Local volunteers renovate school courtyard

Published 10:45 pm Thursday, April 20, 2017

John Yeates Middle School had a burden lifted on Thursday at no expense to teachers or students.

Lowe’s Home Improvement, Smuckers and school volunteers renovated the school’s courtyard on Thursday. More than 30 volunteers spent the afternoon clearing overgrowth, laying fresh soil and pathways and furnishing the space with new benches and tables.

Assistant Principal Wendy VanHosen described the courtyard as an “eyesore,” and said the renovation was the first substantial improvement to the courtyard in more than a decade.

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“We were unable to use it for learning purposes,” VanHosen said.

Stephen Poole, the store manager of the Lowe’s on North Main Street, and approximately a dozen employees donated all of the project’s tools and necessities. The project was part of the national Lowe’s Heroes program, encouraging each store across the country to perform community service.

“It’s helping customers love where they live,” Poole said. “This is impacting a lot of customers in our community, and touches a lot of families.”

They brought 400 bags of soil, 300 bags of mulch and 200 bags of marble rock. More than 30 planks of wood were cut to build benches and lay foundation for a rock path. Three raised flower beds were installed for the students to plant vegetables and flowers of their choosing.

“They’ve been very busy all day,” VanHosen said.

Smuckers manager Keith Hightower was accompanied by nine employees to contribute Chick-fil-A lunches, along with their time and sweat. Hightower said they were excited to be part of the school’s Earth Week efforts, which were inspired by Earth Day this Saturday.

“We’re enthusiastic about that,” he said.

Volunteers built a compost pit in the courtyard to help teach recycling classes. Paper and other waste will decompose over time in the pit and illustrate the importance of recycling.

“We are trying to show our students that there are human footprints in everything we do,” VanHosen said.

The work was important to the volunteers, especially for some locals who were once John Yeates Middle School students themselves.

“It’s a good feeling to give back to the community, especially for some that were students here,” Lowe’s volunteer Ashley Hill said.

Students in the recycling and Ladies of Distinction clubs worked on the courtyard after school. VanHosen said that while the space is now available for teachers to use in their lessons, it is also the school’s responsibility to maintain.

“We are now going to be responsible for keeping this beautiful,” she said.