A Helping Hands grant of $10,000 is benefiting the Chagrin Falls Park Community Center in Bainbridge.

Chagrin Falls Park Community Center Director Andrea Pollock said the grant was used to help improve the center’s playground and other projects. It is the second time the center has received the grant. “We got it two years in a row,” she said.

Twelve Allstate agency owners and staff from Northeast Ohio came together to volunteer and secure the $10,000 Allstate Foundation Helping Hands Grant to benefit Chagrin Falls Park Community Center, according to Meghan Cass of Allstate Insurance Co., corporate relations.

She said Allstate volunteers earned an Allstate Foundation grant for Family and Community Services which oversees the community center. The volunteers dedicated their time to scrapping, painting and repairing the damaged playground equipment at the center on Rocker Avenue off South Franklin Street.

The Allstate volunteers are among thousands of agency owners and staff around the country working to help communities thrive by supporting the causes they care about most. Andy Garza, Allstate field senior vice president, said “Giving back is core to who we are, which is why we care deeply about dedicating time to volunteer to help improve lives across Bainbridge.”

Mrs. Pollock said, “They made it the United Way Day of Action.” The funds were used to replace parts of the playground equipment and to redo sections that needed work.

Last year, the grant was used to work on the community gardens at the center. She said Helyne Walker, the community center’s director of supportive services, applied for the grant, which funds some major projects.

The volunteers spent a couple of days on the playground, taking off old parts and putting on new ones. It was enlarged and the surface was redone. They did some of the work during the United Way Day of Action.

The playground is well used, Mrs. Pollock added. Children and even adults use it, she noted of the play area that is adjacent to the community center’s basketball courts.

A dedication is set for Oct. 13 with representatives of churches and civic groups scheduled to be on hand, according to Mrs. Pollock.

Mrs. Walker noted last year’s grant for $10,000 went to rebuild the community gardens and to uphold the Strategies for Life program.

“It’s really helped a lot,” Mrs. Walker said of the grant funds. The gardens were over 10 years old and the wood borders had to be replaced. “Everything was old and tired,” she said of the gardens which are located in the back of the community center.

The Allstate team came in and worked on the gardens and brought in the materials including soil and all the tools, Mr. Walker said. “It was amazing what they did. And the gardens are doing well this year,” she said. “We put mulch in the aisles. It was a lot of work.”

The grant is also helping the cooking classes. Through the program, participants learn about budgeting. “We all lose a lot of money through cooking and eating out. In our programs, we teach how to cook pots of beans and meals,” Mrs. Walker said. She noted how they just made hobo stew or Mulligan stew as it is sometimes called. It was made during the Great Depression and uses all sorts of canned goods, mixed together, she said. “You let it simmer and everyone enjoyed it.”

Produce from the gardens is used in the cooking as well. In addition, the participants learn about having food and water on hand when there are power outages, she said. They raffled off a barbecue oven that could be used if a family has to cook outside.

They had a parents’ night in which they learn techniques of conversation with their children and establishing traditions.

“They have no idea how much this has helped us,” she said of the grant from Allstate.

She noted they are doing well at the community center. “People here are so dedicated. We have incredible volunteers. They tutor and help in the gardens. Every program here is touched by a volunteer. Everyone steps up to the plate,” she said. “I love this place and it’s all about the people.”

In looking at some of the programs at the center, Mrs. Pollock said there will be a Fashion Show organized by Mary Davis with items from the center’s Share It shop on Oct. 19.

The Family and Community Services, a nonprofit agency that oversees the Chagrin Falls Park Community Center, is one of thousands of organizations this year to receive the Allstate Foundation Helping Hands Grants secured by agency owners, personal financial representatives and licensed sales professionals on behalf of the nonprofits where they volunteer. The grants support organizations addressing domestic violence, youth empowerment, disaster preparedness, hunger and other causes.

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