Volunteers perform a middle school makeover in Ingleside

A well-coordinated team of more than 500 volunteers traded office wear for work clothes Thursday for a makeover inside and out at Gavin South Middle School in Ingleside.

Painting, planting, and building were only part of an extensive, color-coded and zoned to-do list of 52 tasks for the business technology department from Discover Financial Services.

Teaming with Chicago Cares, a nonprofit service organization, the work day is part of the Discover Cares program, in which workers participate in various community projects at different locations throughout the year.

"We have some employees who live in this area who said there was a need at Gavin," said Matthew Towson, Discover's director of community affairs.

Gavin Elementary District 37 Superintendent Julie Brua said she and seventh grade teacher Sarah Lescher, who attended Gavin South as a student, met with Discover representatives at their Riverwoods office last fall.

"Neither one of use could speak when we got out of the meeting because we were astounded at what they do," Brua said. Gavin South serves about 330 students in fifth through eighth grade. About 60% are from low-income families, she added.

Besides building planter boxes, benches, picnic tables and doing landscaping work outside, volunteers painted murals and inspirational sayings in hallways to enhance the surroundings for students.

"They're going to make this building feel like the kids own this building," Brua said. "What they're doing for the kids is huge."

At the flagpole near the school entrance, a group of Discover volunteers dug up a wide circle of grass to be filled with mulch and plants.

"We love it," said volunteer Brian Churchill, who lives in Round Lake Beach. "I'd be preparing for a meeting now."

His wife, Diane, taught at the school for 31 years. She retired in 2014 but visits often and helps coach basketball and volleyball.

"Everybody's doing something," she said of the beehive of activity. "It's like, 'Wow'".

The extensive work is icing on the cake of other upgrades being done as part of a $6 million, voter-approved building plan for both Gavin schools that began a few weeks ago.

At Gavin South, which was built in 1960 and expanded in 1977 and 1999, that will mean roof repairs, new flooring, air conditioning to areas that didn't have it, a new boiler, a STEM lab and security entrance.

"In my lifetime, I've never seen anything like this and I've been in this (field) a long time," Brua said. "It's going to be inspiring."

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  From left, Roland Krocin of Wheeling, Nilesh Bhatpalliwar of Arlington Heights and Paul Saweh of Wauconda trace letters for a mural Thursday at Gavin South Middle School in Ingleside. Steve Lundy/
  Sudesh Ohri of Skokie paints a wall Thursday at Gavin South Middle School in Ingleside. He was among nearly 500 volunteers from Discover Financial Services to help give the school a makeover. Steve Lundy/
  Will Hinton of Prospect Heights, left, and Tom Rogers of Mount Prospect build a picnic bench Thursday at Gavin South Middle School in Ingleside. Steve Lundy/
  Picnic benches are assembled Thursday as nearly 500 volunteers from Discover Financial Services visited Gavin South Middle School in Ingleside to give the school an indoor and outdoor makeover. Steve Lundy/
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