Merry hearts bring love to Little Milligan Elementary School

John Thompson • Feb 13, 2013 at 8:56 AM

BUTLER — Steve and Ashley Grindstaff have always been strong supporters of the schools in Carter County and Elizabethton, but there is one local school that appears to be their favorite. On Tuesday, they paid a visit to Little Milligan Elementary School to express their love for the school and its students.

After spending the morning taking exams, the students were called into the small gymnasium to watch and cheer as the Grindstaffs announced the efforts of a fundraiser for the school. Ashley said the school will receive $7,500 to be spent on “whatever your needs are.” She suggested more computers for the classrooms and said Cartridge World would provide printers and cartridges. She told the boys and girls that if the money was not enough, the Grindstaffs would provide more. “Steve and I will personally do that,” she said.

The Grindstaffs have enjoyed prosperity from their car dealerships and have used some of their wealth to promote local education. For many years now, the Grindstaffs have sponsored a banquet for all the schools’ high-achieving students and their families. But Steve and Ashley seem to have adopted Little Milligan, one of the smallest (132 students and 11 teachers) and most remote schools in the county.

Ashley told the student body Tuesday how it all started.

“I came up here with Miss Watauga Valley several years ago. She was speaking to the students about seat belt safety. ... I just fell in love with the school.”

She told the boys and girls that she and Steve wanted them to have every opportunity and advantage. She said it was important for them to believe in themselves. She said she believed in them and thought that one of them might be the president of the United States someday.

Steve said that while Ashley fell in love with the school first, he has grown to share her love for the tiny school in the mountains.

“These are the best-mannered, most respectful kids I have seen. It goes back to the way their families raised them,” Steve said.

Ashley told the children “this school is like a family, and we want to be a part of your family.”

She also told the boys and girls they are lucky to have J.R. Campbell as their principal. “He really loves and cares about you,” she said.

Campbell spoke for the students in expressing the school’s appreciation of their kindness.

“I keep telling them they have already done enough for us and they keep taking care of us,” Campbell said. “Mr. and Mrs. Grindstaff have treated us like kings.”

Speaking after the assembly, Campbell said the Grindstaffs “have been a real blessing for Little Milligan, and now they have a cabin in Butler. They live here.”

Campbell said “Mrs. Grindstaff has a merry heart, and a merry heart accomplishes much.”

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