Gateway Christian School students participate in a Work-a-Thon by helping to prepare a community garden next to the school, Thursday morning. Students were scattered throughout the area performing various acts of community service. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Purple-shirt-wearing students of all ages took a day off of class at Gateway Christian School Thursday to give back to the community.
The school’s fourth annual Work-a-Thon Day included pulling weeds from the nearby community garden, cleaning bathrooms and mopping floors at local churches and hauling food around for local organizations.
“We want to instill in them a good work ethic and (a sense of) giving back to the community,” said the Rev. Rick Rapp, Gateway’s superintendent. “I think the kids enjoy working together to accomplish something.”
Kindergartener Bailey Weston, who watched her friend play with a ladybug, said she worked pretty hard.
“We cleaned up all inside the school,” Weston said.
The school’s estimated 300 students, who range from preschoolers to 12th-graders, were treated to an outside lunch of barbecued hamburgers or sack lunches after work was finished. Spring Break officially starts Monday, after the school takes a day off to observe Good Friday today.
“They enjoy getting out. And today it’s a beautiful day,” Rapp said.
Roswell School Resource Officer Helen Cheromiah visited with her child during lunch break. Some parents helped during the work day.
“It’s awesome,” Cheromiah said. “It’s a great fundraiser for the school also. It teaches them to help in the community and to take part in the community.”
Teacher Robin Parker and her first-grade class pulled weeds and cleared brush from the nearby community garden, she said.
“It feels good to do something for somebody else,” Parker said. “With it being the community garden, it’s something for the community. The whole time, (the students) were saying, ‘This is fun!’ I think they learned it just feels good to work hard and do something for somebody else other than themselves.”
Gateway Christian and Christ churches partner to offer the community garden to the public. Fresh vegetables are usually available for free as part of the Christ Church ministry in mid- to late-summer.
“The kids really worked hard on that, getting it all ready to start planting,” Rapp said.
Each year, the school reaches out to several community organizations and churches to look for projects.
“They went to quite a few different places (this year) and it sounds like everything went well,” Rapp said.
Some of the organizations involved this year included the Rivers of Life, a Christian-based shelter for women and children that provides housing; The Salvation Army; Trinity Baptist Church, and other area churches; and Harvest Ministries, a group that provides assistance for homeless clients.
Development Director Jodi Ashcroft’s eighth-graders “worked hard” at Rivers of Life, she said.
“We were able to pray with the women there,” she said. “The reason we do our Work-a-Thon Community Day is we want our kids to understand the value of participating and helping others in our community. We would like our kids to be out helping where they’re needed and serving.
“We do that because we love Jesus and we want to teach our kids that’s a great way to serve him is by serving others,” she said.