By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter
JEFFERSON CITY (WATE) - At Carson-Newman University, a historic building is getting a facelift and just in time.
The old Butler-Blanc Gymnasium, built in 1921, was very nearly lost.
But last year, the school put a new roof on the building and made a commitment to save the old structure.
To do that, they required some very special help.
Since mid-May, the Butler-Blanc Gym has been the center of an intensive effort. Volunteers have shown up, rolled up their sleeves and gone to work.
In its heyday, the gym was the center of campus life, especially its lower level pool. But over the years it fell into disrepair.
Rather than scrap the building, administrators had a different vision.
"Everything old can be new again and we believe in reclaiming. This was an opportunity to connect our past to our future with this building and others on campus," said Kina Mallard, the executive vice president of Carson-Newman.
To help its cause, the university called on some old friends - the Baptist Builders, a group out of Greeneville that helps in times of disaster or, as in this case, in times of need.
"We've been here since the first of May and what we do is
facilitate other Baptist teams coming in," said Margaret Bradley of Baptist Builders.
From a leaky ceiling to holes in the floor to windows and hinges caked with 92 years of paint, the teams did it all.
The restoration would eventually utilize more than 100 volunteers who worked more than 3,500 hours to bring the building back to life.
"We can't make it look like new, but we feel we're updating it and they
say every student at Carson-Newman loves this building and so hopefully, we'll
make it a little better for them," Bradley said.
All this work and spirit of volunteerism hasn't gone unnoticed by the students.
"It's been really cool that so many people want to take time out of their
summer to come to a college instead of a beach vacation. So it's been cool that
they want to come here for free when they don't have any connections to Carson-Newman," said student Callie Wells.
Still, the work is hard, tedious and sometimes frustrating. Imagine scraping nearly a century of paint from a hinge.
The volunteers don't seem to mind. Despite the heat and the conditions, each seems happy to be here.
And Margaret, what does she get out of it?
"Oh boy, what do I get
out of it? I get the blessing of serving God," she said.
Margaret and the others - an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee.
The work at the Butler-Blanc gym is expected to wrap up on Friday. Once completed, the school will use the building for its outdoor sports program.
If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at email@example.com.
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