A small miracle of sorts happened on Saturday. Over the span of just a couple of hours, a small team of parents and children joined forces to give West Elementary School a bit of a facelift.
Over the years, the playground and surrounding area had started to show its age. The basketball hoops needed to be replaced, and the tether ball areas had not seen any players in a long time since that equipment was also worn out.
Meanwhile, an oversized map of the United States painted on the asphalt part of the area had faded over time. The same was true with paint that outlined the two sets of crosswalks in the main parking lot, which were difficult to see even under the best of circumstances.
That all changed as the volunteers donned gloves and work clothes and set out to do what they could to breathe some new life into the school. It was all part of a "Seven Days of Service" event hosted by the 2nd Ward of the local Latter-day Saints community.
Earlier in the week, all of these volunteers had done similar work aimed at making small but noticeable changes around the Mountain Home community. They pulled weeds bordering the Desert Canyon Bike trail, provided meals to less-fortunate individuals in our community and much more.
But the effort at the school will probably leave a lasting impression on the students of West Elementary for years to come.
It took a team of several men, teenage boys and a tractor to wrangle a new set of telephone power poles into place to rebuild the playground border. The other wooden border had seen much-better days and needed to go to ensure that children can safely play in the area.
But it was all the fresh paint that the students probably noticed when they arrived for class on Monday. Bright yellow paint now marks all of the crosswalks. A bright, bold map of the United States emblazons an area that most children would've probably overlooked.
The volunteers didn't stop there. They made some new hopscotch areas tailored for younger and older children. There's even a brand-new caterpillar snaking through part of the playground with the letters of the alphabet lining its body.
And it didn't require a huge amount of money or a team of construction experts. It simply took a small group of people who wanted to make Mountain Home a better place to live, work and play.
According to West Elementary principal Nikki Cruser, the students at the school immediately noticed all of the changes and were simply delighted with what they saw.
"They all noticed the changes and they were so excited," she said. "The boys ran to the basketball hoops with all of the new lines."
Some were simply curious, wanting to know how all of these changes happened.
"What did you do to our school," one student yelled, obviously caught off guard with all of the improvements that gained his approval.
Many of them even noticed that the playground had a new, wooden barrier, which the principal said was something she didn't think they would catch. The new alphabet caterpillar was also appreciated.
All of this happened because just a handful of individuals decided they wanted to do something good for this community.
While I know there are countless others in the Mountain Home area that do similar things to help where they can, I wonder how much more we could do if we all joined forces to do even bigger and larger improvements. Airmen at the local Air Force base did something like this at Stephenson Elementary School last year. Students at Mountain Home High School took the initiative a few weeks back to repaint some of their classrooms.
How much more could happen if everyone came together to plan similar projects at the other schools? Instead of heading off to the mountains or the golf course to enjoy our normal weekend routine, why can't we use that time to help today's students -- the future of out community?
It didn't take a miracle to help transform West Elementary School. It just took a little help to make a big difference.
-- Brian S. Orban