By Jody Steinberg

Cross Keys Cares. That was the message last week when about 215 volunteers – including well over 100 students and faculty – showed up at 8:30 a.m. for Hands On Atlanta Day at the 50-year-old high school campus. With so many hands, the campus got a much-needed facelift, as well as some well-appreciated shelving and storage, thanks to the generosity of Newell-Rubbermaid. The company, a leading sponsor for Hands on Atlanta’s city-wide Day of Service, provided tools, supplies, refreshments, T-shirts, a truck loaded with shelves, bins and paver stones and about 60 volunteers.

“It’s for a good cause,” said Newell-Rubbermaid employee Kim Popow, as she paused from wielding a shovel to survey the students working side by side with her colleagues. “And it’s good for these teens.”

“I love community service, and especially when it helps out our school,” said Cross Keys senior Antwon Chambers, a member of the ROTC, who also volunteers through the Upward Bound program and his church. Many student volunteers gave up needed weekend shifts at their jobs to help their school that day.

The volunteers, including neighbors and community members, worked side by side on every part of the campus, cleaning, scraping, painting, weeding, digging, laying stones, building storage, and organizing the media center and the gymnasium, where a storage room was converted to an office for the coach. A steady stream of volunteers unloaded dozens of new shelving units and bins, which were distributed throughout the school to welcome teachers Monday morning.

The weather could not have been more perfect for outdoor projects, which included beautification and some welcome improvements. A new stone path from the breezeway to trailer classrooms will keep mud out of the trailers and school, and trails across the school’s wooded front are now cleaner, easier to navigate and much more attractive. Outside the gym, crews dug out debris and broken pipes, improving exterior drainage with new pipes and top soil. Bright paint on the breezeway columns, new mulch in garden beds and a butterfly garden for an outdoor classroom put a fresh face on the tired courtyards between classroom buildings. Students and teachers expressed surprise and appreciation that Newell-Rubbermaid would do so much for their school.

“This is the best thing for the school,” said Cross Keys Indian mascot Eduardo Estuiver as he carried shelves down a hallway. “We’re all trying to make it better.”

Alumni like Mohammed Qadeer, a 2009n Cross Keys graduate, returned to his alma mater to say thanks.

“I’m here to support the school,” said Qadeer. “A lot of teachers here helped me in my education. Commander [Thomas] Moody and Chief [William] David were outstanding. I want to give something back to the school because it did so much for me.”