Day of Caring: Outdoor classroom at Knox among the projects volunteers complete
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Knox Middle School Assistant Principal Adam DeLand is sure students and teachers alike will be clamoring to have class outside.
The experience might just be a little more interesting once students sit under the new outdoor classroom. The canopied structure was built Thursday by volunteers during the Rowan United Way’s Day of Caring.
Brandon Cornelius and Alan Eudy of Charles Cornelius Construction, based in Rockwell, were a team of two.
“For me, the Rowan County United Way encompasses everything that is right with Rowan County. These volunteers exemplify what great citizenship is — selflessness, compassion, servitude and responsibility to community,” DeLand said.
He said the message administrators feel they are sending to students is that “learning shouldn’t just take place within the confines of school walls. There is a whole world out there just waiting to be explored.”
DeLand first saw the outside structure while at the U.S. National White Water Center in Charlotte. The center had several smaller outdoor seating areas with canopies.
He talked with the administrative team and they all agreed upon a larger design they thought would fit their needs.
Before Cornelius and Eudy even began, a classroom of students stepped outside to formally thank them. A thank you banner from the art class welcomed Eudy and Cornelius as they pulled up to the school.
The men measured the dimensions, dug holes for posts and got to work Thursday morning. Eudy even had to make another run for more lumber.
The hexagonal structure has benches and a canopy covering to protect students from the heat. The outdoor classroom was erected on the front lawn of the school.
Two years ago, Cornelius was the site manager at China Grove Middle, where volunteers built an amphitheater on the side of the school.
Cornelius visited Knox a week ago to get a feel for where the classroom would be located.
The challenge, he said, is laying out the hexagon-shaped structure without having the triangle canopies. The canopies were placed on the finished classroom in the afternoon.
Cornelius said the outdoor classroom should seat 25 students.
“I’m glad they invited us to come help and give back to the community,” Eudy said.
Jenn DeMarco was one of about a dozen volunteers from Schneider Electric who built a donation drop-off box at the Salvation Army Family store on Jake Alexander Boulevard.
The volunteers also repainted parking lot lines and handicapped markers at the store.
DeMarco did a lot of volunteering at Wentworth College. She also participated in various alternative spring break volunteering projects. One of those volunteer projects was with Rebuilding Together New Orleans, an organization that revitalizes homes in low-income neighborhoods.
The New Hampshire native began her first week at Schneider Electric and moved to Salisbury just two weeks ago. She also used the volunteer project as a way to get to know the community and her co-workers.
Eric Robinson, also of Schneider Electric, like DeMarco was volunteering for the first time.
“Our job has always been a part of the community. They were looking for a lot of new faces,” Robinson said.
Volunteering for such projects means a lot to the community, he said.
“It shows the people in the community that we do care,” Robinson said.
Mike Foutz has volunteered through the Day of Caring for the last four years, but this year was his first as site manager.
“It’s just a great honor to be able to help the community,” Foutz said.
He said a metal drop-off box would’ve cost around $1,600. He estimated the wooden one they were making to cost about $500.
The box has a roof to protect the items from the elements and a slot at the top so people can leave their items. The box also has a “door” in the bottom so Salvation Army staff can access the items.
Salvation Army Lt. Joshua Morse said people often drop off donations at the store at night. The store didn’t have a bin or container for those items that sometimes got soiled before they could be collected.
“This box will allow us to keep a lot of these donations,” he said.
Morse said it’s amazing to see the support of Rowan County residents for the United Way and other agencies through volunteerism.
Morse and his wife Chasy are head of the Salisbury Salvation Army Corps. Former corps Capt. Jason Smith and his wife Melissa began their new posts in Fayetteville in early July.
United Way Campaign and Marketing Director Jackie Harris said without many people playing various roles, the Day of Caring would not be possible.
The sponsors play a large role in the Day of Caring, she said. They are the Blanche and Julian Robertson Foundation, Food Lion, Cheerwine, Rowan County Rotary and Chandler Concrete which also provides materials.
She is also grateful to the assessment team who visited each of the more than 50 sites prior to Thursday.
The assessment team includes Bill Godley, David Freeze and Bob Yost, who met with site managers, companies and school personnel before the projects were finalized.
“From the assessment team to every single volunteer, we are so grateful. There was a lot of work completed today at the schools and businesses,” Harris said.
She added that without the volunteers, none of the projects would’ve been possible. Harris said some of the companies and volunteers have said they are looking forward to returning next year.
“They put in a lot of hours into making this day successful,” she said.
Volunteers spent much of Thursday at sites throughout the county after beginning the day with a breakfast at the Hurley Family YMCA.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.