Children at a South County elementary school have a new courtyard, thanks to the work of local volunteers.
What was once a rundown, barely recognizable patch of green at Wimauma Elementary School, only the sturdiest tufts of grass surviving a daily onslaught of little feet, is today a picturesque courtyard, courtesy of the Valencia Lakes Woodworking Club and Mainscape, a commercial landscaping company serving the Bay area.
Said Ismael Lebron-Bravo, principal at Wimauma Elementary for the last year: “It was just barren, without a lot of grass there. [The new courtyard] gives the kids a place to read outside. It’s just a very nice place to be on a nice day so the kids don’t have to be cooped up in a classroom.”
Mainscape replaced the courtyard’s sod after extensive surface and irrigation work on the plot. The Woodworkers Club provided more benches for the children to use when class is being held in the courtyard.
“We thought [Wimauma Elementary] was an obvious need, and we knew that schools and children always need help,” said Carl Aber, president of the Valencia Lakes Woodworkers Club. His wife Sharon, a lifelong teacher, also helped raise Aber’s awareness about the needs of children.
The club started on the project nine months ago, asking the school how the woodworkers might help. Club members worked on the projects for months, creating prototypes for benches that would suit youngsters at the K-5 school.
The woodworkers, who will soon deliver 25 wooden toys to Wimauma Elementary’s kindergarten class, are also currently helping build garden beds at Vince Thompson Elementary in Ruskin.
Mainscape not only replaced all the sod but used paving stones decorated by students as edging material for the courtyard.
“There was quite a bit of labor in it, but Mainscape takes a lot of pride in helping others and putting people first, and we have a lot of business in the area, so anything we can do for kids or a school is especially important,” said Trey Knight, Mainscape’s Valencia Lakes’ account manager.
“It’s a wonderful school with great teachers,” Aber said. “They have been terrific. It’s very rewarding.”
The change in environment can make a real difference for students, Ismael Lebron-Bravo said. “Ultimately, it comes down to good instruction,” he said, “but a different environment can help, especially for some students who might have problems staying focused. It’s a good way to go outside and get them focused again.”
Helping bring the Woodworkers Club and Mainscape together was Alex Murphy, lifestyle director at Valencia Lakes, who works closely with property management at the development.
After brainstorming with the Woodworkers Club, Murphy told Mainscape about the needs at the school. Mainscape does the landscaping for Valencia Lakes.
“We were really happy Mainscape was able to help, and the Woodworkers did a wonderful job,” Murphy said.
The 75-member Woodworkers Club is trying to have a building constructed for the club and other social organizations in Valencia Lakes. Members currently work out of their garages.
The club makes domino boards, card holders and other small items to raise funds throughout the year. The Woodworkers Club meets the second Tuesday of the month at 10 a.m. at the Valencia Lakes Clubhouse.