The polished new gymnasium floor at an Oklahoma City middle school has nothing to do with art class, but the two have become intertwined because of a local church.
A year ago, members of Mayflower United Church of Christ created the “Taft Power Hour,” a before-school art program for Taft Middle School students who showed up early for school because of their parents' work schedule, transportation dilemmas or other issues.
The Rev. Robin Meyers, Mayflower's senior pastor, said he was touring the school one day when he noticed that a large portion of the gym had been cordoned off. Meyers said he was shocked when Taft Principal Eric Schellenger told him that half the gym was unusable because of the water-damaged floor.
Schellenger said the floor woes had been ongoing for five years, and Taft students were going to nearby Northwest Classen High School for some sports and physical education activities.
Meyers said he spoke to Mayflower church member Tom Brewer, owner of Brewer Carpet and The Floor Trader, and Brewer also expressed concern.
Recently, Brewer replaced the portions of the gym floor that were damaged as part of a project costing an estimated $12,000.
Meyers said he, Brewer and other Mayflower church members have been thrilled to help the Oklahoma City school at 2901 NW 23.
“We are mission-
“We are trying to do the types of things Christ would want us to do on this Earth. When people are starving or they need something, we don't want to argue about theology. We would rather give them food or what they need.”
Program fills void
Students participating in “Taft Power Hour” have made sculptures from metal coat hangers and pantyhose, drawn self-portraits and created art from old wine bottles, among other things.
Meyers said Mayflower hired artist Lisa Simms to run the before-school program, which meets from 6:45 to 8:50 a.m. giving students plenty of time to be creative before school starts at 9 a.m. The program began its second school year in August.
Simms receives help from volunteers from Mayflower such as church members Barbara Williams and Debby Senior.
Senior said many of the students hear about the program during the school's morning announcements while others learn about it from students who regularly show up for the art class.
“It gives them an opportunity to engage with their friends,” she said.
Meyers said most of the students who come once come back again.
“Once they're in, they're hooked,” he said, smiling.
Meyers said the program works because it gives the students good adult role models to interact and have fun. He said the class doesn't have a religious agenda — it's all about the art and the students.
“We're just interested in being here. That's our statement.”
Simms said before “Taft Power Hour” came along, she was told the students had a “Walgreens Breakfast Club,” meaning that many of them bought breakfast at a nearby Walgreens and gathered out in front of the store to wait for school to begin.
Seventh-grader Britni Coley, 14, said she stood outside the school and talked to her friends before the arts program was started. She said she would much rather be creating art as she does during the program.
Simms said the program brings together different types of students who share a common love of art.
“They stick together and they relate to each other as artists,” she said.
Meyers said once the art program was in place, he just wanted to know more about the school when he took the tour of the building that led him to the gymnasium.
Principal Schellenger said a leaky air-
He said the leak eventually rotted out areas of the floor.
Schellenger said he roped off the part of the floor underneath a basketball goal that received the most damage for the students' safety. This meant that sports events that required the use of the entire floor, such volleyball and basketball games could not be held.
He said the gym remained cordoned off about five years as school officials waited for funding from MAPS.
Meyers said Brewer was touched by the school's plight and replaced the damaged portions of the floor for free. The preacher said he feels fortunate to have found out about the gym troubles for the students' sake.
“The only reason why we got in here is because we tried to do something,” Meyers said.
Schellenger said that he was shocked when Meyers told him the floor would be fixed and grateful to Brewer for the successful project.
Meyers said he knows that many schools need help addressing students' issues and funding for projects.
“Who's going to step up for the public schools if not the church? Every church believes each child is a child of God,” he said.
“If this (Taft program) inspires other churches to find one school to help, that's great.”