By JASON STARR
For families living at the Winchester Place apartments who may be unable to afford summer camps for their children, the Champlain Housing Trust is bringing a similar experience to them.
The affordable housing non-profit will serve the roughly 140 children living in the complex, located between Fort Ethan Allen and Camp Johnson, with two AmeriCorps volunteers to plan activities for the kids and with a new playground.
“There is no playground here, so the kids are always playing on stuff they’re not supposed to be playing on,” said Winchester Place resident Justin Hatin, father of 3-year-old Serenity. “This will be a big improvement. It will be so convenient. It’s right here, so everyone can watch the kids.”
Last Thursday, CHT threw an end-of-school-year party with free ice cream and gave the neighborhood kids a chance to vote on their favorite playground designs. There were five options to choose from with features including climbing walls, monkey bars and swings.
CHT owns the complex’s 166 apartments and keeps them rent-controlled for affordability. The playground project is part of an ongoing neighborhood upgrade that has included outside lighting, parking lot paving, energy efficiency and interior renovations. The playground will be installed in a central open space currently occupied by trailers and construction equipment related to the improvements.
This summer, before the playground is finished, two AmeriCorps volunteers will be on site to mentor kids and keep them active. Recent college grads, they recently completed training and will go door to door to introduce themselves to resident families.
“Along with the playground going in, it is going to be a huge change,” CHT spokeswoman Anna Herman said. “It will give the kids a way to focus their energy.”