Coordinator keeps Project Playground builders well-fed

Thanks to woman's efforts, volunteers can refuel on site

Posted: Monday, May 21, 2007

From heaps of fried chicken to a Polynesian feast, volunteers at Project Playground have been fed well after toiling on what will be Alaska's largest playground.

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Organizing the influx of meals has been a complex task, and a very rewarding one for Food Coordinator Jolene Julian.

Under her guidance, at least a dozen different businesses and nonprofit organizations brought in food for the hundreds of people who have been pounding nails, digging holes, cutting wood and more.

"It's definitely the biggest and best thing I've ever done in my life," Julian said.

Be it 36 pizzas from Bullwinkles, trays of Subway sandwiches or untold pounds of spaghetti from the Alaskan Native Brotherhood, the meals have rolled in. Volunteers munched on 300 enchiladas from the Knights of Columbus, ham and chicken and more from local churches and other groups. The meals will keep coming as work continues this week.

Under a large blue tent, the people eat together on long tables with bench seating.

At the snack shack, they can fuel up on juice, organic fruits, chips, soda, you name it. There's even a team of volunteers wandering through the project offering cups of water and other drinks.

Julian, 33, is a lifelong resident of Juneau. She works as a grant administrator for the Department of Commerce and is a waitress sometimes at El Sombrero. She's been involved with Project Playground since the beginning, when it was just a plan. Offered a variety of positions, she picked food coordinator.

"There was no question about it," Julian said. "I love entertaining. I like to organize events ... So it was right up my alley."

"I never doubted once that it was going to be the biggest, best thing to come to Juneau," she added. "We've all been working really hard on it."

Coordinating 10 days' worth of lunch and dinner for hundreds of people proved challenging. On Saturday alone, there were 255 mouths to feed.

"At first, we thought the most people I would have would be 40," she said. "And then later on down the line, I learned my smallest day would be 150 people. Lunch and dinner. That was quite the surprise. But it didn't hold me back."

Julian saw her first Project Playground facility more than a year ago in Haines. She and some friends spent over an hour looking at all the details and all the work that went into it. When she heard about the one in Juneau, she thought it would be a great place for her nieces and nephews to play.

As it grew from an idea into a busy construction site, the project turned into what Julian described as "the best thing that ever happened to me."

"Everybody's got their hands in it," she said. "Everybody gets to say they helped build that. Everybody can feel good about it."

• Ken Lewis can be reached at

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