With their tools, paint brushes and gardening gloves, 5,000 volunteers spent last weekend showing CPS students just how much Chicago Cares.
The largest single day of community service in Chicago, Chicago Cares’ annual Serve-a-thon strives to create stronger, more vibrant communities in every corner of the city. More than 20 of this year’s 35 beautification projects were in CPS schools, meaning that thousands of students are now attending classes in a more stimulating environment.
“We focus a lot on painting, giving hallways, classrooms and common areas a fresh look,” said Megan Washburn of Chicago Cares. “And in addition to brightening up their schools, we are showing students that thousands of people from around the city care about them.”
The 5,000 Serve-a-thon volunteers came from dozens of Chicago corporations, including Pepsi Co. and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, as well as community organizations. The group also included an influx of CPS families, which organizers believe helped to enrich the experience for volunteers.
“We were pleased to see so many parents and students working alongside our volunteers this year,” said Washburn. “It was powerful, as it helped volunteers better understand the true impact of their service.”
And even when students were not available to assist, volunteers often found the walls they were about to paint littered with thank you notes from the children whose lives their service will benefit. School administrators offered similar sentiments, as they know how much revitalizing a school’s facade can mean to the community.
At Nixon Elementary, hundreds of Chicago Cares volunteers painted hallways, classrooms and the school auditorium.
“This neighborhood school has been serving the Hermosa community for over 100 years, educating generations of families,” said Nixon principal Gerald Byers. “We are extremely grateful to these volunteers for making an investment that will last for years.”
In addition to painting, volunteers built planter boxes, added landscaping, and stenciled games on school playgrounds, all in an effort to support CPS students and their learning.
“Chicago Cares volunteers help model the way for our students,” said Meghan Duffy, co-principal of Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy. “They show our kids what it means to truly serve and do it with humbleness. Their work will have a lasting impression and impact on our community because they have helped to create a beautiful place where learning is highlighted and students know that people beyond Gunsaulus care about them too.”