Archive for Wednesday, April 22, 2009

School administrators lend hand to community effort

April 22, 2009

When the School Administrators Association Shawnee Mission wanted to give back to the community, members found what they were looking for in Rebuilding Together Shawnee.

A team of about 40 school district administrators and their friends helped a Shawnee family make repairs on its house Saturday for Rebuilding Together Shawnee’s second annual National Rebuilding Day projects. SAASM was the newest group to volunteer for the cause, as the organization finds its reputation is growing.

Pam Lewis, SAASM team member and Ray Marsh Elementary principal, said she planned to write about the experience in her school newsletter.

“I want to be able to highlight Rebuilding Together and possibly organizing their neighborhood to get involved in the program or their work,” she said. “Hopefully by getting the information out to others, they can see what a difference the program makes and want to be involved.”

Rebuilding Together is a national nonprofit organization with goals to preserve affordable homeownership and revitalize neighborhoods by providing home repair services to the elderly, disabled, military veterans and families in need. Jeff Bahnson, co-president of Rebuilding Together Shawnee, said the projects always met the organization’s goal of keeping families safe, dry and warm in their homes.

“Given the current economic challenges in our country, the needs of low-income homeowners have never been greater,” he said.

Paul Arnhold, spokesman for Rebuilding Together Shawnee, said some extra publicity helped the organization line up more projects when applications were lacking earlier this year. It now has almost a dozen applications for future projects in addition to the seven receiving help on Saturday, which is why it hopes to broaden its network of volunteer groups like the SAASM.

Teddi Stern, association president and principal at Brookwood Elementary in Leawood, said the association usually does charitable activities related to the school district, but association members wanted to branch out and do a Habitat for Humanity project.

However, when members contacted Habitat for Humanity, they learned the organization had no projects within the Shawnee Mission school district and were directed to Rebuilding Together Shawnee.

“We thought it would be a great way to give back to the community outside of school,” said Alejandro Schlagel, captain for the association team and principal at Bonjour Elementary in Lenexa. “We get so caught up with state assessments and school activities, and with this we can just hang out, have fun and be productive.”

The homeowner for the association’s project had several repairs that she couldn’t afford after her husband was injured in an accident and could no longer work. The woman has not been able to find a job, a search made more challenging because her young daughter is autistic and the woman also has to care for her ill mother.

But the SAASM team was able to help Saturday, though the morning rains made some tasks difficult.

“We’re finding a lot of our colleagues have skills outside of our general area of expertise, that we had no idea about — we’ve got plumbers, carpenters, electricians and landscapers, and lots of general laborers,” Stern said.

The general laborers were needed, as the list of projects was long for the home to which the team was assigned. They installed a new kitchen sink, got an electrician to donate his time to rework the wiring, repaired a kitchen wall, tiled the area inside the back door, painted several rooms and added new lighting fixtures.

The backyard was overgrown, and the team had a goal of making it a safe place to play for the homeowner’s daughter. So they hauled out a trailer-full of vegetation, built a new deck from the back door to the back yard. They even purchased and put together a swingset.

Lewis said she enjoyed the experience.

“It was amazing how much we could accomplish in one day with everyone pulling together and working together,” she said. “…This has the potential to be an amazing program for the city of Shawnee as people get more involved. It was a really rewarding experience.”

Arnhold said because of the rain Saturday, work will continue on many projects this weekend.

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