Niles church nearing fundraising goal for new community playground

NILES — Drivers on Bertrand Road the last few months have likely taken notice of a banner featuring a bright red fundraising thermometer tallying up dollars donated. Now that the red has nearly reached the top, fundraiser organizers cannot wait to reach the finish line.

Community Evangelical Free Church, 120 E. Bertrand Road, Niles, is nearing its fundraising goal to place a new community playground on its property. The church congregation, led by Pastor Matt Hickok, began fundraising for the playground in March. As of last week, the church was just $2,000 shy of its fundraising goal.

“All of that has come from our congregation,” Matt Hickok said. “It’s a very giving congregation.”

Though the church has only been fundraising for the playground since March, Betsy Hickok, director of children’s ministry, said the project falls in line with other renovation projects the church has undertaken over the last several years.

“The congregation of Community, that’s our church, has really been trying to show love in different ways and good stewardship of our building, which used to be Bertrand School,” Betsy said. “One of the big things Pastor Matt has really been trying to get through is that God will bless us more when we are good stewards of what we have, which is this very large property and very large building. … This playground is kind of the last piece of that.”

The playground will be fenced in and feature slides, games and other fun activities appropriate for children ages 2-12.

In addition to providing an updated and safer playground for church congregants, Betsy and Matt hope to see the park enjoyed by the community at large. While Betsy said there are other parks nearby, many neighborhood children might have to walk a long distance or cross busy streets to access them.

“We have several children in the area for whom this would be a safer location,” Betsy said. “We want to make it more of a community park, not only because that goes with our name, but because it’s for the community of the Niles area. We want the community to feel invited to come and enjoy the playground.”

Matt hopes to see the playground installed by mid-September, with the help of the Lowe’s Heroes program, which provides skilled volunteers to assist with community projects.

With the end of the playground fundraising in sight, Matt and Betsy are excited to see the project completed.

“I feel like the church congregation has given this big, huge gift of love for the children of the church,” Betsy said.

“I think it will be a huge sigh of relief when we hit the $20,000 mark,” Matt added. “Right now, we are so close we can almost taste it, but we aren’t quite there yet.”

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