project ~
By Terry Harris
On Tuesday, August 10, Lowe’s Home Improvement and The Town of Waverly celebrated Red Shirt Day - the official kickoff for a huge project funded by Lowes in the center of town - as local and Lowe’s volunteers worked together cleaning up SCYMAC (Sussex County Young Men’s Athletic Club) Field. The excitement in the air was tangible as volunteers prepared for a major overhaul of the park that had been devastated by a tornado five years ago, funded by Lowe’s as the first of their 100 impact projects to “celebrate the company’s centennial and support worthy initiatives nationwide” in celebration of their 100 year anniversary.
However, as Waverly Mayor Angela McPhaul, who first discovered the upcoming grants and initiated contact with Lowe’s and representatives from SCYMAC to put in the town’s bid for one of the coveted slots, explained, local volunteer work began well before the 10 a.m. start-off time.
“Charles Streat, GM of Prince George Lowe’s and the head of their group of volunteers, let me know that he had a large volunteer group from four area stores - Downtown Richmond, Midlothian, South Richmond, and Prince George – that wanted to come early and get started on the tear-down and clean-up in preparation for the rebuild at 8 a.m.,” McPhaul said. “They tackled the concession stands first thing and had already completely filled one dumpster before 10!”
Even before that, McPhaul said, community volunteers from SCYMAC who would be unable to help with the kickoff on Tuesday had spent hours the Sunday before tearing down many yards of old, dilapidated fencing around the field to make way for the new.
When the 10 o’clock starting time arrived, 53 volunteers were on hand - 11 from Lowe’s and 42 local volunteers from SCYMAC, the Sussex Sheriff’s Department, Sussex Chamber of Commerce, Sussex Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Shultz Lawnscapes, Virginia American Water, Virginia Gateway Region, Waverly Pickleball Club, Baxter Brothers, and Faith Unleashed, plus various unaffiliated citizens as well as the Town of Waverly Public Works, members of the Town of Waverly Town administration team, and Town Council members.
All morning they enthusiastically tackled the hard, dirty work clearing debris from the concession stand where the roof had been ripped off by the tornado and tearing down the rest of the old fencing as well as trees and brush in preparation for the new concession stand, bathrooms, basketball court and goals, baseball field, fencing, welcome sign, and scoreboard being provided by the grant to the town of Waverly courtesy of Lowe’s Home Improvement.
As they paused in the shade for a few moments to share lunches donated by Virginia Diner, several volunteers on hand shared their feelings about the project, and what it will mean for the town.
“This is great to see this great improvement in this park – see it come back to life,” said Sussex County Administrator Richard Douglas. “It wouldn’t be possible without Lowe’s and their grant, and I applaud the mayor and her efforts for putting together a very competitive application to get the funding. It’s just really great to see everyone out working together today.”
Sheriff Ernest Giles, one of the original founding members of SCYMAC, said, “Johnson, the two Perrys, Moss and his wife and I came out here in the early 90s and cleaned this area up to try and provide something to do for the kids here in town. And we had lots of activities as well as a lunch program to mentor kids – keep them off streets.”
Gerald Johnson, another SCYMAC founder, said, “For us this really means a lot, starting all over again with more positive events here for kids and adults. The opportunity to have more activities here, to make it safer to bring kids out and do more for our community, it’s the beginning of a new start for us that we are so looking forward to, and I know we all just want to thank Lowe’s for selecting us.”
Afterward, McPhaul, who was one of the first to arrive and the last to leave, paused to credit Public Works Supervisor Howard Jones and his staff of “five great guys who show up every morning with a smile on their face ready to go to work” with keeping things going nonstop as volunteers cleared out huge mounds of fencing, posts, trees, bushes – everything that would have stood in the way of beginning the rebuild.
She said that she envisions the newly renovated SCYMAC Park as “perfect, since it’s in the center of town and local kids will be able to walk to the facilities” and looks forward to seeing “a lot of events that we’re just super-excited about.”
“I just can’t believe this,” she said, looking around at all the progress, and all the volunteers. “When I spoke this morning to kick off the event, to stand there and believe that that many people showed up to help the Town of Waverly and were excited about this grant as I was, I literally was starting crying. I just couldn’t believe that A) we got selected and B) people recognized what a huge accomplishment it is for the town of Waverly to have people pay attention to us and share the vision that we have - to provide more opportunities and activities for our children, especially, but for all our citizens. And it’s just truly amazing that we are the first Hometown of the 100 across the country that Lowe’s is doing this wonderful thing for.”
At the end of the day, Charles Streat, Store Manager of Lowe’s in Prince George who worked side-by-side with the rest of the volunteers the entire time, said that he was proud and honored to be there “representing Lowe’s sponsoring their Hundred Hometowns project.”
“With Lowe’s celebrating our 100 year anniversary,” he explained, “they decided to bid in contracts for 100 local hometown charities and events - projects - community service works, beyond what they normally do with Hometown Heroes projects. They received 2,200 requests from small towns all across the country.”
Looking around, he added, “and out of those, they selected 100 projects to sponsor and fund – one being this one here in Waverly.”
“One thing I’ve always been proud of working for this company,” Streat continued, “is the way that they give stores the opportunity to give back in the community. Just knowing it’s a small-town, family community, and that this park means a lot to this community after the tornado five years ago devastated this park and left them not having the ability financially to do anything to bring it back to the way I know they wanted it to be? It really is an honor for me to be the store manager and have the ability to gather a team together to not only represent Lowe’s, but for us to actually, physically be here to do our part for the community – to give back to a local town.”
“Having met Angela (McPhaul) for the first time when this project was first announced and seeing just what she is trying to do for this town as Mayor,” he added, “and trying to revitalize a small part of this community which is going to go a long way, ten-fold, through what this park means to the town - is definitely giving us some thoughts on how we, as volunteers, can return and do more.”