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Oliver Elementary gets 'brighter' look from local volunteers

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

When Dr. Delores DeWalt took over as assistant principal of E.W. Oliver Elementary School two years ago, the school's aging building wasn't exactly matching the quality of the students it housed.

The same school, which produces stock market champions, and competitive math students, had cobwebs here and there.

The walls were mostly plain white. There were chips in the paint, and the shrubbery was unkempt.

DeWalt got permission from Dr. Ronald Boykins, the school's principal, to begin some sprucing up efforts. She formed a beautification committee, had janitors remove the cobwebs, and got the school system to hang banners and food charts on the walls of the school's cafeteria.

"We want it to look like a top-notch school, because it is the home of top-notch students," DeWalt said.

DeWalt's beautification efforts got a large boost on Wednesday when 150 volunteers from Home Depot's Home Services Division, and Hands on Atlanta, came out to help refurbish the school.

Most of the volunteers repainted walls to add some murals and paintings, but the school also gained a new storage shed, an outdoor classroom and new shelves in five modular classrooms.

An effort, which had produced small improvements in the past, surged to 80 percent completion after the volunteers from Home Depot were finished.

"We decided to take this on because the school needed some refurbishing and we could give the kids, who attend school here, a brighter, cleaner place to learn," said Steve Holmes, a spokesperson for Home Depot.

DeWalt estimates it would have cost the school "thousands of dollars" to do what the volunteers did, and the school didn't have that kind of money. She said it would have cost about $2,500 just to repaint one hallway. The Home Depot volunteers did it for free.

DeWalt got the project with Home Depot set up through Hands on Atlanta, which also supplied volunteers for the refurbishing effort. DeWalt got in touch with Hands on Atlanta, who, in turn, contacted the Home Depot Foundation.

It turned out to be one of the largest projects taken on by Home Depot, according to Holmes. Every hallway, bathroom, and the school's cafeteria and gymnasium got new coats of paint. A large blue and gold eagle, the school's mascot, was painted on the wall of the gymnasium, with a blue stripe going around what were once blank, white walls.

The odor of fresh paint filled the air. Paper was taped to the floors to prevent paint from getting on the tiles. People who walked up and down the hallways had to navigate between overhead projectors being used for the murals, paint cans, brushes, trash bags and other people.

"Now is a great time to do this project because the children were [on Winter Break] this week," said George Sherman, the president of Home Depot's Home Services Division. "It's also great to get down to Clayton County, and do a project. We often do a lot of work in Cobb and Fulton counties, so it's great to come down here and do a full-fledged project.

"This community has been very good to us, so it's time to give something back to the community."

Some Home Depot employees painted pictures which will be hung in hallways through out the school. Mike Feldon, a kitchen production supervisor for Home Depot's Home Services Division, took a stab at creating a reproduction of Edward Munch's painting, "The Scream." Feldon saw a poster reproduction of the piece hanging on a door in the school's art room, and used it as inspiration for his contribution to the school.

He took his time to recreate the famous painting with brighter colors. After each stroke of his brush, Feldon looked over his canvas to see what Munch did in the original version.

"I thought I'd give this a whirl, and luckily I was successful," Feldon said. "I'm a new father, so I would hope, if my child's school needed extra attention, someone would step up to the challenge. I see this as a pay-it-forward type thing."