Check out the first book now on display at The Village Green’s StoryWalk

The children’s book “Cashiers, Come Play With Me” was recently installed into the StoryWalk at The Village Green and tells the tale of how the Cashiers community came together and overcame tremendous adversity to build a playground in the midst of a hurricane.

Quit a crowd attended the dedication ceremony of “Cashiers, Come Play With Me,” at The Village Green.

“Cashiers, Come play With Me,” was written by The Village Green Executive Director Ann Self, illustrated by Kat Ford, and translated into Spanish by Ana Crespo. All were on hand along with representatives from Vision Cashiers, the Albert-Carlton-Cashiers Library, and the Literary Council of Cashiers who collectively sponsored the story’s Dedication Ceremony at the Village Play on June 19.

Illustrator and artist Kat Ford addresses the crowd at the dedication ceremony.

Self said publishing the story was a dream come true.

“Everyone came together and worked as a team to get the job done,” said Self. “It’s a great story no matter what community you live in.”

The Village Play was planned, funded, and built from March to October in 2002. Before the Village Play was built, all that stood as a playground were two swings and a slide, which Self said did not meet the demand of children in the area. During the planning stages, architects met with children and asked what their dream playground would entail.

From left are Claire Coward Wilkins and her son Davey Wilkins, Thomas Bates, Lisa Bates, Bob Dews, Lise Dews, and Betty Morris. These are some of the original crew who designed and built the Village Play. Claire (holding the baby) was a child at the time of the playground’s construction and was one of the many children asked about what they would like included in a playground. Claire is featured in the book as one of the children who started the idea for a new playground.

Taking the children’s feedback, plans turned to action. People started raising funds through bake sales, car washes, coin jars, and volunteers from throughout the community showed up to help any way they could. Materials were gathered and volunteers were divided into teams with professional builders as team leaders.

And that’s when Hurricane Isidore hit knocking down trees and taking out the power at the Crossroads intersection.

In addition to being on “swing duty,” Cashiers-Glenville Fire Department crews managed traffic and brought in a truck with a generator so volunteers could keep on working in the rain and mud to complete the project in time.

“The storm knocked down a huge tree and took out power to the intersection,” said CGFD Chief Randy Dillard. “We brought in the generator truck so crews could keep working. It was a good time, everybody pulled together and got it done. It was really great.”

Spearheading the project were Bob Dews and Brian Renfro. Dews said he remembers after the hurricane hit and knocked out the power, the storm stayed in place for days and didn’t move on, yet volunteers still kept showing up despite the weather.

More OG builders back from 2002, some skilled, some unskilled… From left are Thomas Bates holding son Davey Wilkins, Thomas’ wife Lisa Bates, Lise Dews, Bob Dews, Vanna Montgomery, Kim Coward (psuedo-skilled) and Kim’s loyal friend, Pebbles.

“It’s still to this day the most unified event I’ve ever seen the community participate in,” said Dews. “Even after the storm hit, people kept coming. Everything went dark and the Chief showed up with the truck and generator. He let truck sit idle for two days so we could work. It was crazy.”

Claire Wilkins (maiden name Coward) was one of the many children asked what the playground should include and was present at the story’s dedication with her child who was busy at play during the picnic that followed the Dedication Ceremony with CGFD crews manning the grill, just like they did back in 2002 at the playground’s opening.

Once again CGFD firefighters man the grill, just like crews did in 2002 when the playground was finished and the community held a BBQ picnic to celebrate.

“When I first saw it, in my mind it was the most towering ‘ginormous’ playground I had ever seen,” said Wilkins. “It blew everyone’s mind.”

Wilkins’ mother, Kim Coward, was one of the OG volunteers who helped build the playground. She remembers the community unity, everyone pulling together against incredible odds to achieve a shared goal, and how great it all turned out in the end.

But what she remembers the most, is when Dews divided up the volunteers into teams of “skilled,” and “unskilled,” workers to help organize the delegation of appropriate construction duties.

Unskilled workers focused more on things like sawing and hammering, and the use of power tools was left to those deemed skilled. As an accomplished attorney, Coward felt she was worthy of the skilled category.

Children throughout the area were asked what they would like to see in a playground, and the Village Play is the finished product.

“I showed up at the park to help and Bob told us to stand in lines of skilled and unskilled,” said Coward. “He put me in the unskilled line and hung a sign around my neck that said ‘unskilled.’ I said screw that, so I wore a sign that said pseudo skilled.”

Dews laughed about Coward’s reaction when he deemed her ‘unskilled,’ and said many of the volunteers who showed up to help were professional builders who asked to be labeled as unskilled because after a full day of building at their day job, they just wanted to grab a hammer and be given an assignment.

When the playground was finished, the skies cleared, CGFD crews held a celebratory BBQ for the community and students from Summit School paraded over to the park to test out the new equipment (Summit was located next to The Village Green back in 2002).

“Cashiers, Come Play With Me,” is written for children at a second grade reading level and is presented in both English and Spanish along the StoryWalk.

To read about how the StoryWalk came to be a reality at The Village green click HERE.

The StoryWalk is part of the Cashiers Greenway Ramble.

Pictured at the top of the article from left are Maggie Carton, Vision Cashiers; Illustrator and Artist Kat Ford; Nancy West, Literacy Council of Cashiers; Spanish Translator Ana Crespo; Serenity Richards, Albert-Carlton Cashiers Community Library; and Ann Self, The Village Green during the dedication ceremony of “Cashiers, Come Play With Me,” at The Village Play.

The story begins at the Village Play and winds its way through the park ending near the Commons Building.

As visitors make their way along the story’s path, it’s worth taking a couple minutes and walking through the Hayse Fairchild Memorial Garden.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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