They were so excited to deliver their present that they were an hour early.
Mike and MaryEmma Bunch and Betty Holland, members of First Baptist Concord, were all up by 6:30 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 29. They’d already had their coffee by the time they hitched up the 17-foot-long trailer — the present — and headed to Burchfield School in Oneida.
The pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school with about 700 students had been needing the trailer for years: members of the band and football team had been cramming equipment into individual cars when they traveled to band competitions or away games.
“They’ve been using five to six vehicles every time they had to go somewhere,” said Steve Peek, pastor of Legacy Builders [seniors] at First Baptist Concord. “They’ve tried to generate funds by whatever ways and means and still couldn’t reach the goal of raising money for a trailer, mainly because they had other needs and people were very limited in what they could give. I was going to go to our Legacy Builders when an individual came to me and said they’d like to provide the funds for the trailer.”
The church bought a brand-new trailer and a friend put the icing on the cake.
“Jim McMichaels, a church member here, has a sign company, Jim McMichael’s Signs,” Holland said. He and my husband, Ken Holland [who passed away several months ago], had been business associates for many years. Ken and I were so blessed to do this ministry together. Jim volunteered to do the logos on the trailer for free in Ken’s memory.”
McMichael’s emblazoned the school name and logo — two rams— on the sides and the back of the trailer.
“We left early because my husband was concerned about pulling a trailer up the mountain,” Bunch said. “We made better time than we expected.”
“We were an hour early,” Holland added, “so we stopped for a Coke at a Pilot station.”
They pulled up with the new toy in the school’s parking lot and principal Tonja Crabtree and administrative assistant Joan Cotton came out to meet them.
“We could hear them calling the students outside over the loud speaker,” Bunch said.
Soon about 200 band members and football players poured out, with football coach Charles Golden and band director Cole Hunt in tow.
Mike Bunch presented the trailer’s title to the principal and she asked the students to gather in front of the trailer for a picture.
“Some of the older students came and hugged us and told us how thrilled they were and how hard it was to stuff all those instruments in cars,” Holland said.
“One of the older band members told me that she’d been praying for a trailer for seven years,” Bunch said.
The church adopted the school in 2006 when Emmette Thompson, director of Mission of Hope and FBC member, came and presented the need for the school to be adopted, Peek said. “We said, ‘We want that school.’”
For the last 11 years, church members have been making trips to Oneida.
“We go to the school five times a year,” Peek said, “with backpacks in August, then in September to ask sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to sign a big poster that says ‘Stay in School and Graduate;’ then at Christmas to deliver toys, food, clothing, hygiene products and Bibles; in February to deliver certificates to give them a tangible reminder of their commitment, then back in May for a teacher appreciation luncheon.
“The band always plays for us as a gift of music when we go up there at Christmas,” he added. “We have seen the band literally go from about eight students to about 150 students.”
To qualify as a Mission of Hope school, at least 85 percent of the school population must receive a free lunch, Peek said, adding that Scott County has highest unemployment in state of Tennessee, primarily because coal mines have been shut down.
About seven years ago, when FBC had to move portable classrooms off their Concord Christian School campus, Peek knew where they should go. He had been at Burchfield School and had talked with the principal. Soon two CCS portable classrooms helped relieve overcrowding at Burchfield.