WILKES-BARRE — Kistler Elementary School was full of energetic and excited volunteers Saturday who were working on projects to give the city school a much-needed makeover.
Oh, and a $70,000 donation didn’t hurt either.
“We needed a face-lift,” said Melissa Bilbow, who has been a reading specialist at the school for six years. She brought her 9-year-old son along, and both mother and son were busy painting the walls of the second- and third-grade hallway.
The idea to revitalize the school came from Wells Fargo Bank officials, who sponsor three volunteer initiatives like this every year. The bank awarded the Wilkes-Barre Area School District a $70,000 grant to build an additional playground and replace older parts of the current playground; paint walls of classrooms, hallways, restrooms, and other areas; and construct and paint benches and picnic tables. The grant will also be used to purchase 40 Chrome book computers, a 3-D printer, and two laptops for the school.
“We’re constantly looking for schools in under-served communities that need help,” said Mike Pany, a Lehigh Valley-based community relations consultant with Wells Fargo.
The bank reached out to the school district’s Superintendent, Brian Costello, who told officials that even though the district has many needs, Kistler Elementary could really benefit the most from the grant.
Before volunteers were sent out on their work assignments, Costello thanked Wells Fargo not only for the grant, but also for sending so many of their volunteers to work on the various projects to refresh the school.
“Even though the skies have a little overcast, right now I have to tell you there is a bright spot here in South Wilkes-Barre,” Costello told the volunteers. “This is just tremendous that everyone has shown up today and we appreciate all the support and volunteer hours you’re about to put in.”
About 170 volunteers from Wells Fargo, the school district, as well as students from local high schools and colleges participated.
“One of the things that Wells Fargo really realizes is that it’s not just about giving dollars,” said Ivon Creagh, regional bank president for Greater Pennsylvania. “It’s about rolling up our sleeves and getting involved.”
Kistler second-grade teacher Dionne Fischer was painting a gingerbread man on one of the school’s windows for the upcoming holidays.
Fischer attended Kistler herself as a child and two of her own children attended the school as well. One of her daughters, who came with her, is currently a kindergartner at the school.
“All the children in the school are so excited to see them digging,” she said, referring to the new playground. “So many of them don’t have much and that’s the truth. When they see they’re getting a new playground or anything they get, they’re so appreciative and thankful for it.”
Teacher Bilbow said a lot of the students she’s interacted with recently are also enthusiastic about the pending improvements.
“They’re asking a million questions about what’s going on,”she said.
Mike Pisarcik, a volunteer with Wells Fargo, attended Kistler in the late 1990s and returned to the school for the first time since he was a student there.
“I have great memories here,” he said looking around the cafeteria. “This is where I grew up.” He also helped recruit other volunteers for the event.
In addition to all the work, Wells Fargo held a festival for the community Saturday afternoon featuring food, games, hay rides and a petting zoo for children.