By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Open. Accessible. Welcoming.
Delano Catholic Community has always strived for these qualities in its churches and school, and now, it has the physical amenities to match.
A 7,000-square-foot addition for St. Peter’s Catholic Church was completed this fall, along with new boilers for both St. Peter’s and St. Joseph’s, and new roofs for St. Peter’s School and Handzel Hall at St. Joseph’s.
A new school playground from Landscape Structures was also recently added.
The most prominent improvement is the two-story addition/renovation for St. Peter’s Catholic Church, featuring full handicap accessibility with an elevator, a multi-purpose social hall with seating for 124 people, open staircase, a new entrance, restrooms, and storage space.
“The social hall is called St. Martha Hall,” Father Paul Kammen said, explaining the name was chosen from the Bible story in which Mary and Martha are spending time with Jesus. Mary sits and listens to Jesus, while Martha is busy preparing food.
Kammen said it’s important to balance being “still and listening,” with being “active and working.”
“We have to live it out, too,” he said.
A community effort
One opportunity for parents and parishioners to live out their faith was the community-build for the new playground.
Sixty volunteers assembled the equipment one night the end of August, and the next day, 40 volunteers finished the task.
“This was my first time doing a community build, and it was really fun,” parent Liz Otto said. “It doesn’t seem like much time to assemble this beautiful playground.”
Otto commended Landscape Structures for efficiently organizing the build, and for all the work that went into it before and after. Brian Schaust, a Landscape Structures employee and parishioner of St. Peter's, helped coordinate the entire installation.
For parishioner Amy Jo Madson, who works in Landscape Structures’ marketing department, seeing the completed playground was a dream come true.
“Ever since my daughter, who is now almost 15 years old, started school at St. Peter’s, it’s been my goal to get a new playground out there,” said Madson, who currently has a kindergartner and fifth-grader at St. Peter’s.
The playground was ready for use just in time for the first day of school.
“The kids were pretty excited the first day of school, and a new playground,” Principal Shannon Calice said.
A strategic design
The equipment was designed with fitness in mind, and teachers have been incorporating it into their physical education classes.
Landscape Structures playground designer Mark Obrecht, who is also a parishioner, made the space suitable for a variety of ages.
“At the end of the school day, a lot of parents come to pick their children up,” Madson added, explaining that the playground is great for younger siblings to use while they’re waiting. The area is used by religious education classes, in addition to St. Peter’s preschool through sixth-grade students.
The equipment has an open design, which allows for easy supervision and maximum safety.
One unique feature is the PebbleFlex surface, with bright coloring and durable cushion.
“It has our school logo on it,” Calice said.
“As a parent, I love it because my kids aren’t getting little pieces in their shoes,” Otto added.
PebbleFlex is also in portions of Big Rock Park and Central Park, but St. Peter’s is Delano’s first recreational area to have it for the entire surface.
Madson said one mother at St. Peter’s is in a wheelchair, and with this material, she’ll be able to go on the playground to watch her child play.
“One of the church’s goals with the new expansion was accessibility, and we carried that theme over to the playground,” Madson said.
About a month ago, Madson said she saw a young boy in a wheelchair with his father, using the church’s elevator. Later, she saw them on the playground together.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘we achieved our goal,’” Madson said. ”It was kind of an emotional moment for me.”
Kammen said he has heard many positive comments from members about the new expansion, and he is grateful for all the donations and support the church has received.
In the near future, a donated sound system for St. Peter’s Church and the adjoining St. Martha Hall will be added. Bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm John LaVoir will be a featured speaker at the hall in December.
St. Peter’s Catholic Church is located at 217 S. 2nd St., and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is at 401 N. River St. To learn more about Delano Catholic Community, call (763) 972-2077.