Teenage troops clad in matching bright red T-shirts emblazoned with the statement “We Make it Work” are swarming the Eagle/Gypsum community today. They are kids on a mission.
Eagle Valley High School’s all-school volunteer day has returned.
The popular event was launched in 2011 by former principal Mark Strakbein and former teacher Susan Scott but community service day took a hiatus last year. “It had been a really big, fun thing that everyone enjoyed doing,” said EVHS junior Logan Ponder. With that in mind, members of the EVHS Future Business Leaders of America chapter decided to bring back the event.
“We moved it to the fall because the spring was just packed with stuff — prom and awards night and lots of other things,” said Ponder, “We also wanted to do it at the beginning of the year, as a bonding activity.”
It’s also an exercise in logistics — just the type of training future business leaders need.
EVHS Community Service Day will bring out approximately 800 students and teachers to 25 different organizations and businesses for a day’s work.
“We are sending people to Dotsero to Gypsum to Eagle,” said Ponder. “We will have people out there doing all sorts of work — a lot of picking up trash but also painting and things like that.”
Business buy in
What does a business say when a couple of high school kids ask if they can drop off a crew of about 20 students for five hours? For the most part, the response was a hearty “Bring ‘em on.”
Earlier this fall, Logan and his fellow FBLA member Natalie Morrissey sent out letters to community leaders asking if they could use some help from EVHS on community service day. They were excited by the positive responses.
“Everyone knows what the event is because it’s been done in the past,” said Morrissey. “All these businesses have done so much for our school with their donations and stuff. This is really a great way to give back.”
“We will have the students do a variety of work, primarily outside cleaning our flower beds, pulling weeds, picking up brush and turning bark mulch. They will also do some window cleaning and detail our vans,” said Bill Walker, plant manager for Colorado Mountain News Media.
Earlier this week, Walker sent out a message to employees at the Gypsum plant, asking them to loan their personal yard tools for the day.
“We need to keep these 20 kid busy for five hours,” he said.
EVHS Community Service Day does mean a bit of extra planning for the participation of businesses and organizations, but folks in the community are happy to help out the kids who want to help out their community.
“This is a good project and I am glad we can be a part of this,” said Walker.
Over at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, manager Kyle Aiton has a full day planned for his EVHS volunteers.
“When we get a group of kids in here who are willing to work, there is no shortage of things for them to do,” said Aiton.
He noted that last summer, a church group from Kansas brought in 20 teens for a whole week so he feels prepared for the local school kids.
“When you get a group of 20, you really need to try to capitalize on it,” he said.
Projects awaiting his workers include sorting through a large shipment of lumber recently donated to the ReStore as well as unloading whatever arrives that day. “I want to give them a real feel for what a day is like here at the ReStore and ultimately, for a big group, you want to connect the circle of what Habitat does in the community.”
Hopefully, by day’s end, Aiton can set the EVHS kids to work on an art project he has envisioned to use donated paint and pallets to make a statement piece.
“But there’s a couple of things we need to get done for the store, first,” he said.
Kids, being kids
“Everyone is excited for community service day,” said Morrissey. “Of course, any time kids get to be out of school, they are excited.”
“Plus, we don’t make anyone do anything too miserable,” said Ponder, with a grin.
During her freshman year, Morrissey’s group went over to Gypsum Elementary School.
“I was helping out in an art class,” she said.
For Ponder, his freshman year community service assignment was at the EVHS grounds. “We picked up a ton of trash around the school and then painted the varsity boys locker room.”
He predicts that the kids assigned to Brush Creek Elementary today will enjoy painting the school’s greenhouse and that the group that trekked to the Gypsum Fire Station will have fun washing and detailing the fire trucks.
“We have a lot of people going to the river to work and anything outside will be fun,” he added.
When EVHS Community Service Day is done, local communities and businesses will have spiffy shine. What’s more, the EVHS FBLA club will have a competition springboard.
One of the categories for FBLA competition is to organize and orchestrate a community service project. The EVHS crew will be taking their efforts from today to the spring competition, in the form of a 10- to 15-minute multimedia presentation. The club kids are asking their fellow students to help out by documenting their days’ work on Facebook and Shutterfly.
“We can’t be everywhere that day,” said Morrissey.
But beyond today’s efforts and the spring FBLA competition season, Ponder and Morrissey hope to build a legacy. They envision EVHS Community Service Day as a yearly rite of passage, with the FBLA group organizing the event for years to come. In their scenario, a new team of junior class planners will step up to plan the event in 2014 with the seniors from the previous year lending a hand.
“Hopefully next year it will carry on and then from year to year with the new juniors planning it,” said Morrissey. She believes that EVHS Community Service Day is a winner, for kids and for the community.
“Honestly, it is the one event where everyone in our school comes together. It’s great to see what 800 kids can get done in a single day.”
“All these businesses have done so much for our school with their donations and stuff. This is really a great way to give back.”