By Johnny Jackson
Every other shot fell through the nylon net as the children took turns shooting between dribbles.
The gleeful scene did not exist a year ago, at A Friend's House, according to Jill Holder, the executive director of the nonprofit children's shelter.
Holder said that in the past, many of the shelter's older children would have been relegated to playing pick-up basketball games in the parking lot.
However, she said, thanks to hefty donations from two area organizations, and volunteer services from some Henry County agencies, the shelter's children will be able to play basketball on a safe, level court.
On Tuesday, A Friend's House celebrated the addition of its new regulation-sized outdoor basketball court with lunch provided by Locust Grove United Methodist Church and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for two principal players in creating the shelter's new outdoor facilities.
"We're just real impressed with the work that A Friend's House does in the community," said Randy Shaw, senior vice president for corporate services at the Covington-based Snapping Shoals Electric Membership Corp.
Snapping Shoals donated $21,500 to the project to help fund the construction of an outdoor pavilion, adjacent to the outdoor basketball court. Shaw said the money became available as a result of unclaimed capital credits at Snapping Shoals.
The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation donated $21,800 to the project to help build the outdoor basketball court itself.
"We make grants all over Georgia to improve youth fitness," said John Bare, vice president for sports philanthropy and affiliated funds with the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation.
Bare said funding was based, in part, on the shelter's ability to organize and plan the project.
"Part of what made their plan stand out was how specific it was," Bare said. "They had a very impressive plan, and it's a beautiful facility."
The project involved multiple agencies within Henry County as well, including Henry's Transportation and Parks and Recreation departments.
"We kind of laid it out, designed it, and bid it out for construction," said Tim Coley, Henry's director of parks and recreation. "We also coordinated the construction. I'm very proud of it."
In all, the construction project took about six months to complete, Holder added.
Holder said she was grateful to have the expertise of the departments, who also helped with sodding part of the nonprofit's back lawn and re-paving its parking lot.
"We appreciate it so much," she said. "This community never ceases to amaze me."
Holder noted, as she looked out onto the sun-soaked basketball court, her hope to have a tricycle path around the court for the shelter's younger residents. Currently, she said, the shelter is home to 14 children, ages 2 to 18 years old.
"It's beautiful," Holder said. "It's more than we dreamed of when we started."