Local

Channel 5 volunteers join school’s ‘Extreme Makeover’ efforts

byNeil W. McCabe Pilot Correspondent
8/17/2007

Anchors Dave Brown, Heather Unruh and meteorologist J.C. Monahan of WCVB Channel 5’s EyeOpener morning newscast try their hand at painting a classroom at St. Patrick’s School in Roxbury. Pilot photo/ Neil W. McCabe

ROXBURY -- Three members of the WCVB-TV News team joined volunteers from the Blue Crew, Loomis Sayles, and West Roxbury’s Catholic Memorial High School Aug. 14 for an ‘‘Extreme Makeover’’ at St. Patrick School.

“It is just so important for the kids to come into classrooms that are clean and fresh,” said Mary D. Lanata, who is in her second year as the school’s principal. Lanata was previously the principal of Dorchester’s St. Matthew’s School, which is now closed. “It is an example to the kids to show that people really do love them and care about them,” she said.

‘‘Extreme Makeover: My Hometown’’ is WCVB’s version of the national ABC program ‘‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.’’ This project was a partnership with the Boston Catholic Schools, Loomis Sayles and the Blue Crew, the volunteer program at the Massachusetts Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said Karen Holmes Ward, the director of public affairs at Channel 5. Holmes Ward is the host of the station’s “CityLine” program and it is her office at WCVB that coordinates the program.

Among the Channel 5 volunteers, were General Manager William Fine, EyeOpener morning newscast anchors Heather Unruh and Dave Brown and meteorologist J.C. Monahan.

Brown said it was fun to come to St. Patrick’s to help out. “It brings back memories for me. I love seeing the small tables and desks and the old blackboards.”

“This is such a wonderful place. But, it does need a new coat of paint,” said Unruh. “It feels good to do something nice like this.”

Holmes Ward said the partnership has finished eight different makeovers in the state, including the renovation of a former convent into a home for women in transition and another former convent into a home for troubled children.

With desks and chairs piled up in the center of the rooms and walls and hallways taped and blotted, the volunteers brushed and rolled new coats of paint throughout the school, including the former basketball court, now converted into a lunchroom and theater in the basement.

That afternoon, the asphalt was cut for the new basketball court surface in the parking lot across the street, said Allan D. Coffee, a field engineer with Suffolk Construction, whose CEO, John Fish, is leading the archdiocesan-wide renovation of parochial schools.

The basketball court is sponsored by Loomis Sayles, the Boston-based mutual fund house that adopted the school, said one of the painters, John D. Russell, the firm’s chief counsel and head of human resources. Last year, Loomis Sayles sponsored the school’s playground set. “The court should be ready to use shortly after the school years starts.”

Adopting the school was the way the people of Loomis Sayles responded to Peter Lynch’s call for supporters of Catholic education to focus on specific schools at a fundraising dinner for the Inner-City Catholic Schools Scholarships, he said. Since retiring from Fidelity Investments, Lynch has devoted efforts to Catholic philanthropy.

In addition to improving facilities, the firm supports a Wednesday afternoon tutoring program that he participates in as well, he said. “We focus on reading and other skills that the teachers ask us to work on with the students.”

To sustain the program, Loomis pays its volunteers their regular wage for time they spend tutoring or painting, said Sandra Howes-Wilson, who works in Loomis’ communications department.

Although it is still summer vacation, seven current students, one alumnus and two faculty members of Catholic Memorial responded to the call for volunteers for the makeover, said Brian T. Scott, the school’s director of religious education.

Mary J. McCarthy, a member of the Blue Crew, said she and her brother and sister attended St. Patrick’s school.

When she saw the call for volunteers at work, she took advantage of the chance to return to the school, she said.

It was her first time back at the school since she graduated, an undisclosed number of years ago, she said.

The Extreme Makeover: My Hometown and other programs are efforts to let people, especially alumni of the Catholic schools know they are still up and running, said Michael B. Reardon, the executive director of The Catholic Schools Foundation. “We are trying to bring people back.”

Earlier in the week, Reardon led a group of 1957 graduates of St. Patrick’s through the school, he said. “None of them had been back since they graduated.”

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said that, although he could not join the makeover because he was attending another community event in Roxbury, he was very much aware of the program and its contribution to the community.

“The vital partnership of Peter Lynch and John Fish is doing a tremendous service working with the archdiocese to repair and improve these schools,” Menino said. “Institutions like St. Patrick’s are so important because they have the strength to keep going and remain in the neighborhood after the people who went there have moved out.”