650+ volunteers work on Day of Caring projects
By Sarah Campbell
Students at Corriher-Lipe Middle School will soon be exploring agriculture right outside their back door thanks to volunteers with the annual United Way Day of Caring.
A group of 10 AkzoNobel employees gathered at the school Thursday morning to build an 8- by 16-foot wood-framed greenhouse with a Plexiglas roof and windows.
“It makes us feel good that we’ve done something good for the kids and for the community,” site manager Paul Robertson said. “If we can affect one child, it’s all worth it.”
Principal Dr. Beverly Pugh said the school hopes to model Millbridge Elementary’s focus on agriculture by working with local master gardeners from the county cooperative extension service.
“This is just a starting place,” Pugh said. “This is my 10th year here, and one of my dreams has been to make this area more of a learning space, so I’m just really excited to be able to do that.”
Pugh said she approached the United Way about doing the project after hearing from the school’s sixth-grade teachers.
“We decided this would be a great thing for our kids because of all the poverty here,” social studies teacher Debbie Starnes said. “We can show them how to grow their own food and how to get started.”
Pugh said the idea for the greenhouse also stemmed from the school’s wellness challenge employees participated in last year.
She said the idea of community gardening and buying local plays into eating well.
“We’re really just providing that model for kids to learn that you don’t need a lot of land to grow good food,” Pugh said.
Starnes said she’s looking forward to working with students, parents and the community to grow the agricultural program.
“By the time our sixth-graders are in eighth grade we should be able to put a dinner plate together,” she said. “I’m really excited they did this project for us.”
AkzoNobel employee Jennifer King said she looks forward to the Day of Caring each year.
“I have a 9-year-old son who goes to China Grove Elementary, so I enjoy doing this because it’s another way I can help out outside the classroom,” King said. “It’s nice to do something like this that will get kids outdoors to enjoy nature.”
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Corriher-Lipe was just one of about 50 work sites where more than 650 Day of Caring volunteers were deployed Thursday.
Eight employees from Schneider Electric spent the day constructing a new handicap ramp at the Rowan County Youth Services Bureau.
The ramp the agency had was built in the 1970s.
“It was pulling away from the building and had some dry rotting so it needed a face-lift,” site manager John Pitel said.
The group headed over to the Fulton Street building Wednesday to tear down the old ramp.
It took them nearly the entire day Thursday to build the ramp from start to finish, but the group smiled nearly the entire time.
“This is a great way of helping the community,” volunteer Mike Foutz said. “It’s very rewarding just to be able to share a little bit of ourselves with the community.”
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A crew of about 15 from the city of Salisbury’s streets division worked to mulch two playgrounds, create a walking track and revamp the nature trail at Isenberg Elementary on Thursday.
Principal Nathan Currie said he brainstormed projects for the Day of Caring with his School Improvement Team.
“We thought about things we could do to really improve the school and give it a face-lift,” he said. “We decided not to do anything new and just to look at what we have.”
Site manager Craig Powers said the first thing his team did Thursday was smooth out gravel for the school’s new walking track.
“We are training our students to stay healthy and active, so our P.E. teacher said ‘Let’s build a track,’ ” Currie said.
The crew used various pieces of heavy machinery and equipment to clear out portions of the nature trail that had become overgrown.
“It was pretty hard to follow, so we just went in there with chain saws and got to work,” Powers said.
Volunteer Eddie Hendrix said he’s willing to do “anything for the kids.”
“It’s going to be a nice area for them,” he said.
Thursday was volunteer Rickey Walls’ 10th year participating in Day of Caring. He said this year’s city crew was the largest to date.
“It feels good to come out and help,” he said. “Anytime you can give back, it’s always a good thing. The more good you do, the more good you get.”
Currie said the students “can hardly wait” to get on the track and try out the trail.
“That’s exciting. Words can’t express it,” he said. “It’s just amazing the difference these guys make in eight hours.
“We are blessed and we are thankful to the United Way for stepping in.”
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The annual event kicked off with breakfast at the J.F. Hurley Family Y.
The Rowan Rotary Club cooked the food, which was donated by Food Lion.
Snacks for the day were provided by Cheerwine.
The Robertson Family Foundation supplied a $40,000 grant for funds to buy materials for Day of Caring projects.
Jackie Harris, the Rowan United Way’s marketing director, said volunteers Brandon Cornelius, David Freeze, Bill Godley and Denise Hallett went above and beyond this year working to survey each site before Thursday.
“These people have worked non-stop,” she said. “If it wasn’t for them, there would not be a Day of Caring.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.