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Seabees donate muscle

The grade-school students who normally scurry and clamber all over the playground during recess stood excitedly on the sidelines earlier this month to watch a uniformed military team install a new play structure at East Port Orchard Elementary.

Watching the team raise up large pieces of stylized climbing toys, the kids jumped excitedly and yelled about the new project.

The Seabees, a naval unit of marine construction specialists, donate their time to the schools for projects like these, as well as mentorship activities working directly with students.

For this project, the school recruited the team to install a play structure donated by the Parent Teacher Association and paid for through fundraisers, a Rotary Club donation and a grant from Lowes.

The Seabees have had an ongoing relationship with East Port Orchard. Several of them come to the school every Friday to work on building projects with the students and also participate in a morning reading program.

While they usually offer mentorship and one-on-one time with students, last week they donated a little muscle to help install a play structure specially designed for some of the younger students at East Port Orchard.

“A lot of military volunteer their time and effort at area schools,” Command Senior Chief Brian Coffee said.

Coffee, the groups supervisor, said the Seabees trained in naval construction under the Naval Facilities Engineering Command. “So obviously this is their forte,” Coffee said.

Piecing together a play structure is just another day for these troops.

“This is the fun stuff,” Coffee said. “The guys get to get out and interact with the kids.”

With the structure fully built now, Principal Kristi Smith said the kids have been crawling all over it with gusto.

“The first day we opened it, the entire grade level of kids were trying to be on the toy,” Smith said. “They were just so excited about it.”

The play structure replaces a decades-old structure Smith said has long needed replacing.

Smith was thrilled to receive a play structure paid for and constructed through donations and volunteer labor.

“It’s such a big project putting those play toys together,” Smith said. “So to have a group that has some expertise in assembling — that was really helpful.”

Smith said the school would work to dismantle the older play structure over the summer.

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