One by one, classes of Cumru Elementary School students ventured outside Friday afternoon, gathering around a wooden structure built on a concrete pad.
Through their masks the children cheered and shouted their thanks. Some yelled, "We love it." A group of fourth graders even sang a special thank-you song to the tune of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
Gathered inside the open-air pavilion, milling about between six picnic tables, the group of volunteers that created the structure waved as they accepted the tokens of gratitude.
"I know this has been a tough year," Bo McClain, the manager of the Sinking Spring Lowe's and one of the volunteers, told one group of students. "We hope this project brings you smiles."
The 30-by-30-foot pavilion was a special gift for the school from Lowe's. It was built as part of the company's Lowe's Heroes program, which provides each Lowe's store with an annual grant to take on a community project.
This year, Dawn Madava, manager of the Morgantown Lowe's, got the idea for a bunch of local stores to pool their grants for one big project. Teaming up with the Sinking Spring, Reading, Exeter and Pottstown locations, Madava set out to build an outdoor space for Cumru Elementary.
Chad Curry, Cumru's principal, said when he heard about the project it felt like fate. He and his team have been discussing the idea of building a pavilion at the school for quite some time.
"It's almost like someone was listening in," he said.
The pavilion will get a lot of use, Curry said. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, there's been an effort to get kids outside as much as possible, even if just to get a quick breath of fresh air.
And when the pandemic subsides, he said, students will be able to have classes there, eat lunch there and maybe even use it for things like outdoor school dances or movie nights.
Curry expressed his gratitude for the volunteers who made it all possible.
"I think it's just wonderful having people from the community coming here and doing this," he said. "I'm so excited about it."
Those who took part in building it were pretty excited about the project, too. Along with volunteers from Lowe's, employees from Solutions Concrete and the school district's maintenance staff also helped.
"The feeling you get when you see their faces when they come out, it's a highlight," McClain said. "Especially in a year like this."
"It almost makes you feel like you forget there's a pandemic for a moment," Matt Fusco, assistant manager of the Morgantown Lowe's, said. "It's an absolutely wonderful feeling."