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Volunteers help tidy up local schools

East Hill also donates $15,000 to Gresham-Barlow School District
by: Contributed photos East Hill Church volunteers Joy and Timothy Fuentes clean-up the grounds at Gresham High School.

More than 250 volunteers from faith-based organizations and parent groups joined together Aug. 20 for the Gresham-Barlow School District's 'Community Care Day.'

Volunteers worked on several beautification projects at schools, and pulled weeds, raked leaves, spread bark dust, pruned and painted.

Due to budget constraints, the Gresham-Barlow School District is limited in its upkeep of school grounds, officials said, estimating the church volunteers did about $25,000 worth of work.

'The help we get from volunteers to get ready for the school year is invaluable,' said Terry Taylor, Gresham-Barlow's facilities director. 'For instance, volunteers from East Hill Church (worked at) 14 of our 19 schools. Their (efforts) mean the schools' grounds will be ready to welcome students Sept. 6.'

In addition to East Hill, Grace Community and First Baptist churches participated in the event.

Cornerstone, Gresham Bible and Good Shepherd Community churches will work on school grounds in the coming weeks.

Volunteers from Grace Community also painted, put up bulletin boards and built shelves at East Gresham Elementary School in addition to sprucing up the school grounds.

The Gresham-Barlow School District has been receiving 'Community Care Day' help from churches and volunteers since 2004.

East Hill donation

The congregation of East Hill Church, 701 N. Main Ave., has donated $15,000 to the Gresham-Barlow School District for its Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Program.

The church collected the funds from members last December. The SUN Program at Gordon Russell Middle School was in danger of being cut because federal stimulus dollars used to fund the program had run out.

The donation from East Hill Church, along with funding from Multnomah County, and the University of Oregon's Positive Family Support Program, will allow Gordon Russell Middle School to offer the program this coming school year, district officials said.

'We know schools are in a tough spot during these economic times,' said East Hill Church Pastor Jason Albelo. 'The best way for our church to tangibly show its love and support is to stand in the gap for the difference makers in our community - the teachers who educate our children. This is so important to us as a church family, and it's an honor to be a part of the effort to keep this after-school program intact.'

The giving program at East Hill Church is part of a nationwide movement called 'Advent Conspiracy,' dedicated to scaling back Christmas-time consumerism by encouraging people to use money they would have spent on gifts and divert it toward a global and local need.

Last year, East Hill Church members raised more than $40,000 through Advent Conspiracy. The SUN School Program at Gordon Russell Middle School was selected by the church as the 'local need' for this year's Conspiracy.

'This donation from the members of East Hill Church will have a tremendous impact on our students,' said Superintendent Jim Schlachter. 'The SUN School program provides students with important academic and recreational activities like tutoring and sports. Research shows student achievement and attendance goes up when students have the support this program provides.'

The gift comes on the heels of a previous donation from the church in 2010 of $12,500 for the district's homeless program, which provides homeless students clothing-store gift cards as well as other services.