Rotary Club and Community work to revitalize Centennial Park

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Leah O'Neill with family and friends and Laura Travis representing the Dayton Rotary Club stand before one of two signs created by Leah for the Rotary Club.(Photo:GaryBolden/RheaReview)

Dayton Rotary Club and community work together

May 2018

Dayton, TN — The Dayton Rotary Club has been working hard to revitalize Centennial Park. Two months ago I volunteered to help redo the Rotary signs that were hanging in the park. I thought no big deal. I would do a little sanding and air brushing (this is where I tell you that I may have been a bit mistaken).  The Rotary board decided to have a bit of faith in me and let me take on the task of redoing the signs.  When I looked at them I thought “no problem, I have painted on all kinds of materials; how hard could this be.”  Wow: was I wrong. I started sanding and taping the design outline two months before the Strawberry Festival. Everything was going easy just time consuming, but easy.  I had to finish other obligations and orders, so I put the signs to the side thinking “I got this no problem.”  I had not started painting at this point. The club would check in and I told them where I was with them, and say no problems.  They gave me my time frame and again I said ok, no problems (please keep in mind I had not started painting).

Six weeks before Strawberry festival I started painting. From there I had nothing but problems, the paint bubbled (I was using oil based paint because it is better for outside use).  So, I sanded and sanded. Every time I painted I would have to re sand. I researched, asked people who know way more than me still nothing was coming out right. My volunteers worked hours on the signs with me (please note that I have volunteers who are teenagers, Elders from the Mormon Church, even though I am Methodist, and a Marine who has MS.)  Even with all this help at the store, sanding, and taping, the signs still did not look good.  I finally took them to my house the week before the festival.  During that week, I would get up at 3, 4, or 5 o’clock in the morning and go to bed around 10 or 12.

I would work on the signs before my daughters would get up and after they went to bed. During this week, I found out that an air compressor can get water in it that would cause bubbling and separation in the paint. Yay!  At least I had found an answer.  I was happy too soon.  I sanded the Sunday before they were due that Monday for what I hope was the last time.  I began spraying Monday at 3 am I thought this is finally looking good.  The person from the club came a checked them out and we thought I was on my home stretch. I was wrong.  I sprayed the second color and everything went wrong again.  I could not get it even, or shiny. So, Wednesday I began sanding again.  I had to have them done by Thursday at 10 if they were going to be ready for the Strawberry festival.  I was at my ninth hour.  I was a moment away from calling the individual over the sign project and tell them that I would not have them ready.

This is where the miracle happened.  Everyone knew for the past month that I was failing on those signs.  Every store guest, my volunteers, and my neighbors knew about the signs. That Wednesday morning, I told my neighbor everything that was going on with the signs. She looked at me and said “why did you not tell me sooner.”  That afternoon at 3:30 a group of foster kids, foster parents, and guest from the store showed (although the guests showed up a little later due to family things) at my garage and said “where do we start.” They worked till 4 in the morning with me (the kids did not they all went home to bed). This amazing group looked at me and said” don’t give up we have your back.”  Earlier that day when I explained the signs were for the Rotary Club and what they do to help the community and what they stand for: “Service above self” “is it the truth” and “does it build better friendships” (to name just a few ).  This wonderful group of people wanted to show their thanks to our Dayton Rotary Club.

I could not believe how this community stood together not just for me but for the Rotary and each other.  When we were working everyone gave each other encouragement. Everyone was saying things like “great job” “we can do this.”  For over 6 hours, they worked for free to support the amazing Dayton Rotary Club and show their thanks for what this entire club does to help the community.  I was humbled to see foster kids and foster parents working beside me, helping me, showing me kindness, and not letting me fail.  I am more proud of those signs now than if I had made them perfect and believe I prayed every day that that would look amazing the next morning, and finally when I let go and accepted help that Thursday morning they did.  Now they are not perfect by any means. The signs are sponged painted and uneven, but I am more proud of them than if they looked like glass.  Thank you to everyone who made this miracle happen; I know I cannot give names of the foster kids and families, but you know who you are.  I will give a shout out to everyone at Paint the Town Pottery and Gifts y’all are amazing!

I want to leave you with this challenge: when you see a Rotarian, tell them thank you for all their hard work, and when you are in Centennial Park take your picture with the new signs and remember the amazing families, veterans, volunteers, and employees who made this sign possible.

God Bless,

Leah O’Neill

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