As fast as old paint comes off a classroom cabinet at Shearn Elementary on the city's south side, new paint replaces it, a complete facelift for a school that's seen its better days. More than 300 volunteers from big companies like The Home Depot, Jones Apparel Group, Shlumberger and others were brought together in part by Fund for Teachers, a Houston-based organization. Karen Kovach-Webb is the executive director. "When we looked at this school, we looked at it early in the summer and knew that we were going to choose it and work on. We also found that it had an influx of children from Lousiana and so it made it more compelling," she says.
Inside the school's cafeteria, about 20 of those Louisiana evacuees are mixed in with other students as they build bird feeders and book shelves. Principal Bill Buck is almost speechless as he watches the work going on around him. "We're here to support the kids, and when we have the community and parents and everybody involved, we have great teachers here, so everbody being involved just really strengthens that triangle and makes for active learning for all the kids," says Buck.
As he gives orders to more than 200 employess of local Home Depot stores who have volunteered at Shearn Elementary, District Manager Danny Troya says being able to help-out is reward enough. "At the beginning it's awesome, during it's chaos, but then at the end when you look back, it's a beautiful thing," he says.
While some volunteers power-wash sidewalks outside, Marty Lacy, who works for Schlumberger, is on the ballfield, installing new bases and benches and building a new pitcher's mound. Lacy says he's lucky to work for a company that allows him to volunteer.
Other donated improvements at Shearn Elementary include new library books, a basketball court and running track, new blinds for classrooms and improved landscaping.