A day of serviceVolunteers spruce up schools for upcoming year
Some local church volunteers and school officials recently gave up a portion of their Saturday to spruce up nearby schools — an attribute that makes Haywood County a unique community to live in.
For more than a decade, 15 local churches have spent a Saturday cleaning and sprucing up a local school that the church has “adopted” in its care. To date, every school in Haywood County has been adopted by a church with the exception of Haywood Early College, which is located on the campus of Haywood Community College.
This past Saturday, Clyde Elementary School received a facelift while more than 20 volunteers from New Covenant Church spent hours plucking, polishing, painting and power washing areas of the school just in time for school to start back on Aug. 20.
“I came out today because this school is in my community and I wanted to be involved and help support the community and the kids,” said volunteer Helen-Mary Cowart while she planted flowers in front of the sign at Clyde Elementary.
“New Covenant is involved so much in the community — I want to be involved as much as I can,” added volunteer Ronnie Wester. “I’ve come and helped (the school) off and on throughout the years. It really does help.”
Volunteer Liberty Crouch was in high spirits as she washed the windows outside the school — something she said made a lot of difference at the school.
“My heart was pulled (to volunteer) — God says go and I just go,” Crouch said after setting down her window squeegee for a break. “We pray for this school all the time — to actually come in and serve the Lord, it’s great to see what we’re praying for.”
CES principal Clint Conner also lent a helping hand while wearing Carhartt overalls Saturday morning.
“The support is priceless,” Conner said. “We love New Covenant Church.”
Several Tuscola High School officials and parents also spent their Saturday morning cleaning and maintaining the stadium behind Waynesville Middle School in preparation for the approaching football season.
Jon Sears, assistant athletic director of Tuscola High School, was helping at the stadium Saturday, alongside several band parents, football parents, soccer parents, volleyball coaches and school administrators.
“We call this the Tom Sawyer workday,” Sears said with a laugh. “We needed to clean the stadium and get a lot of work done, like gravel and plowing and power washing… and we’ve had a tremendous turnout. This is just another way to give back and get the parents involved.”
Tuscola Principal Travis Collins was sporting a baseball cap and carrying a leaf blower while tidying up the turf. His wife, Melissa, and his 6-year-old daughter also helped by cleaning out the concession area.
“We came out just to get ready for the new season and the new school year,” Melissa said, while wiping down the racks from inside the concession booth. “It’s a fresh start. This is a great way to meet the Tuscola family an be a part of the school. … and I even brought my daughter with me — it’s a family affair for sure.”
Anne Garrett, superintendent of Haywood County schools, said she always makes a point to visit the one of the schools being cared for, even if it means waking up early and getting there at 7:30 a.m. Churches typically visit the schools to clean between 8 a.m. and noon.
“We’re very fortunate to have a community that does this,” said Garret. “I’ve never heard any other community being as involved as they are here. We are very unique.”
While in previous years, the churches have all volunteered their time on the same Saturday, this year, the Saturdays of service have been spread out through the months before school starts.
The Rev. Nick Honerkamp of New Covenant Church said this year each school coordinated with its church to choose a convenient day, as recommended by Tracy Hargrove, Haywood County Schools' director of maintenance.
“Some of our schools thought that different days closer to open of school would be better,” Garret said.
The day of service may only occur one day a year at each school, but Garret said the love the churches give to their schools is an ongoing blessing.
“They are always doing a lot of things for our students and special things for our teachers,” she said. “They do things like back to school lunches, give our students backpacks, and now will be the time churches come in and give students school supplies and different treats for teachers.”
Last weekend, Tuscola High School and Junaluska Elementary School both were spruced up. Garret, who was in attendance at THS, said the workers from Long’s Chapel United Methodist Church helped by doing landscaping, painting, power washing and pouring mulch.