Wheelbarrows full of fresh soil, raised wooden garden beds and buckets of stringy weeds dotted the green Lakewood Elementary School yard on Saturday.
Dozens of Duke alumni, Duke retirees and Lakewood staff volunteered together Saturday morning as part of Duke Alums Engage, a springtime community service blitz in which the Duke Alumni Association plans volunteer projects across the country.
In Durham, the alumni association partners with Duke University Retiree Outreach (DURO), a Duke retiree service organization that is supported by the Duke Office of Durham & Regional Affairs, to participate every year in important projects at Lakewood Elementary School. DURO has partnered with Lakewood Elementary since 1998 to tutor students, make renovations to the school, manage the school garden, send groceries home with Lakewood families, help out in the school library, and more.
For DURO, having Duke alumni pull weeds in the garden, build raised beds and participate in an art project for the local public school is a huge help.
“We get all of these big jobs done that we couldn’t do otherwise,” said DURO co-chair Connie Winstead. “It’s nice for the Duke alums to mingle with the DURO retirees and the teachers.”
Evan Reilly, a Durham resident who graduated from Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering in 2016, helped empty soil into a compost bin on Saturday.
“I’ve wanted to get involved in the alumni association in any way I could, and you never know who you’re going to meet at these events,” Reilly said.
Inside the school, about 15 volunteers sat at tables in the art room and painted tiles, which will then be glazed, fired and placed in large frames. The completed tiles will be displayed in Lakewood’s courtyard and include colorful decorations such as ladybugs, geometric shapes and balloons. Volunteers on Saturday painted tiles that ranged from an orange, whiskered cat to the word “Duke.”
Lakewood Assistant Principal Quantina Sides painted a Carolina Panthers tile while she socialized with Duke alumni. She said she appreciated the volunteers helping with Lakewood’s ongoing tile art project and building raised beds in the school yard. She added that DURO members are at the school volunteering almost every day during the school year.
“Just to have such a prominent university as our largest partnership, it just blows my mind,” Sides said. “It’s important to build those sound community partners and help our school grow and also help our students and staff grow.”