MARIETTA - As students of Washington Elementary reach out to the community through service projects and fundraisers, there are staff members setting examples and lending their own helping hands to make that happen.
For six years, custodian Joyce Murphy has given up her free time after school and often her vacation time to lead students in a quilting club, giving them membership to a close-knit group, a new skill and donating most of the finished products to charity.
"When I started here, I told them I wasn't just a custodian," said Murphy, who has worked in the Marietta City Schools district for nearly 30 years. "I'm here for whatever they need me for."
Photo by Kate York
Washington Elementary School custodian and Quilting Club founder Joyce Murphy helps students Emily Mendenhall, front, and Tyanna Washburn with a sewing project. Murphy donates her time to help the club members and uses vacation time each year to complete a special project with kindergarten classes as they learn the letter “Q.”
The quilts, pillowcases and stuffed animals made by the club have gone right into the hands of nursing home patients, a soldier in Afghanistan and those being helped by the American Red Cross.
"I like the sewing, and I like the giving," said fourth-grader Emily Mendenhall, 10.
The only thing better than the sense of accomplishment when a blanket is complete is putting it into the hands of someone who appreciates it, said fifth-grader Tyanna Washburn, 10.
"We've seen some happy crying," she said. "It's really joyful."
The club is currently creating stuffed rabbits, which they will auction off for the American Cancer Society, and a large quilt adorned with red hearts meant to raise money for a Washington Elementary Relay for Life team.
Eight staff members will be on hand for the relay May 13 and 14 at Belpre Civitan Park, supporting each other and the cause, as well as setting an example for their students, said team captain Sally Latture, a special education teacher.
"We hope they'll see that we're doing something positive to help the community," said Latture.
The event is also a way for the teachers, many of whom have been personally touched by cancer, to give back, said Latture, who lost her father to lung cancer in November.
"As I was going through that, everyone here was a support system," she said. "This is the first time we've done this, but we thought we should because there's probably not one person who doesn't know someone who's had cancer."
Students at the school have already raised hundreds of dollars for the relay, supporting the educators who support them.
"I think the older kids really understand and they want to give support," said Latture.