For the past two weeks, students from Lynchburg College and Saint Louis University High School, located in St. Louis, Mo., have been providing valuable assistance to the students and staff at Oakland Elementary School. The Lynchburg students have been providing tutoring for the students, while most of the students from Saint Louis have been involved in building an outdoor learning center.
“My faith in young people is restored every time they come here,” said Oakland Principal Larry Williams. “It’s the third time we’ve had a group from Saint Louis High School. It’s inspiring. We feel like we’re getting a blessing, but they feel the same way.”
Sam Crawford, of the Neighbor to Neighbor program which is sponsored by Blue Ridge Baptist Chapel, Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, teachers at Oakland and the Joy Ranch Christian Home for Children, calls the project a “true community effort.”
“Neighbor to Neighbor has been hosting groups since 2005. We do various projects like putting on roofs, building ramps, cutting firewood, mainly for disabled people,” he said. “This year we got the idea for an outdoor learning center at Oakland, but we still did a lot of individual work in the community.”
While the students and others are doing the work, other people in the community are providing the students with food and a place to stay while on their trip. Still others supply the tools and materials to complete the various projects.
“I just sort of put people together. The credit really goes to the Lord. He puts people together at the time needed,” said Crawford.
The project is the second one for Simonie Anzaloe, a staff member from Saint Louis accompanying the students.
“It’s fantastic. This is the second time I’ve worked with Sam and Neighbor to Neighbor,” Anzaloe said. “This program really means a lot to our students.”
Aaron Buttner, a student at Saint Louis, is on his third trip.
“When I signed up three years ago, I wasn’t really sure if I was cut out for service. Once I got here and met Sam, I knew I wanted to do this. It’s been fantastic. The people here are awesome; they have a great sense of community. The relationships I’ve made on this trip have been phenomenal.”
The outdoor learning center is a 12’x18’ u-shaped building that can be enjoyed by not only students, but parents and other members of the community, according to Williams.