Honda sponsors community workday at Ohatchee Elementary
by Laura Gaddy
Jul 14, 2013 | 3372 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Shaylee Elders, 14, and Alyssa Elders, 11, sweep a sidewalk outside Ohatchee Elementary School
Shaylee Elders, 14, and Alyssa Elders, 11, sweep a sidewalk outside Ohatchee Elementary School
OHATCHEE — Calhoun County School Board member Jeff Winn bent over a row of shrubs at Ohatchee Elementary School Saturday and lopped off excess greenery.

Winn was one of about 20 other volunteers who spread mulch, planted flowers, scrubbed baseboards and painted at the school this weekend. The volunteers were sprucing up the 10-year-old building during a morning work session that was sponsored by Honda Manufacturing of Alabama and organized by some of the its local employees.

“All I had to do was go to Honda’s human resources department and they were more than willing to help out,” said Lee Elders, a Honda employee who volunteered Saturday and has three daughters who attend Ohatchee schools.

Honda gave the school $100 for each employee who pitched in and also supplied the volunteers with red hats and T-shirts. The auto manufacturer sponsors community outreach programs throughout the nation and has helped other schools in the same way it helped Ohatchee Elementary, Elders said.

“I just decided I wanted to be a part of it,” Elders said.

He was joined by about 10 other Honda employees, one of whom had no affiliation with the school but just showed up to help. Ohatchee Elementary School Principal Julie Hood said the remaining volunteers were teachers, students and parents.

Watching adults work with children and Honda employees, Hood said she’s used to seeing people in Ohatchee work together and it was particularly gratifying to see students pitching in.

“It’s a community feel,” she said, standing in a hallway at the school where two children were cleaning the walls nearby. “That’s a great thing for kids to know they have some ownership in taking care of their school.”

Outdoors at the school, students as young as five years old were also helping out. The students planted flowers while adult volunteers shoveled holes in which shrubs would be planted.

Twelve-year-old Will McFry, son of Shasta McFry, the school’s vice principal, was one of the younger volunteers. On any other Saturday morning, he said, he might have been sleeping, but he decided to show up to work.

He raked mulch, unloaded topsoil and cleaned door handles Saturday.

“I like working,” the boy said.

Hood said the money generated from the Honda donations workday will be put back in the Parent Teacher Organization fund, which is used for groundskeeping expenses. Shasta McFry said Winn Dixie in Saks and Food Land in Alexandria gave the school gift cards, which were used to buy the volunteers’ lunch. Lowe’s at McClellan also helped out, she said.

“Lowe’s at McClellan just did an awesome job of donating items,” Shasta McFry said. “They loaded our trailer down.”

Winn said he likes to see schools in the system host volunteer cleanup days. It’s important, he said, for the community to see their school grounds in good condition.

“I want them all to take pride in the way things look at their campus,” Winn said. “You want your kids to be at a school where people care.”

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.
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