Gray skies and chilly temperatures couldn’t keep dozens of volunteers away from Oak Harbor Elementary recently.
Principal Dorothy Day and the OHE Parent Teacher Association hosted teachers, students, parents, substitutes, and a large turnout of Navy personnel from nearby Naval Air Station Whidbey Island March 5 for an annual Beautification Day of the campus.
“I’ve never seen this many volunteers out here,” said Tom Lerch, parent of an OHE student and owner of Nautilus Construction.
“It’s a great turnout,” Day agreed.
The main project of the day was a winding gravel path, which traced the boundary of the schoolyard.
Originally built about four years ago, 60 yards of gravel were delivered to renovate and repair the path. Lerch was on hand with heavy equipment courtesy of Nautilus Construction, along with volunteers toting rakes to help smooth the path.
Cory Johnson of C. Johnson Construction donated two loads of gravel for the project.
Concrete Nor’west also provided a discount on three loads as well as delivery of the gravel.
The OHE PTA paid for the gravel, along with refreshments.
“It was so important for us to get the walking path,” stated Carissa Booth, OHE PTA president, as she grilled hot dogs for volunteers. “That’s so the kids aren’t coming back muddy, which then keeps the maintenance bills on the building down.”
“I would just like to thank all of our Navy partners for helping our school, for the walking path,” said Day. “All of the kids use the walking path every day.”
Besides the path, workers were busy trimming and pulling weeds in a learning garden close to the school building.
“Our third-grade is starting a unit where they’re going to grow vegetables,” Booth explained. “So getting that garden weeded and ready for them to plant after they grow the vegetables in their classroom was really key.
“It was really nice to have the Navy and the parent partnership come about today.”
Chief Rodney Layton of Naval Hospital Oak Harbor, ABH1 Jarman Watts and PS1 Natalie Howe, both of NAS Whidbey Island were on hand in the learning garden.
“I just do it to help out the community and the kids,” Layton said.“Especially in this struggling economy, you know, if everybody pitched in, if everybody did this in the community, they wouldn’t have to worry about all this funding that they always have to ask for. That’s how I look at it. It’s just more money that they don’t have to spend on other things. They can take that money and spend it on school supplies.”
Watts and Howe also shared Layton’s enthusiasm for community service, as well as something much simpler: an escape from boredom.
“I’m here to have fun and get out of the house,” Watts explained, as all three shared a laugh. “It’s kind of boring here, so…”
“I volunteered to do this to help out the community,” Howe agreed, continuing, “and to get out of the house, and do something different.”
The three Navy personnel laughed, talked and worked side by side, filling up a trash bag with debris from the learning garden. Principal Day worked nearby, kneepads over jeans as she ripped up weeds and directed volunteers.
“It looks so much better,” she said, smiling. “It’s 100 percent better. The kids are going to be very excited.”