Community pulls together on locker project

Thursday, August 28, 2003

How do you get an improvement valued at between $50,000 and $75,000 for only $18,000 in out-of-pocket expenses? You live in a small town with a heart of gold, that's how.

Just ask Rick Haney, the activities director at McCook Public Schools. After nine months of generous gift-giving and volunteer acts of labor, students at MHS are now enjoying locker rooms which are as different as night and day from the old ones.

"It's been like a good, old-fashioned barn raising," Haney said. "The locker room project has been a case of neighbors helping neighbors. When something needed to be done, the school's supporters stepped up to do the job."

It's hard to describe how bad the old locker rooms were. Approaching 50 years in age, the three oldest locker rooms were dingy in color, had holes in the walls and benches down the middle, making it difficult for coaches and students to get from one end of the room to the other. And the showers were shared, with one valve controlling the temperature of the water for up to eight spigots.

Now -- after many hours of jack hammering out the old floors and installing new fixtures and surfaces -- the locker room walls glisten with epoxy white paint, and the red floors sport flecks of black and white on the sand grit surface.

The old gang shower units are gone, replaced by modern center post showers with individual valves for temperature control. And the lighting is so much better, with the single bulbs in the middle of the shower rooms replaced by bright florescent lighting.

The improvement project started last winter when Haney asked the McCook Booster Club for its support. The members immediately responded, pledging $6,000 to the effort. The school board approved a matching amount, and the remaining $6,000 was contributed by contractors and builders in supplies and labor.

"This is not only a school project. It's a community improvement effort as well," Haney said. "I say that because of all the events the high school gymnasium hosts. Hundreds of athletes and thousands of fans come here for volleyball and basketball districts and sub-districts, the Cattle Trail basketball tournament and games for charity, such as the Chamber game featuring the Harlem Ambassadors."

And, when you get to thinking about it, the locker rooms are the first thing, and the last thing, athletes see on their visits to the MHS gym. Thanks to a caring community -- and hard-working, unpaid volunteers -- those first and last impressions will be greatly enhanced by modern, brightly lit locker and shower facilities.

"It couldn't have happened at a better time. With the freshmen moving to the high school this year, the kids would have been falling all over each other. I can't thank all the donors and volunteers enough. This is a great community. It's a privilege to be part of it," Haney said.

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