BY AMBER WADOVICK, Elizabethton Star
As spring/summer is in full force in Carter County, many residents are prepping to renovate their flower and/or vegetable gardens for the season. For many, however, the amount of physical exertion necessary prevents them from getting as much done as they would like. Members of the community, however, have got them covered.
Students from East Side Elementary came to former principal Josh Wandell’s home Wednesday morning to work on flower beds around his property as a service project.
Teachers April Richmond and April Pearson said they do service projects throughout the year as part of their K Kids program, and this time, they wanted to give back to the former principal.
“A lot of these kids had Wandell as a principal,” Richmond said. “We wanted to do something for him in return.”
The fourth and fifth-grade students arrived at the neighborhood in a city school bus and immediately went to work, bringing with them dozens of bags of mulch.
They said the students loved Wandell, and they wanted to help him with his gardens since he cannot go out to tend them himself.
Wandell received an ALS diagnosis around 2013, and he has used his condition to spread his “faith over fear” message in many areas of the community.
Wandell has said in the past he uses ALS as a platform for God’s message to other people, and Pearson said this mentality has shaped the students he has interacted with over the years.
“He is a mindset-changer,” Pearson said.
The K Kids program is affiliated with the Kiwanis Club, which is involved in schools through various organizations such as Key Clubs in high schools. They said Wandell was instrumental in bringing K Kids, the elementary school version, to East Side.
“There would not be K Kids without Wandell,” Pearson said.
The teachers said they also used the service project as an opportunity to learn about teamwork and how to not give up on a goal because of its difficulty.
“He has given so much to this community,” Richmond said. “We appreciate all he has done.”
They said students Wednesday learned the value of hard work, as well as learning they can do anything if they put their mind to it, no matter how tough the task may seem.