TOWNSEND -- Take 16 high school students, two teachers, two building professionals. Add in a tractor and a whole bunch of wheelbarrows and shovels. Throw in a huge load of mulch and all of a sudden, the grounds are looking much better.
"They worked their tails off. It's amazing how hard they worked," said Gary Lorden, who guided the Cushing Academy students in spring cleaning and mulching at the library/senior center complex and the police department on April 18.
This is the third year the Townsend resident and Cushing parent has taken part in the Tony Fisher Day of Service to Others run by the school.
Fisher, a New York-based developer and philanthropist and 1969 Cushing graduate, was a big supporter of the school. He and his wife were killed in a plane crash along with four other people. Their daughter, the only person on the plane who survived, had been admitted to Cushing and the family was going to visit the campus.
The following year the school began the day of service that includes all students, faculty and most of the staff. The volunteers participate in a variety of services from spring clean-up to work in urban food banks.
The tradition has been a windfall for Townsend.
The town bought the mulch, Lorden supplied the tractor and the operator through his business, Benjamin Builders. The students supplied the labor. "We've got a nice system going," Lorden said.
Cemetery and Parks Superintendent Roger Rapoza is thrilled with the program.
When asked what the value of the volunteer hours is to the town, he started figuring the hourly cost of wages and the sheer amount of time it would take his part-time crew to complete the job. He stopped and smiled.
It was not all work for the busy students. "We make a time of it. I want it to be fun for them," Lorden said.
They started out with doughnuts, got pizza for lunch and topped it off with an ice cream when the job was done. "They worked really hard, but I think I put the calories right back on them," he said.
Lorden has done the spring cleaning and mulching at the police station for quite awhile. "It's grown over the years," he said. When the extent of property needing a spring cleanup increased after Sterilite donated the new complex behind the police station, Cushing students stepped up to help.
They are doing what Fisher always did, Lorden said, to "go out in the community and just give back."