A wide Reach for homes, schools | Volunteers tackle yard work, classroom preparedness

It started with Bellevue First Presbyterian volunteers sprucing up Stevenson Elementary nine years ago. Now, 30 churches make up the annual workforce for Jubilee Reach's Service Day, which tackled yard work at eight homes and classroom preparedness at 10 schools in the city on Saturday

"It's a good project," said Steve Roberts, executive director for Congregations for the Homeless. "It really makes a difference for people."

The eight homes selected this year were distilled down from a list of about 120 returned applications from a city of Bellevue mailer to 1,000 homes here, including houses used by Congregations for the Homeless. Two teams trimmed, pulled, hacked and mowed through the front and back of one such residence on Saturday.

"You couldn't see the street in front of the house before," Roberts said of the home improvement project.

Even more volunteers were put to work in classrooms at 10 Bellevue elementary schools Saturday, including Sherwood Forest Elementary, where teachers directed helpers with preparing student materials, putting up posters, cleaning desks and more.

"They helped putting desks away, putting away materials, helped putting up bulletin boards," said Akemi Chavez, a first-grade dual language teacher at Sherwood. "They are so willing and so helpful. They want to help."

Duanne Owen remembers her first year volunteering at Stevenson Elementary in 2005, and said she couldn't remember missing a year since.

"Then it kept growing and growing and, of course, more schools wanted to be involved," she said. "When they found more churches wanted to get involved, they got involved."

Kindergarten teacher Shavonne Roeter said this was her first year taking advantage of the program, and was grateful to watch the hours she would have spent preparing her classroom by herself being greatly reduced by a number of Jubilee volunteers.

"I was so thankful for the help," she said. "It's a lot of work to do all on your own."


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