Belk employees work on Sevierville Intermediate improvements

Jun. 12, 2013 @ 11:20 PM

To commemorate 125 years of business, Belk department stores are celebrating by giving back to the communities they serve. For the 125 day-period between March 10 and July 12, schools across the South will receive makeovers through the efforts of their local Belk employees.

On Tuesday, over 20 employees from the Sevierville store volunteered at Sevierville Intermediate School. They assembled picnic tables, constructed bookshelves, painted murals and landscaped.

On Wednesday, Sevierville Intermediate Principal Dr. Terri Dodge will receive a makeover from Belk.

"We're excited because this is the first time we've been able to volunteer in the community as a group," said store manager Robb Cates, who noted that Belk wants to carry out its passion for literacy as part of its community outreach

The experience has personally rewarding for Belk associates.

"We have girls and guys building things. That picnic table has been taken apart and put back together more than once," laughed Cate. "For a bunch of people involved in retail, it's been fun to step outside the comfort zone."

The project has offered a creative outlet for Belk employees. "The artwork on the murals has been left up to the associates," Cates said. "It's interesting to see how this project provokes imagination and creativity."

Cates said Sevierville Intermediate was selected based on need and its proximity to the store. On the corporate level, Belk chose to focus its outreach on Title One schools, which receive supplemental funding from the U.S. Department of Education to meet the needs of at-risk and low-income students.

As an extension to the project, Belk associates will collect 125 books to donate to the school this fall.

Said Cates, "This project will be long-lasting and we hope it is something that will continue to grow after we've left the building."

jfrye@themountainpress.com