Volunteer groups partner to aid Murphey School

Volunteers from Lowe’s in Dover, from left, Sean Dial, Jamie Koger and Deana Alcocer dig sand around a horseshoe pit at the Murphey School in Dover on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Sometimes it just takes a little communication to achieve big things.

That’s what spurred Anthony Smith, the coordinator of the Dover Police League, to approach people involved with the Lowe’s Heroes program and see if they would be interested in helping to renovate and beautify the recreational facilities behind the Elizabeth W. Murphey School.

It turned out to be a winning conversation as the Dover Police Department and Lowe’s – both Dover and Camden locations – eventually teamed up with volunteers from the Delaware Department of Correction and Delaware State University Police to make the much-needed improvements in searing-hot temperatures from Monday through Thursday.

The project wrapped up with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday afternoon.

Michael Kopp, the executive director of the Murphey School, a nonprofit group home facility for displaced children, watched in amazement as the group of around 25 volunteers did their work on Wednesday.

“This weather is absolutely crushing and yet these people are out here in shifts and they keep coming and doing the labor,” Mr. Kopp said. “It’s phenomenal they are willing to do that for kids they don’t even know. That says something about their heart.”

Heather Boots a volunteer from Lowe’s in Dover paints a horseshoe box at the Murphey School in Dover on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mr. Smith, a Patrolman First Class with the Dover Police Department, said he didn’t think twice about trying to help the kids at the Murphey School.

“With Lowes’ community outreach program and wanting to work with the youth and me being the Police Athletic League coordinator for the entire city of Dover we were able to make it work,” Mr. Smith said. “We were able to join hands and do something that benefits the kids and will excite them each and every day to want to come out and utilize everything that’s being renovated and beautified.”

Lauren Becke, an assistant store manager at the Lowe’s in Dover, said the project got personal for the group rather quickly.

“We got a chance to meet a couple of the kids that live here at the Murphey School and when you enter the building some of the kids who live here have their pictures lining on the wall, so you get to see the faces of some of the lives that you’re impacting,” Mrs. Becke said. “Me personally, that really touches my heart.

“I’m proud to work at Lowe’s because they allow us to do things like this for the community and they provide us with the materials that we need to get the job done.”

Over a four-day span with temperatures topping 90 degrees each day, the group of volunteers came together and cleared the baseball/kickball field of grass and weeds and added a Diamond-Tech mixture to the infield and re-graded the outfield to level the ground.

They also cleared grass and weeds from the volleyball and horseshoe pit areas and added new sand to each one and built new backstops and painted them for the horseshoe pits.

The project members also replaced rotting wood trim with vinyl weatherproof trim in the pavilion and cleaned and repainted the basketball courts.

Stephanie Evans, an assistant store manager for the Dover Lowe’s, was pleased with how the volunteers rose to the challenge.

“We couldn’t ask for anything better, our employees are top-notch,” she said. “They’re willing to do whatever it takes to reach out to the community and make a difference.”

During the 10 years of the Lowe’s Heroes program, the home improvement chain has participated in more than 1,300 community projects nationwide and contributed more than $1.3 million in materials.

Patrolman Smith was proud of what the group of volunteers was able to accomplish in just a couple of days.

He said the renovations to the Murphey School’s recreation area will not only benefit the kids at the facility but also kids involved in the Dover PAL, which conducts its Summer Youth Academy and hosts other recreational activities with area youth out of the Murphey School every year.

“They’ve been working in 100-degree weather and they have never stopped coming out here to work,” said Patrolman Smith. “They have never stopped other than taking a break.

“They all know the benefit of doing this, which is all for the kids, and you can’t complain about that, even when the heat index is over 100-something degrees.”

Stephen Freeman, an assistant store manager at the Lowe’s in Camden, wanted to help in giving the kids a reason to go outside and play.

The Murphey School currently houses 31 youth on its campus as well as provides Independent Living services to approximately 70 young people within the community.

“This project at the Murphey School will give students a reason to get outside and enjoy the space,” Mr. Freeman said. “We believe by working together with the community, we can build something bigger.”

Mr. Kopp said he is very appreciative of the work hours the volunteers donated to help improve the quality of life for the residents of the Murphey School.

“It’s a fantastic project because it makes the recreational equipment and facilities available to our kids and they depend on that every night after school and every weekend,” he said.

“So, they’re coming here and refurbishing everything. It’s a fresh start, the kids feel good about themselves and feel good about using the facilities.”

The project has also given the volunteers a chance to feel good about themselves.

“The Murphey School is a really important place because these kids don’t have a home, so this is now their home,” Mrs. Becke said. “We’re really proud to be able to help refresh it and beautify it. It really means a lot.”

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