Andy McCall could have slept in this week, gone kayaking or been woodworking, since last week he retired as director of the physical plant at Maryville College.
Instead, he was back on campus as one of more than 100 volunteers during Kin Takahashi Week, when MC alumni, employees and other friends donate their time and talents.
“In retirement I want to do volunteer work, and I can’t think of anything better than what I believe in,” McCall said Tuesday as he took a break from working on a bridge in the College Woods and prepared to eat lunch in Pearsons Hall.
McCall was physical plant director when KT Week began in 1997 and confesses he was skeptical about whether volunteers would be more benefit than headache. The first 25 who showed up that year quickly convinced him of the former.
“We’ve got some of the hardest-working people I’ve ever been around,” McCall said.
The Maryville campus includes more than 300 acres, and the mechanical, housekeeping and groundskeeping staff combined now is just more than 40 people.
Last year, volunteers and MC employees logged more than 3,000 hours on KT Week projects, according to Dan Greaser, who was president of the Maryville College Class of 1960 and one of the organizers of the volunteer effort following its 35th anniversary.
It took until 1997 to start the volunteer week as a way for people to give of their time and talent to the college. Even then Greaser said McCall tested them.
One of the first projects McCall gave them was rehabilitating a barn that was almost falling down. “If we didn’t do well, there would be nothing lost,” Greaser said. “The barn was stronger when we finished than when it was originally built.”
A member of the football team, Greaser had heard of Kin Takahashi, who came to Maryville College in 1888 and began the team.
However, Takahashi also spearheaded the effort to build Bartlett Hall, with contributions from the town, the students and donors. His spirit of giving back to the college is honored with his namesake, Kin Takahashi Week.
“He was a great example to us,” Greaser said.
Volunteer to director
The college’s new physical plant director, Reggie Dailey said, “Kin Takahashi Week was a large part of why I’m here.”
Dailey’s daughter, Brynn, was a Maryville College freshman soccer player in 2005. Along with other soccer parents, he wanted to build a set of steps from the parking area to the soccer field, and that became a KT Week project.
“I’ve made every KT Week since 2005,” Reggie Dailey said Tuesday.
A process engineer for a manufacturing plant in Salisbury, N.C., for 35 years, Dailey applied for the job of assistant physical plant director at the college when the position opened in 2015.
This year he has a separate notebook just for KT Week, including the needs and sketches of projects, such as stands and lattice screens for the rain barrels around Crawford House.
A KT project must match the volunteers’ skills, ideally be completed within a week and not be overly taxing, Dailey said.
“We like for them to have a good time when they come,” he said.
Building projects have ranged from storage buildings to lap boards that allow students to work while in the auditorium. The volunteers have built walkways and fences and pressure washed the buildings and worked on the landscaping.
As many have heard McCall say, “You can’t throw a stone or a baseball without hitting a KT project,” Greaser recalled.
They also look for projects that will have the most visible impact to first-time visitors on campus. After all, soon after KT Week ends, visitors will be coming to campus for a number of camps over the summer.
KT Week began at a time when the campus looked tired and overgrown, Greaser said.
Today, he said, “It’s vital, it’s alive and being taken care of.”
One of this year’s projects includes refurbishing building signs, and another will replace message boards in the residence halls. There’s also plenty of painting and landscaping work.
“I’ve always been very appreciative of the weed-pullers,” McCall said.
While most of the volunteers are alumni and employees, KT Week also draws others.
“We have folks here who have no connection other than they heard of this and think it’s a good thing to do with their time,” Dailey said.
The volunteers become an extended family, Greaser said. As one volunteer’s T-shirt noted Tuesday, they are all “Kin.”