- Associated Press - Saturday, November 11, 2017

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Next time you step atop a wooden gymnasium floor, peer down at the multitudes of slender wooden planks beneath your feet. Then, imagine removing them, one by one, sanding down the staples holding them together, one by one, and reinstalling them all in a new gym, one by one.

For a group of volunteers with St. Paul’s Lutheran School and Church, imagination isn’t necessary.

Last March, the school placed the winning $5 bid for gymnasium equipment housed within the former National American University building, across the street from the Pennington County Courthouse. Along with the gymnasium’s wooden floor, four basketball hoops, two digital scoreboards, a digital sound system and a retractable wooden bleacher were included in the sale.

The auction came after the school’s request to have the equipment donated to its gymnasium failed to receive a unanimous vote of support from the Pennington County Board of Commissioners. Donations of surplus county property must be approved unanimously. The board member who voted against the donation, Commissioner George Ferebee, opined that other area organizations should have the same opportunity to acquire the equipment.

At the auction a few weeks after that decision, St. Paul’s School board member Mel Preble placed the winning $5 bid after another man - who supported the failed donation effort and said he wanted to be sure there were two bids - opened the bidding at $1.

In this case, the money was an afterthought.

“It wasn’t as simple as paying $5 and getting a floor,” Stephen Gurgel, principal of St. Paul’s Lutheran School, told the Rapid City Journal . “Not only was it $5, but it was the labor. They were going to junk the floor because there was so much expense trying to take it out piece by piece. I think that’s what weeded out a lot of people in the process.”

The true price was paid by dozens of volunteers and, by Gurgel’s estimation, more than 1,000 hours of volunteer time. Overall, it cost the school about $20,000 to install, sand, polish, paint and treat the wooden flooring. Previously, the school’s gym floor was a simple, unforgiving and slick concrete surface. Gurgel said it would have likely cost the school more than $100,000 to install the floor he now stood atop, a long-term goal that was unlikely to be accomplished for 10 to 15 years.

Instead, with the help of volunteers, it took 18 months. In August, the school unveiled the new gymnasium floor to school and churchgoers.

“As the school board and church council discussed it there was a lot of hesitation just because we knew how much work it was going to take,” Gurgel said last week as he stood atop the floor, the scent of fresh polish and wood treatment still palpable.

“We really appreciate our volunteers, but we don’t want to overwork them, too. You could tell we were tired when we were done. We were all tired.”


Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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