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Navy lends a hand at schools

Teachers working hard to get ready for parents and students received some much-needed help from military hands this week.

Navy personnel visited Chesapeake elementary schools on Wednesday for the second annual “Servicing Our Schools” event. Military men and women eased teachers’ burdens by helping them set up their classrooms for open houses on Thursday and the beginning of classes next week.

“We were very excited to be able to lend that support and help our teachers prepare for the school year,” said Tiffany Johnson, Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads school liaison officer and the “Servicing Our Schools” organizer.

Johnson said enough volunteers came last year to support three different schools in Chesapeake, and the goal was to double that this year.

The event ended up drawing 150 servicemen and women from NSA Hampton Roads and the USS Eisenhower, which surpassed expectations to support 11 Chesapeake elementary schools, she said.

“We’re very excited to see it grow,” she said.

About 10 Navy helpers arrived at Western Branch Primary School Thursday morning to hang bulletin boards, shelve textbooks, assemble furniture and anything else to provide aid.

Principal Gayle Bartlett said their help was invaluable because of the time constraints for staff to get the school ready.

“A lot of them are doing the tasks that make the classrooms inviting environments for the students,” Bartlett said.

Building maintenance work had to be finished before teachers could come back to school to unpack and prepare. This is especially difficult for teachers that are changing classrooms.

“We’re trying to relax and enjoy summer, but that’s going on in the back of your mind,” said kindergarten teacher Megan Suárez. “We’re itching to get things set up.”

While teachers prepared forms and brochures for parents coming to Thursday open house, volunteers like Anthin Whitby prepared boxes and chairs for the classrooms.

“I’m here to take care of anything that needs doing,” Whitby said.

The father of five from Miami, Fla., said he was happy to do his part, both for the teachers and to give the children better classrooms.

“It makes me feel good to help some kids, since I can’t physically be there for my kids in Fla.,” he said.

Navy Morale, Wellness and Recreation provided lunches for the volunteers that afternoon, Johnson said, as a thank you for getting hands-on for the school year.

“There’s so much to do at the beginning of the school year, so it’s great to get an extra set of hands,” second-grade teacher Angie Napier said.