Beyond the Call of Duty

on Monday, December 07, 2015 Posted in Stories, Happenings, School Partnership Network

Some folks just don't know when "enough is enough." One of the privileges we've had over the past 4 years at SPN has been to share stories of the incredible church-school partnerships in the greater metro area. While there is no shortage of partnerships in our local area, every so often we come across one that surprises us! Those involved in these partnerships go "beyond the call of duty." Such was the partnership we learned of between East Gresham Elementary and Grace Community Church.

As you might suspect, this partnership began in much the same way as many others in the local area, with the annual school clean-up day. The folks at Grace had already participated on several occasions at with schools in the Gresham-Barlow School District. Starting in 2013 they began focusing their efforts on a particularly under-served, and somewhat failing school nearby, the East Gresham Elementary.

In 2012 the school's morale had hit an all-time low, and their test scores put them virtually last in the entire state. The building and grounds were in disrepair. Attendance levels were dangerously low. Something had to change!

Things began turning around in 2013 when a grant was secured to address the academic issues. A new Principal signed on to lead the effort, and an attendance collaborative was established, with a number of new teachers at the head of the classrooms. However, the building and grounds were in dire need of help. Grace Community stepped in to meet that challenge. They made an annual commitment to package a team of volunteers who did the landscaping, freshened up classrooms, and found ways to encourage the staff.

After Grace Community Church performed their second cleanup day in 2014, something unusual happened! One of the church's volunteers decided to return in the following week and polish off the unfinished landscaping tasks. He came back a second week, then a third. Then, in the weeks that followed, he just kept returning. In fact, "Paul" is a regular feature on the school grounds—sometimes as often as two or three times a week. The Principal, custodians, teachers, and parents of East Gresham Elementary now refer to "Paul" as the school's "personal gardener."

Today, you'd be hard pressed to find an elementary school anywhere in the Portland area with better maintained landscaping. Paul does it all—pulling weeds, spreading bark, trimming, and even planting flowers to create a welcome environment for the teachers, staff, students and their families. When asked why he invests so much personally into the school, he simply says, "Somebody has to do it."

Grace Community does a lot of other things at East Gresham, like the family Christmas party planned for this month, but nothing has made a greater impact than this one man going "beyond the call of duty" to make a difference. Paul has sacrificially served the entire school community, and thereby created a witness of God's love that cannot be missed!