Earlier this month, the Chatham Christian School (CCS) community gathered for an evening of celebration to commemorate their 60th year of Christian education in the Chatham-Kent community. The school held a Celebration Open House in the gymnasium on Monday, November 7th, providing an opportunity for parents, staff, students, and community members to pay tribute to the blessings over the past years.
“Tonight, we are here simply to be thankful,” shared CCS principal Marvin Bierling. “It’s good to gather together as a school community to celebrate.”
The community has much to celebrate in their 60th anniversary year. For the first time in several years, the school has experienced a significant boost in enrollment, welcoming seventeen new families, thirty-five new students, twenty new international students, and ten new staff and support workers.
But the much larger focus of the celebration evening was that of how the community rallied together early in the school year to cover three significant needs that became apparent—the lack of parking spaces in front of the school, the need for new bathrooms in the primary wing, and new buses.
“Our school was faced with a number of issues that we needed to find solutions to,” shared CCS Director of Development, Linda Wolting. “On the elementary side of the building, students in grades one through eight all shared the same bathrooms, which was not at all ideal. As well, we have parking spaces on the sides of our school building, but nowhere for people to park when they just need to drop into the school for a short time,” continued Ms. Wolting. “These were issues we needed to take care of, and community members began to put their heads together already in the spring to make plans for a solution.”
In addition to these needs at the school, an even greater issue became apparent in the first week of this school year. On the very first day, drivers were forced to cancel two of the four bus runs because of mechanical issues. “It was not a good situation at all, especially on the first day of school, when children are learning new bus routines, parents are adjusting work schedules, and bus drivers are learning their new routes for the school year,” shared Ms. Wolting. Unfortunately, the problems continued throughout the next couple of weeks, and parents were becoming increasingly frustrated.
Members of the Chatham Christian School community decided it was time to rally together to solve each of these issues as quickly as possible. Several donors came forward with offers to help with the finances, and plans for renovations began quickly in the school. Thanks to the help of many different people in the community, the new bathrooms were built within weeks. It was decided that the resource room would be relocated to the elementary computer lab to create a space for the new elementary bathrooms. Volunteers came in to tear out all of the computer counters and desks. Students helped the resource teacher to move her stuff from the old resource room and to create a welcoming space in the new location of The Learning Spot. Two local contractors volunteered their time to oversee the bathroom project, donating their time and abilities to make sure the project went smoothly. As well, a number of local suppliers donated extra materials needed for the new bathrooms. Finally, a brand new parent to the CCS community painted the entire area once the building had been completed.
Thanks to the generous financial support of another community donor, a local contractor was hired to put in the new parking spaces in front of the school. “We now have five parking spaces that are designated as ’15 minute spots’, as well as two handicap spaces, angled off of the circular drive in front of the school,” shared Ms. Wolting. “These have been a great addition, and they are used often!”
The CCS community now also owns four brand new buses thanks to the hard work of several community members who went out into the larger community to seek pledges and donations from those who could contribute in that way. Within a week, all of the donors were in place and students have since been enjoying the safety and dependability of being transported to and from school in shiny new buses.
“We are so thankful for all of these blessings,” shared Ms. Wolting. “Thanks to the generosity of a number of people in the community and the hard work of many of our faithful supporters, we now have new primary bathrooms, new parking spaces in front of the school, and four new buses!”
At the Celebration Open House, the community enjoyed delicious baked goods, prepared by students from the high school hospitality and tourism class. Principal Marvin Bierling shared how thrilled he was to see the new buses pulling into the parking lot each morning. “I love the sound of the smooth running engines, and I certainly don’t miss the smell of brakes and bad exhaust!” he chuckled. He also shared that when the opening of the new bathrooms in the primary wing was announced to students, there were loud cheers from the young students.
“These three projects all came together quickly and beautifully thanks to the way that the CCS community was able to rally together and give in so many ways,” shared Doug Wiersma, a parent, board member, and former student of CCS. “When you first start talking about projects such as these, you don’t really know how it will all come together. You make plans and discuss options, and then you pray and pray some more, and then all you can do is trust.”
He continued to thank each of the people that contributed to the projects, recognizing that the efforts of each of them—students, staff members, parents, committee members, board members, and others from the community—played an integral part in their completion.
“These three projects that we are celebrating tonight came together in different ways. Many different people were involved in planning and carrying out these projects,” Mr. Wiersma concluded. “And, through all of you, God provided a way.”
As the community at CCS continues to reflect on the blessings that have been woven throughout the past sixty years, they are also committed to looking forward to God’s promises for their community in the future. Their principal, Mr. Bierling, believes they have a lot to be excited about, looking ahead.
“We have so much to celebrate and be thankful for as we continue to celebrate our 60th Anniversary,” he shared in conclusion to the evening. “It is clear that this community is invested in working together, through the giving of their talents and gifts, to see that this school continues to be a blessing to the parents and children of Chatham Kent well beyond this anniversary year.”