Red-shirted Elves Work Magic at Park Ridge Elementary
The Target employees flanking the entrance to the Park Ridge Elementary School library erupted in chorus each time a student crossed the threshold.
“How you doing guys?” they said, handing each a giant button the color of the Target logo. “Welcome to your new library!”
David Ricketts took the button and crossed into a room once as familiar to him as his classroom.
Gone was the tired beige furniture, industrial bookcases and bland carpeting that looked like it dated to the school’s construction in 1951.
Instead, colorful murals looked down on sleek new tables and chairs. A plush area rug with the letters of the alphabet woven in primary colors complemented comfortable bean-bag chairs in neon shades. Wood-grained book shelves lined the walls and created intimate spaces throughout the room. On the shelves: 2,000 brand new books and on the far table – brand new computers.
As he took it in, the second grader turned in a complete circle. His lips parted. His eyes widened. But he was entirely speechless.
Not so Juliette Jusme. “It’s new!” exclaimed the safety patrol officer, who is graduating from fifth grade. “And I will be using it for the next two-and-a-half weeks.”
Park Ridge was the only Broward County school and one of 32 elementary schools nationwide selected for a library makeover, said Cosette Gutierrez, community relations manager. It was funded by Target’s philanthropic arm, which pledges 5 Percent of its profit - $200 million this year - to supporting education and social services.
Principal Michael Walker said when Target contacted Park Ridge in January, he invited15 second graders to the media center to help. Their drawings of their dream media center were translated by Target’s design team into a plan weighing in at $250,000.
“That’s not in our budget,” Walker noted.
On May 4, Target volunteers descended on the school like the elves in the German fairy tale. They painted murals in the halls, pruned the bushes, and unpacked 2,000 books donated by Heart of America Foundation, a Washington, D.C. non-profit that revitalizes school libraries. Some books went on shelves and all 415 students, all of whom qualify for the free-and-reduced price lunch, went home with a backpack and seven books.
But Haroldson Saint Jean, 11, knew that Target wasn’t just feeding minds Friday. He moved at a trot through the halls, his mother, Marie Bastier, firmly in tow – right through the library and the back door to a line that ran down two halls. Target’s Meals for Minds Program, had pledged 25 pounds of food per month, including vegetables that are not potatoes, explained Nelson Burke, community captain for the Florida district.
“It’s nice,” said Marissa Sanders, mother of three Park Ridge students. “Mac and cheese – and green peppers!”