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Arbutus fund raising pays off with playground construction; Nearly $27,250 donated since February 1997


Pennies have been collected, Beanie Babies raffled and movie tickets sold.

For residents of tiny Arbutus in Baltimore County on the Howard County border, it's time to let the games begin.

Since February 1997, the community has been involved in a fund-raiser to collect $27,250 for a new playground at Arbutus Elementary School, at 1300 Sulphur Spring Road. With all but $1,000 donated, officials last week broke ground for the lot. They expect to dedicate it March 23.

"It was a long road," said Valerie Albaugh, a community activist whose 10-year-old son, Jimmy, attends the school, which will get playground equipment that includes monkey bars, a slide and large, plastic tic-tac-toe columns. "But it's going to be like a community park."

The nearly 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade have had to make do with 40-year-old equipment. Albaugh said Baltimore County officials refused to update the lot, saying other schools were higher priorities. So the community got to work.

Nearly $4,000 was raised through penny donations collected each Wednesday at the school. Holiday fund-raising included a poinsettia sale and raffles of popular Beanie Baby stuffed animals.

A check for $2,000 was donated by R/C Theaters, owner of the Hollywood theater, the Arbutus landmark that was destroyed by fire in 1995 and which reopened amid fanfare last June after a $1 million restoration. The 64-year-old Hollywood's opening night served as a fund-raiser for the playground, Albaugh said.

In addition, proceeds from the sale of a print of the theater by local artist Billy Coolahan were donated to the playground cause.

The lot will be dedicated at a time of commercial revitalization in Arbutus that includes a streetscape on East Drive and Sulphur Spring Road, a new grocery store on Maiden Choice Lane and the newly reopened, 750-seat movie theater.

The playground campaign fits into that spirit of renewal, said Del. James E. Malone Jr., a Democrat who represents District 12-A, which includes Arbutus.

"This goes to show when everybody in the community works together what positive results we can have," said Malone, who helped with the fund raising. "This was a project for the kids -- we all worked for a common goal."

Pub Date: 1/26/99

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