Students paint Fleetwood for Homecoming

Photo by Chris Young Fleetwood students painted the windows of businesses in Fleetwood to celebrate Homecoming.

Fleetwood students, armed with window paint and markers, invaded Main Street and painted Fleetwood with Homecoming spirit.

Fleetwood Area Main Street Association wanted Fleetwood business windows to be painted by students to show that the businesses share the Homecoming spirit.

“The window paintings were to provide two weeks of unique advertising for the Fleetwood Homecoming Community Festival,” said Fleetwood Area Main Street AssociationSecretary Karah Reed of O’Keefe and Sher, P.C. “They were also a symbol of the school, borough and businesses coming together as one to promote the town of Fleetwood.”

Fleetwood teachers Sherri Rankin and Karen Sahaydak, Homecoming advisors, took the idea back to high school art teacher Elaine Hilbert.

“She loved the idea. Even though the staff and students are very busy prepping for Homecoming, she felt that this was something that was very worthwhile,” said Chris Young, Fleetwood Homecoming Festival co-chair with Janice DeLay.

Their goal was to increase the pride in Fleetwood.

“Unity is our goal; a community that works together to achieve a positive change, rather than competes with one another, can only reach a great success,” said Reed.

With the help of the art teacher, the studentspainted the town to show their school pride for the Homecoming weekend and the businesses that agreed to have their windows painted showed their support for the school, thus connecting the school with the town, said Reed.

“Homecoming has always been celebrated in our high school. This committee wanted to include the rest of the town into the celebration,” said Hilbert. “Fleetwood has room to improve, both physically and mentally. Fleetwood has grown, people often feel disconnected, and a few lack pride in keeping their own homes in good condition. I believe the main purpose is for the town to find a common ground, a reason for acting as one, and finding ways to bring back the pride through little gestures like our ‘painting Main Street.’”

Painting the town on Sept. 22 were 18 students, two adults, and two elementary children. Most of the volunteer students were 9th graders.

At school, Hilbert offered a small incentive, a free homework pass, for any of her students to volunteer for a minimum of 30 minutes during the three-hour window of time. Hilbert divided each of the nine businesses who volunteered their windows into themes.

“I wanted to represent as many school facets as possible, as we want to show our school pride throughout our curriculum as well as extracurricular,” said Hilbert.

She broke the large group into smaller groups, giving a lead artist images as inspiration.

“The kids had a blast. Think about it, they had permission to write all over windows and NOT get into trouble” she said. “It was a win win for all.”

They tackled each business and moved on to the next.

“I was so proud of my football players, they truly represented team work,” she said. “Our lead artists did a great job laying out clever designs, and when we ran over time, most of the original group stayed to help finish a business at the end of town.”

“One student told me he had such a great time that he would gladly help out next year,” said Hilbert.

She hopes students get a sense of pride for working together on a cause that is bigger than themselves.

“I want students to recognize that in order to have a community, one has to contribute to the encouragement of our children, to stand behind those who mold them into positive citizens, and support each other in tough times. Showing town pride can be a simple gesture made by one person or hundreds. I want my students to be so excited about what they accomplished, that they point out the car window and say, ‘Hey, I did that!’”

Hilbert also sees this benefiting the town.

“Fleetwood can always use a color infusion every once and awhile. Besides the obvious fun window decorations bring, the symbols drawn are all about being positive and supportive of what creates societies... our schools. By decorating, perhaps some of our businesses will be recognized as being part of the celebrations,” she said.

“Art just makes people happier, it feeds the soul. Art is important in communities, as it reflects its culture, shows higher levels of thinking, and adds to the general splendor of life. Those who see the value and are supportive of the arts are those who truly live a well rounded life.”

Conducting the project within a very tight time frame, Hilbert said there were businesses that didn’t get on the “to be painted” list this year, but next year they hope to have more time “to really give this town a great big color boost for Homecoming.”

“Our hopes for next year are to make the festival even bigger and more known throughout Berks County; it’ll be a yearly tradition,” said Reed. “We’ll have more time to prepare along with the businesses and make it even more successful, if possible, than this year. We’d also like to do this twice a year…maybe a Welcome Spring Bash.”

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