Luke Patterson, 10, took time off from his school to help paint… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
More than 600 students left William Paca Elementary on the city's east side Thursday and marched to Patterson Park for a field day. While they played, about 300 volunteers descended on their school to paint, carpet, tile and landscape. Those not assigned a renovation task organized kids' activities in the park.
The student lounge underwent a makeover that turned its dark walls pale blue. Volunteers cleaned the library shelves and recataloged the books. They refurbished the stage in the assembly room, replaced ceiling tiles, repaired the scoreboard in the gym and planted flowers in the outdoor gardens. They also filled a donation bucket to help fund the fifth grade's graduation trip to an amusement park, painted children's faces in the park and doled out snowballs to the children.
RED Day, a "give where you live" event sponsored by the offices of Keller Williams Realtors, began three years ago to "renew, energize and donate" in distressed neighborhoods. Volunteers chose the nearly 40-year-old school for a third year and vowed to return annually as long as needed.
"This school makes a heroic effort with its kids every day," said John Hallis, an Ellicott City real estate agent who helped coordinate the event. "For the staff here, this is not a job. It's a calling. We want to encourage all the folks here and lend them a hand."
Several dozen volunteers tackled the fourth-floor student lounge, a reward given to students with high academic achievement, consistent attendance and a positive attitude. The promise of a half-hour in the lounge will be more enticing with a beach mural, a flat-screen TV, a Wii game set and a reading nook with beanbag chairs, said Principal Stacy Place.
"This room is a hot commodity," Place said. "Everyone wants to come here."
Cheri Gavin, an Annapolis real estate agent, designed a plan for the room's makeover and sketched the mural.
"It's like a blank slate that we are taking to a beach theme with soothing light-blue walls," she said. "We want this room to be something to love and a place to relax."
Luke Patterson, 10, painted the baseboard, while his mother, Stacy Patterson, tackled the walls.
"I am taking a break from my school to paint this school," said Luke, a student at Edgemere Elementary in Baltimore County.
He did offer pointers to less-experienced painters like Beatrice Doose, who works out of Keller Williams' Timonium office. A former teacher, she said she didn't mind the youthful advice.
"We need to do this work for all these children who are our future," she said. "We are making this building cleaner, brighter and really cheerful. I used to teach, and I know what gets these babies interested in school."
Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake ReStore donated 72 gallons of paint, along with paint supplies, to the project.
All Keller Williams offices shut down Thursday to allow employees time to participate in the effort. They started about 7 a.m. and before long their red T-shirts were spotted with paint, spackle, dust and potting soil.
The work would not wrap up until at least 3 p.m. or "until we get this building to where it needs to be," said LaChele Kellam, a Canton employee who helped revamp the library.
"We are honoring and supporting these children," she said. "There is a real sense of pride in that for us."
The sprucing up spread to other buildings in the area, including Amazing Grace Church, where crews turned the basement into an art studio, and Tench Tilghman Elementary, which would also receive a new student lounge.
Place seemed to be everywhere, overseeing the work in and out of the building and the children's activities in the park, where there were athletic contests and a free lunch.
"This work is a blessing," Place said. "These volunteers are making our building beautiful and giving our students an environment to be proud of."
She and the staff made the children aware of the massive restoration effort.
"They will have a huge reveal when they return to school" Friday, said Place. "They are expecting to see a beautiful building, and they will."