All photos courtesy of Ulises Bedia, Zuno Photographic Inc.

By Allison Matyus

At Spencer Elementary Technology Academy in the Austin neighborhood, about 230 volunteers showed up on Saturday morning, April 22, for the annual Comcast Cares Day. In schools just like Spencer Tech, as well as other nonprofit organizations, over 100,000 volunteers gathered nationwide for Comcast Cares Day to complete a total of 700 projects.

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According to John Crowley, Senior Vice President of Comcast for the greater Chicago region, central division, the annual volunteering event has contributed over $20 million to nonprofits and schools with a total of 5 million service hours from members of the community and Comcast employees just like him, since the program started back in 2001.

In the small auditorium of Spencer Tech, the volunteers that were made up of all ages, professions, and backgrounds were gearing up to work on several different projects that would beautify the school and benefit the students of Spencer in big ways.

For students who have lost their luster to learn and for them to come in on Monday and see what we have done for them, it will show them that we believe in them,” said Spencer Tech Principal, Kelly Dean. “We are not only investing in the physical space, but in their learning as well.

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Dean said there are 687 students that attend Spencer Tech that range in ages from pre-K to eighth grader. She said the last time the school had any major upgrades to it was over seven years ago.

This is a huge investment in the school during a time when we are having a major budget crisis in our public schools,” Dean said.

In partnership with the education-focused organization, City Year, volunteers of Comcast Cares worked on various projects throughout the day to renew the look and feel of the school, including painting murals in the hallways, building picnic tables, installing interactive whiteboards, building cubbies and bookcases, and adding accent walls of color in many of the classrooms.

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Spencer Tech pre-k teacher, Tracy Anderson, was busy painting a part of a mural with her team during Comcast Cares Day.

I would just like to see this place filled with more beauty,” she said. “I look forward to Monday to show my kids a tour of the halls and to see the looks on their faces.

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It was heartening to see so many volunteers from the surrounding community come out to help beautify the school, which, in turn helps the surrounding neighborhood of Austin.

It’s extremely important to give back to the community,” said volunteer Lori Williams Sheffey. “Volunteering is essential for communities to thrive, and it’s great to see so many people come out today in support of the school and this community.