Project Shine is Saturday

By Mike Genet
The Examiner

After a year hiatus, a popular community spruce-up event returns Saturday. 

Project Shine, the Independence School’s District’s annual summer day in which a volunteer army cleans up and refurbish a handful of the schools, begins at 7 a.m. and will go until about noon. 

About 700 volunteers, including students, staff and community members – have signed up for the return of Independence Schools’ annual Project Shine spruce-up effort, which will be Saturday at five elementary schools. Project Shine did not take place last year due to the pandemic.

The five elementary schools on tap for work this year: 

• Benton: 429 S. Leslie Ave. 

• Blackburn: 17302 R.D. Mize Road 

• Luff: 3700 S. Delaware Ave. 

• Santa Fe Trail: 1301 S. Windsor St. 

• Sycamore Hills: 15208 E. 39th St. 

About 700 volunteers are slated to help – including students, staff and members of the community – and while sign-ups ahead of time have closed, walk-up assistance that morning will be accepted at all five locations, said Amy Knipp, director of the ISD Foundation. 

Project Shine first started in 2008, after voters approved and the Independence Schools annexed several school buildings in western Independence from the Kansas City School District. While a couple school buildings were mothballed or repurposed, most had to be quickly repaired and brought up to code in the summer before the 2008-09 school year. A communitywide volunteer effort made that possible, and every year since until the pandemic last year, volunteers have gathered at a select group of schools to tackle to painting, landscaping and cleaning tasks, using materials donated by businesses or purchased with donations. 

Since the first year of Project Shine, more than 12,000 people have volunteered more than 60,000 hours worth of work.  

With all the public health precautions last summer, Project Shine did not take place, so the ISD’s facilities department handled the necessary cleaning and repairs. This year, people have volunteered just as much as before and businesses have been “anxious” to support the effort, Knipp said. 

“We always have people ask every year if we’re going to do it,” Knipp said. “We’re always blessed with the church groups, the civic groups.”  

Often, those groups work at the nearest school building on tap for cleaning, making it a neighborhood project. 

“That’s what makes it so special – they take it on, and they take it on as a group,” Knipp said. “It’s community wide and centered around a school.” 

All told, volunteers this year will be using more than 64,000 pounds of mulch and 1,200 gallons of paint, working on 300,000 square feet of school property at the five schools. 

Schools get selected for Project Shine generally on a rotating basis, though significant construction work might bump one school or another to a different year. 

“It just depends on what going with the schools,” she said. “There’s not really a set schedule.”