ETON — School is still a couple of weeks away from starting for Murray County students, but when the kids return to Eton Elementary, they will have something the school hasn't had since 1993 -- new playground equipment.
Members of the Georgia United Credit Union "School Crashers" and many local volunteers were on hand at the school Saturday morning to install new equipment and refurbish existing pieces of the playground.
"You know, what we had before, it was well-intended, but it was beginning to look tired and beginning to get worn down and that was how we qualified for this effort," Eton Elementary Principal Elizabeth Selvage said. "We did the best with what we could, but to have new equipment, a new facelift and the mulch, there is that pride of when you say this is mine and you take care of it."
The "School Crashers" program is part of the credit union's community development program and is in its sixth year. More than 200 schools across the state applied for various grants through the program and 10 were selected to receive $20,000 grants.
Harrison Stafford, the business development officer for the Dalton branch of Georgia United, said through in-kind donations and the work of the nearly 80 volunteers who showed up to help, those dollars were stretched.
"We are able to deliver 'x' amount of dollars, so the first thing we ask is what can you do to help us get as maximum value for you," Stafford said. "It is fantastic when you can put forth $20,000 and deliver $40,000 worth of value. It is incredible."
Home Depot provided paint and mulch for the project, while Murray County Schools did the removal of the existing playground equipment which was going to be discarded. Volunteers gave a fresh coat of paint to all of the remaining equipment and even added some touches to sidewalks and to the outdoor basketball courts.
"It has been exciting to have such an amazing turnout," Selvage said. "The Crashers told me this was one of their biggest turnouts even for some much larger schools. To have so many parents and staff and the members of the Crashers Team to come, it is really exciting to have this much support. And many hands make light work, so we were able to get so much more done much more quickly."
In addition to local volunteers, workers from three northwest Georgia branches of Georgia United turned out. Stafford said it is their community too.
"Historically, this area was damaged by the recession, and schools have suffered the most with some of their budget constraints," Stafford said. "This is something we can do to help the community and give back."
Selvage was recently named the school's principal, and she likes the idea of a "fresh start."
"Both playgrounds look amazing," she said. "It is a fresh start for the school to have the new equipment. I think that it is a really good beginning of the school year."