Next week starts off with a renewed celebration at Gresham Middle School. On Monday and Tuesday, decorating begins for the Gresham Gardens Winter Wonderland. The garden is located on the school’s campus surrounding its outdoor classroom.
The classroom, which is basically a really nice deck with built-in seating, sits where Hassie K. Gresham’s house once stood. The school’s name-sake was the principal at what was the original Central High School from 1918 until her retirement in 1947.
This is the second year for the Winter Wonderland, and school principal Donna Parker is hoping for additional participation from Fountain City businesses.
“We have the great fortune of having a strong community of parent involvement here with the PTSO and the Gresham Foundation,” Parker said.
But she also had one couple in particular she wanted to single out for recognition in the continuing project that Gresham’s arboretum has become: Tim and Diana McDonald.
“They have such a spirit of generosity and support,” Parker said. “They have been so dedicated to the school. They’re not just parents that I served as a principal, but now they’re friends. And they don’t even have children in school here anymore. So, we decided to dedicate this garden space to them.”
The McDonalds have been Fountain City residents for 32 years and have raised four children in the community. Their oldest son started and finished at Sterchi Elementary, while their younger three attended Fountain City Elementary. The oldest three all graduated from Central, while their youngest and only child waiting to graduate attends the L&N STEM Academy. The one school they all had in common was Gresham.
“We really just think of Gresham as family,” Diana said. “You build such strong connections here, and we love being able to volunteer and do what we can to help.”
That sense of dedication grew from the support the staff extended to their family when their oldest, Josh, started experiencing some health problems while in middle school according to Tim.
“There’s really not enough words to explain how tremendous the school was to us during that time,” he said. “He had to be out of school a lot, and we received so much assistance during that time, calls to check up on him, sending a home teacher during the times he had to be out.”
Not to worry, Josh is doing just fine. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from UT and is now working for NASA.
While the McDonalds were always involved with their children’s schools, a project by their oldest daughter, Amanda, is what got them particularly involved with the Gresham Gardens. Because the creation of the arboretum surrounding the gazebo and outdoor classroom was her brainchild while a senior at Central. Her project, the Gresham Middle School Outdoor Learning Initiative, earned her the Girl Scout Gold Award, and involved adding trees and artwork to the outdoor space.
Last year, the deck needed to be rebuilt, so the McDonalds once again stepped up.
“We just knew we wanted to be a part of that.” Tim said. “There is so much rich history with this school. It’s a great school and so are the teachers. And we just love Donna Parker and know that she really cares about her students and shares in their accomplishments. We want to continue to support that.”
To help support the Gresham Middle School Foundation go here.