Employees from Maps Credit Union volunteered to help give classrooms at Washington Elementary a fresh coat of paint

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Oscar Porras of Maps Credit Union was part of a work party that volunteered to give a new coat of paint to the north classrooms at Washington Elementary School in Woodburn. Although the 2013-14 school year is officially over, the summer months represent a whole new season of projects as maintenance staff work to get buildings prepped and ready for the next class of students coming in the fall.

At Woodburn’s Washington Elementary School, staff members got an extra helping hand — four pairs of them to be exact — as members of Maps Credit Union stopped by for a work party on Friday morning as part of the United Way’s Day of Action volunteer project.

“We’ve been partnering with Maps for several years,” said Mateo Courtney, dean of students at Washington Elementary. “They’ve assisted us in donating school supplies. They’ve always been a wonderful partner in providing supplies with us.”

This time the volunteers from Maps were donating labor, not supplies, as four employees from the credit union’s Salem branch came up to help Courtney put a new coat of paint on Washington Elementary’s north classrooms.

Mitzi Smith, Oscar Porras, Angela Williams and Matthew West each worked from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to apply a new coat of blue-gray paint on the walls and posts, covering up chips and cracks in the previous coat from years of weathering.

The project was on the school’s long list of maintenance demands, but was too far down the list to be considered this year.

“If you look at it from a financial standpoint, it was something the district wasn’t able to do,” said Courtney. “The maintenance department had to determine what we can take care of every year as far as repainting and stuff like that. It wasn’t on our schedule; it wasn’t something we were going to be able to do.”

That all changed after administrators from Washington Elementary applied for volunteer support from the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley, which holds a Day of Action each year to pair volunteer teams with local organizations and individuals in the community to complete simple, but labor-intensive projects.

Smith, a community development officer, said as many as half the employees at the different Maps Credit Union branches volunteer within the Willamette Valley area to help schools and other non-profits throughout the year.

“With partnering with the United Way, and the United Way connecting Maps to the project, we were able to get the labor side of it,” Courtney said. He was also able to apply for grants through Washington’s parent group to help pay for the cost of the paints, paintbrushes and other materials, in addition to lunch for the volunteers.

Courtney would like to see these types of projects flourish more with help from parents and community members investing in the schools through time and labor.

“I really want to look at it through the lens of building the community and bringing the community together and helping kind of break down some of those barriers,” he said. “Maybe coming together, we can extend the life of our buildings and maybe accomplish some things we didn’t think we could without all that teamwork.”

Washington Elementary has paired with parents, area churches and outside groups to come in and help maintain the school grounds through trimming bushes, planting flowers and picking up trash, but this was the first time there was a beautification project of this scope.

“I already talked with the United Way and told them we’d love to partner with them next year and be able to paint another section of the school and maybe come up with another couple projects,” said Courtney. “I’m hopeful in getting the word out either through our schools or through the chamber to get more local businesses involved.”by: PHIL HAWKINS - Mitzi Smith, a community development officer at Maps, volunteer to be part of the United Ways annual Day of Action that pairs local volunteers with meaningful community projects.

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