Sarah Ethredge seemed puzzled that anyone would ask why she would give up part of her summer break to clean and paint in a Decatur elementary school to which she has no connection.
Madelyn Adkins — with paint on her hands and face — was the same.
“We’re serving, just like Jesus did,” said Etheredge, a 2019 Austin High graduate and Calhoun freshman-to-be.
A relationship that started in December when a few members of Calvary Assembly of God delivered presents to several students at West Decatur Elementary continued Thursday when more than 100 members of the church showed up to clean every inch of the almost 60-year-old school.
Some pressure-washed the outside, while others prepped rooms for painting by removing chipped paint or putting down painter’s tape.
“This is just a sea of service and something we certainly couldn’t afford to do without them,” Principal Jennifer Edwards said as sweat dripped down her face. “Wow. What an awesome group of people.”
Calvary’s service in West Decatur will not end when the paint dries and the sound of pressure washers stops. The church has agreed to adopt 100 families in the school for Christmas and is donating 10 new Chromebooks for the special education department.
“We’re servants of God,” associate pastor Tony Willis said, after showing a teenage member of the church how to pressure wash sidewalks. “One of the things we try to do is teach our young people about community service and to let them know that we should be doing for others and not expect them to do for us.”
It’s a message church member Kalista Taylor has gotten. The 14-year-old Priceville High sophomore spent most of Thursday painting, and her helper was West Morgan Elementary third-grader Eli Jones.
Taylor didn’t hesitate when asked about why she came to the school.
“I wanted to get my eyes and attitude off self and do something for others,” she said, adding that the rewards of giving outweigh the feelings of receiving.
Jones’ entire family was in the school, including his parents and siblings. While Eli was painting a wall with Taylor, his mother, Haley, was on the floor scraping baseboards and his 1-year-old brother was trying to do whatever he could to help.
Haley Jones, 26, said it was important for her to be there setting the example for her children.
“Plus, being here is getting them away from video games,” she said.
Edwards said Emilio Sachez, who leads a Hispanic worship service at Calvary, came to her about doing the project because “the school had touched his heart when he was here for our Christmas program.”
The principal said she was blown away with his offer and “had no idea this many people would come out for little old West Decatur,” a school built in 1950 and showing signs of its age.
As Brittany Nolen, 27, vacuumed in the auditorium, Rachel Quillin, 29, Megan Clarke, 25, and Courtney Massey, 24, walked through the halls with dust mops looking for any space that had not been cleaned.
“This is the right thing do to,” said Quillin, who was working in Calvary’s community service project for a second year.
Outside near the back of the school, Adrian Mostella was leading a group of teenagers who wanted to pressure wash and directing some preparing benches for painting. It was his fourth year working with Calvary on a community project.
“I want to be an example for kids who are in a home without a father,” Mostella said. “I didn’t have a father in my home, but I want them to know they can still do well in the community.”
Calvary is having a back-to-school bash for West Decatur students, parents and employees tonight at 6:30 p.m.
“We’re just servants,” Willis said.