On Saturday, Jan. 23, a group of 16 members of the Airmen Leadership School of AAFB spent the entire day at the Imagination Station cleaning up trash, re-painting, and repairing the park. “This group just did an outstanding job. They’re unreal. Very talented,” said Altus City Facilities Manager Craig Tockey.
The City of Altus was so impressed with the clean up that on Wednesday, March 13, each volunteer was given a certificate from the city, however only six of the 16 members of the group were able to attend.
“They had a big group out here. Kris McQuiggan was overseeing it for the City of Altus, and we just want to show our appreciation,” said Tockey. McQuiggan is the Facilities Maintenence Crew Leader.
MSgt. Andrew Wollenzin, Commandant of the Airmen Leadership School stated that the group “repainted a lot of the things at ground level. They replaced the boards and railings that were busted, raked up bark, cleaned out the sand by pulling up grass and weeds, and picked up trash.”
“We fixed a swing,” added SSgt. Phillip Ryan. One of the swings had a damaged chain.
Students of the Airmen Leadership school are encouraged to do some form of community service where everyone can work together. They frequently help out around in the community by going to animal shelters and playing and walking the animals, volunteering for the VA Hospital, and with Habitat for Humanity. “We leave it up to the students to choose, but it’s something where everyone gets involved and participates,” said MSgt. Wollenzin.
“This is one of those good Air Base-Community partnerships events” where the City benefits, explained Altus Mayor David Webb, who presented the certificates.
Most of the volunteers had left the Altus area for various reasons, but will still receive their certificates. The entire class was comprised of MSgt. Andrew Wollenzin, SSgt. Phillip Ryan, SSgt. Lauren Santa Cruz, SSgt. Antwain Walker, SrA. Marshall Alsip, SrA. Thomas Brandenburg, SrA. Joshua Bynum, SrA. Craig Cole, SrA. Rosa Garrette, SrA. Kristabel Hibbard, SrA. Justeen Kincaid, SrA. Levi Page, SrA. Paul Palmer, SrA. Jerad Robinson, SrA. Andrew Thurman, SrA. Christopher Watson, SrA. Zachary Williams, SrA. Mon Zabala, and Chloe Zabala.
Imagination Station is one of the most used parks in the City, and has been subject to vandalism over recent years. “Its all sorts of stuff we face on a day to day basis,” said Tockey. “And it’s not from the kid’s that are playing here.”
On Wednesday March, 6, some of the statues in the park were found damaged. One statue of two children walking along a log was entirely separated from its foundation. One of the statue children had it’s arm broken off.
Another statue of a girl with a bird in her hand was also damaged, as the bird was removed and stolen. “Those were pretty expensive statues,” said Tockey.
Also, over recent months, about thirty percent of the outer fence has been replaced. The names of the children who helped build Imagination Station are printed on the outside boards of the fence. Their names are not actually written down anywhere else. “Once those boards are broken, those names are lost,” explained Tockey.
“We just want the public to know if you see somebody doing something that’s inappropriate, just call,” said Mayor Webb.
Tockey and McQuiggan explained that volunteer groups like the Airmen Leadership School who contribute to the stewardship of the City’s parks are invaluable. In the past, organizations including Martha Baptist Road Church and other church groups, Boy Scouts, and the 4-H Club, have all helped. Any organizations who want to volunteer are encouraged.
When it comes to stopping vandalism and revitalizing City parks, Tockey says, “The public’s help is the best we’ve got.”