Interactive Neighborhood for Kids returns in Gainesville after flooding damage repaired

The Interactive Neighborhood for Kids in Gainesville reopened Friday, Feb. 1, with new exhibits and a sigh of relief after being closed for months following flooding and water damage last summer.

“It’s so much fun to hear the kids running and laughing now,” said Executive Director Mandy Volpe.

With dozens of families enjoying the exhibits, Volpe thanked the many volunteers and board members on hand who had helped clean and restore INK.

“You guys are incredible,” Volpe said. “You know the countless hours that we put in here.”

In September, a small fire set off the sprinkler system in the pottery studio area, and water damage destroyed exhibits along the back portion of the nonprofit children’s play museum.

Carts, boxes and cabinets of damaged toys, books and play equipment were cleared out, mold prevention conducted and the carpeting was replaced.

Meanwhile, field trips, parties, educational classes and other scheduled events were postponed indefinitely as INK officials began the long and arduous renovations necessary to reopen safely.

INK is located in the Featherbone Communiversity at 999 Chestnut St. with 25,000 square feet of professionally staged exhibits. The museum averages about 75,000 guests annually.

“It’s like Christmas Day to see the kids back in here,” said former Hall County Deputy Fire Chief Chad Black, who serves as a board member for INK.

Danielle McNally, who would bring her young son, Jameson, to INK about once a week before it closed for repairs said she was happy to be back on Friday enjoying what’s old and new.

“It lets him run around and get his energy out,” she said, “especially since it’s been so cold.”

Among the new exhibits added during renovations is a manufacturing display from Germany-based car parts maker ZF, which has a plant in Hall County, and will include a 3D printer; a banking exhibit sponsored by Pinnacle Bank so kids can learn that “money doesn’t grow on trees,” Volpe said; and a new car body shop display and baggage claim exhibit.

“As we’ve been rebuilding, we knew we wanted to purchase and create exhibits for now and that look to the future,” Volpe said.

Hall County State Court Judge John Breakfield, a Gainesville resident and INK board member, said he was impressed with the renovations and new exhibits.

“It’s almost like it never stopped, like there’s not been that gap,” he added.

And for Breakfield, INK’s reopening was a reminder of a lesson he shares and tries to live by.

“You want to change the world, go home and hug your kids,” he said. “Being a part of the community where you can help out kids at INK pays dividends in the future.”

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