BANGOR, Maine — A small army of about 40 people converged on the Downeast School shortly after 10 Sunday morning. They wielded rakes and shovels. Wasting no time, they unloaded boxes of annuals and bags of mulch from their minivans and pickup trucks and set to work.
By 10:45, the overgrown flowerbed by the main entrance and the shrubby borders across the front of the school were weed-free. Lilac bushes were pruned, and petunias bloomed prettily around the flagpole. Rake-wielders were vigorously neatening and leveling the bed of wood chips that cushioned the playground.
The army, ranging in age from preschoolers to senior citizens, began loading up, getting ready to move on.
The free springtime spruce-up at the Downeast School, which serves about 320 students in kindergarten through grade three, was one of several blitz-style projects undertaken at Bangor schools on Sunday, thanks to “Labor for your Neighbor” a one-day civic collaboration among five Bangor churches.
“A lot of churches have work crews in the community. This is an opportunity to pull these individual efforts together,” explained Jim Settele, who helped organize the event. Because funding for schools and municipalities is so tight this year, he said, the group decided to take care of some overdue maintenance at public schools and the Bangor Public Library.
The Cohen School got its expansive lawns raked.
“It took about 15 minutes,” Settele said.
At the Vine Street School, crews repainted the cafeteria and some outside picnic tables.
In the afternoon, the children’s room at the Bangor Public Library withstood a closely supervised cleaning — all books off shelves, shelves washed, shelves dried, books back in place. Library director Barbara McDade said nearly 60 people showed up. They worked in teams to clean shelves that hadn’t been wiped down thor-oughly since the new children’s wing was opened in 1997.
“There are 1,170 shelves in the children’s room. Each team cleaned about 40 shelves. They were packing up by about 3:30,” she said, sounding a little dazed. “It really went very well.”
Crews from All Souls Congregational Church, New Hope Church, Pathway Wesleyan Church, Advent Christian Church and Redeemer Lutheran Church participated in the project. Settele said organizers hope the event will become a twice–yearly tradition in the Bangor area.
“It’s a ‘pay it forward’ kind of thing,” he said.