Last week, another Good Works volunteer group excursion brought six Barkley partners to the Gillis School for at-risk children. The original plan was to help apply yellow paint to a curb that was in need of a more prominent “do not park here” indicator (we learned this is a major safety issue when dealing with multitudes of children). We were surprised when we all awoke to the first signs of rain we’d seen in weeks, thus putting into question our plans.
Luckily we discovered that there were many opportunities for us to make ourselves useful at the school. We spent the morning helping to get the classrooms ready for the students, who will be starting classes in about a week. Our happy helpers cleaned desks, washed windows, vacuumed floors, peeled tape off of all kinds of surfaces, and cleaned and lined trash cans for each room.
The staff was extremely friendly and very grateful that our group came by to help them get ready for the new school year.
Upon arrival, we learned a little about the organization and some of the families they have helped over the years. We heard several moving stories about how the Gillis Center has changed the lives of numerous children, many of whom were neglected, angry and sometimes violent. These children are taught with patience and understanding, and many are able to progress to be adopted, to get jobs, to move on to great things in life. It didn’t take long for it to be quite apparent to all of us just how much the staff cares about these kids.
It was a Good Day for Good Works.
Gillis began as a place of respite for displaced women and children following the Civil War, and evolved into a home for orphans. The organization acquired its stunning campus at 81st and Wornall Road in 1927. Today, Gillis serves children and families through services such as residential care and special-needs education for emotionally and behaviorally troubled boys and their families, as well as crisis intervention and reunification programs extended to families in their homes.