The Princeton Arts Center will soon be able to offer outdoor classes focusing on the arts and outdoors thanks to hands-on efforts by dozens of volunteers.
A deck and stone patio connecting to the center were constructed Saturday during the fourth annual Day of Service. This year, three local congregations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to target their philanthropic efforts on Johnson City Parks and Recreation.
They worked at Princeton Arts Center as well as Civitan, Kiwanis and Carver parks, plus the Winged Deer Park lakefront and disc golf course. More than 150 volunteers between the churches and two East Tennessee State University fraternities, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Chi, worked on the various projects that ranged from re-fencing portions of Civitan Park to cleaning the Winged Deer lakefront and opening the fairways of the disc golf course.
“We really enjoy working with the city,” said Ruth Bailey, chairwoman for the Day of Service. “It’s nice to link arms and join with other members of the community.”
The outdoor classroom at Princeton Arts Center would not have been possible without the volunteers, said Johnson City Parks and Recreation Director Roger Blakeley.
The concept for the classroom began about a year ago, but didn’t come to fruition until Saturday when about 30 people pitched in to lay pavers and nail down decking. City crews prepared the patio area, installed the posts for the deck and aided volunteers throughout the day.
“I love the attention,” said Princeton Arts Center Supervisor Mary Lee Baker. “I appreciate everyone who comes out to make Princeton Arts look beautiful.”
Terry Henderson, owner of Terry Henderson Landscaping, was one of those volunteers who offered his expertise on the project.
“During the week you’re doing it to get paid to make a livelihood,” Henderson said. “To not get paid for it monetarily, but to get paid for having the feeling to have done something nice for the community is fulfilling and is pay enough.”
Henderson taught some tricks and techniques to some of the less-experienced workers and didn’t think twice about giving a Saturday of landscaping work and lessons, pro bono.
“It’s something that is expected of us, but it’s presented in such a way that we want to do it,” he said. “We want to give back to our community.”
While other volunteers repainted the lines on the basketball courts at Kiwanis and Carver Parks, the Princeton Arts Center crew continued leveling the ground for the patio and measuring sections of the new deck.
Ruth Bailey looked around at the progress and saw the result of all the phone calls, emails and sign up sheets she had been immersed in for the last few weeks. She was surprised at what she saw, even though she’s been a part of the Day of Service for the last few years.
“It seems like a miracle every time,” she said. “And it makes me happy to be human. People are good.”