Volunteers spruce up Waukesha schools
Hundreds lend a hand during annual GE service event

By Lauren Anderson - Freeman Staff

Aug. 24, 2015

Paul Wervey, left, and Lou Boehmke work on a bench designed to wrap around a tree at Butler Middle School on Wednesday.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - When Waukesha students return to school in two weeks, they may notice a new mural or inspirational quote on the wall, colorful foliage out front and the fresh sawdust on some recently built wooden tables and benches.

The new additions are the product of several hundred volunteers’ efforts to spruce up four Waukesha School District schools in time for students’ arrival Sept. 1.

Banting Elementary, Butler Middle, Waukesha South High and Horning Middle schools were buzzing with activity Wednesday as GE Healthcare employees spent the day painting, cleaning, landscaping and organizing classrooms.

More than little touch-ups here and there, the projects seem to grow in their scope and complexity each year, Superintendent Todd Gray said.

GE Healthcare employee Jason Heckendorf paints a quotation on the wall in the QUEST classroom at Butler Middle School on Wednesday morning.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

“It’s just been a wonderful gift to the district,” Gray said. “We always have schools fighting over who gets GE for GE Day. What they do is extremely impressive - what they can get done in a single day. Every year, it amazes me the projects that they come up with and are able to get done.”

Nearly 2,500 volunteers from GE dispersed themselves among 21 different schools in Milwaukee and Waukesha to refresh the facilities for the upcoming school year. Now in its 21st year in southeastern Wisconsin, the community service day is among GE’s largest single-day volunteer events worldwide.

Inside Banting, volunteers throughout the school were painting murals of the world’s continents, including a large one that reads: “Embracing diversity and preparing students for a global society.”

Banting Principal Mary Garcia-Velez said the colorful murals are designed to reflect the school’s welcoming and diverse environment.

Rebecca Shelton and Christen Deans paint a quotation from Abraham Lincoln on the wall of the QUEST classroom in Butler Middle School on Wednesday.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

With murals being a popular request from participating schools, at least one was scheduled to be painted at each campus. A few of them were created freehand by GE Healthcare’s global design team.

Outside Banting, workers built a new garden that will be used as an outdoor learning space for classes.

A group of GE volunteers who were refurbishing tables in Banting’s art room enjoyed envisioning students returning to school with all the new improvements. Senior Client Services Engineering Manager Monte Raymond said he hopes the group’s volunteering efforts will plant a seed among the young students about the importance of lending a hand in their community.

Christen Deans paints a quotation from Abraham Lincoln on the wall of the QUEST classroom in Butler Middle School on Wednesday.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

“With education, anyone can pitch in to help out and make a difference,” he said. “It’s a small token of giving back to the community.”

At Butler Middle School, workers in the the multi-age QUEST personalized learning space painted inspirational quotes, including Abraham Lincoln’s “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today,” on the walls.

GE employees Tammy Stone and Kristin Casey partnered to paint a mural of QUEST’s emblem on the wall. Both of them have participated in many of GE’s community service days over the years.

“It’s a good opportunity to give back to the community and spend some time together as a team,” Casey said.

“Not to mention we can use some of the skills that we don’t usually get to do in our regular jobs,” Stone added.

Email: landerson@conleynet.com