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Examiner
  • Volunteers put elbow grease into school cleanup

  • Independence resident Don Bjunland remembers volunteering for Extreme School Makeover six years ago, lending his gardening expertise to some buildings in bad shape.

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  • Independence resident Don Bjunland remembers volunteering for Extreme School Makeover six years ago, lending his gardening expertise to some buildings in bad shape.
    Now, the event that was created to bring a community together in the midst of a historic transition, has turned into Project Shine and Bjunland is back at Nowlin Middle School to lend a hand.
    “It is something to do, it is a way to give something back,” he said. “I came here the first year and walked through with some of the volunteers to give them suggestions about what to do. I wish more master gardeners would help out.”
    Close to 1,300 volunteers participated in the 2013 Project Shine event Saturday. Volunteers were scattered across five schools including Nowlin and Bridger middle schools as well as Korte, Three Trails and Mill Creek elementary schools.
    “It is awesome to see how the community has come out once again in support of our schools,” said Alli Kisner, Project Shine coordinator. “Every year we ask the Independence community to come out, and every year, more and more people arrive. It is fantastic.”
    The project was started back in 2008 to help ready the five schools in western Independence that had been annexed from the Kansas City School District. Since then, more than 1,000 volunteers come out each year to show their support for the schools and help accomplish a variety of projects including, painting, cleaning and landscaping.
    This year, Kisner said, there was a large number of walk-in volunteers – those who did not pre-register. She said at Nowlin Middle School alone, more than 150 volunteers arrived the day of the event.
    “Everything went very well,” she said of Project Shine. “All of the schools had volunteers painting, landscaping and refreshing the buildings.”
    Charlie Shields, the chief operating officer of Truman Medical Center-Lakewood, said this is the third year the hospital has participated in Project Shine. He said there is already a strong partnership between Truman and the Independence School District, so project Shine was a good connection.
    “It is pretty amazing to see all the volunteers out here,” he said. “It is inspiring to see the level of community spirit here in Independence. You really don’t see that everywhere.”
    Hugh Smith brought 50 volunteers from Lowe’s in Lee’s Summit. The team from the home improvement store took over the landscaping and general cleanup of the courtyard at Nowlin Middle School, which included donating three truckloads of supplies.
    “We first helped out six years ago, so I knew what a great project this was,” he said about Lowe’s involvement in Project Shine. “We talked to the school district about what they needed and decided on this courtyard. Anything that inspires children when they walk into school is definitely a positive thing.”
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