By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(Oct. 3, 2019) Worcester County Public Schools staff members volunteered their time to build a wheelchair ramp for a Newark homeowner last Wednesday.
“It’s a gift to expand her world. It’s a gift of life, really,” said David Downes, a board member and volunteer for the Chesapeake Housing Mission, a Salisbury-based religious nonprofit organization dedicated to helping low-income residents with home repairs.
Event coordinator Jessica McInerney said she asked the Chesapeake Housing Mission to organize a time for 45 central office volunteers to help build the ramp.
“We’re just glad that people are able to give of their time,” McInerney said.
This initiative was part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2019 Day to Serve, a roughly month-long service opportunity for Maryland residents.
Downes said his organization works with volunteers like the Worcester County Public Schools employees on projects. He added that Chesapeake Housing Mission gets matched with area low-income residents who need assistance. The organization also fundraises for materials and gets the building permits.
“We get the materials on site, the tools, and all the equipment, and some supervision,” Downes said. “And the volunteers come, and in one day they give to the person in need a precious gift.”
Downes said that volunteers were directed to construct the ramp using salt-treated lumber for the posts, joists and decking boards to make sure the it was up to code at the property on Basket Switch Road in Newark.
“To add a little bit of aesthetics to it, [we put] in pickets at the top, which will make it a little more attractive for her,” Downes said.
While individual schools have participated in volunteer efforts, Superintendent Lou Taylor said this was the first central office-focused project.
“In my humble opinion, it’s a way that we can give back and help our community,” Taylor said.
School officials also said that students are required to complete service hours to graduate and this was a way for employees to participate and pay it forward.
“Our schools ask a lot of our community, and we get a lot from our community, and this is just one small way we can show our support for those who are in need … because … we don’t believe it’s a one way street,” Taylor said.
Tamara Mills, coordinator of instruction for Worcester County Public Schools, agreed.
“The people in our community give us their children, and their children’s love all day long, and we give what we can in the classroom, but some of us have gifts and skills in other ways, and when we can share that in our community it’s a win-win,” she said.