Trulee Swindle gazed around her colorful fourth-grade classroom and breathed a sigh of relief.
She could focus on lesson planning while one sailor filled goodie bags and another strapped large bands around the bottoms of chairs and then moved on to assembling packets of papers.
In the last days before the new school year begins, teachers around Hampton Roads are rushing to get their classrooms ready before students burst through the doors.
But at 25 Chesapeake schools, the teachers had more than a few helping hands Wednesday: about 400 service members from Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads volunteering through the command's fourth annual "Servicing our Schools" initiative.
At Deep Creek Central Elementary, Lisa Ryan and Adam Danberry helped in Swindle's classroom. They, and others from the Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic, spent their morning at the school.
"If I can help take somebody's stress away, I'm all about it," Ryan said as she put pens, raffle tickets, punchcards and other treats in goodie bags.
Swindle was grateful for the help.
"I am so much more relieved, I feel like my stress level has gone down," she said.
She spent a full day last week in her classroom and has been pulling 12-hour days preparing for the first day of school on Tuesday. Her to-do list seemed endless.
Deep Creek Central has a high military population, so the teachers are already familiar with military culture. Swindle has her own ties: Her father, stepfather, brother and brother-in-law all served, and her husband helps build carriers at Huntington Ingalls.
Just down the hall, Erika Wall was preparing her room for another group of fourth graders. Kimberly Davis, a petty officer in the Navy, helped her organize files, slipping tab labels into their slots atop folders.
"It's been a huge blessing," Wall said.
She was blown away after walking through the halls and seeing the service members in their yellow T-shirts and blue shorts decorating bulletin boards and moving supplies around the building.
In her 20th year of teaching, she knows this week is crunch time.
Davis is just happy to help.
"You never realize what (teachers) do to get prepared," she said. "And they do it with a smile."
Capt. Jonathan Kline, the commanding officer of NSA Hampton Roads, said when they put out the call for volunteers, they were flooded with takers.
"The military is part of the community," he said.
They aren't just there to serve, but to give back and show that they appreciate the community's support, he said.
"Really anything that a teacher wants or needs done, we've got someone who is willing to do it and probably has the talent and the skills that can make it look great," he said.
He was especially pleased that so many stepped up.
"People just wanted to help, they just wanted to do something, to give back," he said. "I've been in the Navy a long time, and our connectedness to the community and the willingness to serve in any way we can, that makes me proud."
This article is written by Robyn Sidersky from The Virginian-Pilot and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.