ShareFest partnership pays off this year for school

With sharp budget cuts looming, Orchard Avenue Elementary School received some well-timed help Sunday from its ShareFest partner, First Presbyterian Church, and volunteers, from left, Ashley Baker and Kyra Newhouse, both 14, and Kayla Cottingham and Kayla Berry, both 13.

When churches across the Grand Valley came together four years ago to serve the community in an event they called ShareFest, the adoption of Orchard Avenue Elementary School by First Presbyterian Church seemed like a natural fit.

The church and school are just a few miles apart from one another, and several members of the church’s congregation are employed at the school.

But the way Shaunalee Kron- kright sees it, that partnership takes on even more meaning and importance now that School District 51 likely must cut $10 million from its budget before the 2011-12 school year begins.

So, Kronkright. the First Presbyterian project leader,  and about two dozen others assembled at the school for nearly five hours Sunday to paint, clean and perform a variety of other tasks that may otherwise not get done.

“I truly feel joy and good for doing something for the school and teachers,” she said.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 volunteers across the valley joined together this past weekend to lend a hand in 1,800 to 2,000 projects that included handing out homemade cookies and fixing leaky roofs.

About the only work that wasn’t performed was hooking up swamp coolers, because of the snow and cool temperatures, ShareFest coordinator Vicki McGee said.

At Orchard Avenue Elementary, volunteers built cubbies and shelves, painted classrooms and bathrooms, sewed curtains and pillows and made waterproof bibs and storage cabinets for developmentally disabled students. In the school’s garden, they pulled weeds, trimmed lilac bushes and scattered 40 bags of bark.

“With schools cutting budgets, there’s just such a great opportunity for churches and groups to go around and say, ‘We know you guys are struggling. What can we do?’ ” said Kronkright, whose 11-year-old son, Colton, helped prepare a house for painting and move items out of resident’s storage unit into a shed.

Churches and faith-based organizations have almost single-handedly orchestrated ShareFest in years past, McGee said she saw businesses and nonprofit groups get involved this year.

“I’d love to see next year be even more of that,” she said.


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