NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- Seven Sailors from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) volunteered a full day refurbishing old spaces at the Agape Early Learning Center, a nonprofit day care in Hampton, Va., Sept. 3.
Photographer's Mate 3rd Class (AW) Khadijah Hajjaj of Ike's Admin Department's X-4 Division headed up the idea to get Ike Sailors involved in helping out the day care. During the week, Hajjaj helps out at Agape by emptying trash, changing light bulbs and completing other minor tasks. She also spends full days working there when she has days off.
"Whatever free time I have, I try to spend it here, because they need a lot of help here," she said.
Hajjaj started asking other Ike Sailors to assist her in helping Agape last September, after Hurricane Isabel damaged the day care both inside and out. One of the first to respond was Air Traffic Controller 3rd Class Kenny Contreras, of Operations Department's OC Division. One of the larger tasks Contreras has accomplished for the center is putting sheet metal around the building.
"It's nice to help out little kids," said Contreras.
In all, seven Ike Sailors volunteered and had a busy day. Four volunteers from Ike's Engineering Department's Repair Division spent their day tearing up old linoleum, nailing down floorboards, laying new tile, and edging flooring, both old and new. Contreras and Hajjaj spent their day peeling down old wallpaper and repainting bathroom walls. Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class (SW) James Mullinax from Ike's Operations Department's OZ Division had earlier predicted what his contribution might be.
"I'm probably going to end up playing with the kids before long," said Mullinax. "I'm a big kid myself."
Sure enough, less than an hour after that statement, five kids were tackling him on the playroom floor.
"You want to talk about exercise, now...whew!" he said.
Annette Johnson, who has run Agape for about four years, said she appreciates what Ike Sailors have done for the day care.
"We don't have a lot of men to do the needed repairs," she said.
Contreras plans to continue helping Agape as much as he can during his tour with Ike.
"I don't want to see this place [go down], especially with all the little kids," he said.
Even though Hajjaj gives to Agape, she says she also takes away a happy experience.
"It's nice walking in here," she said. "Kids know your name, and they know you're helping, too."
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