Vann Taylor said he didn’t know exactly how Belk chose Timber Drive Elementary, but the school’s assistant principal is glad the local store in the Charlotte-based department chain did.
Tuesday, dozens of volunteers put in time to liven up the school, painting an auditorium wall, installing picnic benches, and updating the teacher’s lounge. With the school empty for a summer break, volunteers in blue Belk shirts toiled to get the projects done.
“We’ve been talking about this for a month and a half, two months,” Taylor said.
Belk, through the nonprofit charity facilitator Hands On Network, contacted the school as part of an initiative marking the company’s 125th anniversary. The Garner store on Garner Station Road was selected to execute one of many school makeover projects spanning a four-month period from March 10-July 12.
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Hands On served as liaison, looking for a nearby school with Title 1 programming – meaning a high percentage of kids qualifying for reduced-price lunch. After finding Timber Drive, they simply worked to figure out a way to help and coordinated supplies and timing.
“They came up with a to-do list, and we said ‘yep, we can do that,’” said Hands On Charlotte associate director Bob Young. “We made sure we brought in all the tools, materials and management needed to make sure the school gets 100 percent of the benefit without having to supervise or getting any of the staff to make stuff happen.”
About 30 Belk employees put about two volunteer hours each into the project, on top of about 20 hours worth of prep from Hands On, Young said.
Murals on the wall behind the stage in the auditorium include a global map and emphasize Timber Drive’s emphasis on being a global school, Taylor said. Shaded benches offer a good place to sit during recess, and Taylor said the teacher’s lounge had needed an upgrade for years.
The employees worked dutifully and appeared to enjoy the process. Sales team manager Jordan Allington said he’s only worked for Belk for four months, but said the company has already shown him a commitment to service, which he likes.
“Belk is all about being out in the community,” Allington said. “It’s been a great four months. In just a short time we’ve done a lot in the community,” he added, citing a book drive Belk is also orchestrating for the school.
Hands On works with both corporate partners like Belk and individuals to determine needs, find fits, and organize efforts by people and companies who want to help but are unsure how. Hands On receives funding from individual and businesses donations as well as management fees from entities like Belk that enlist their help.