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School Makes Fire House Come to Life with Painting

ELMSFORD, NY - Captain Stephan Woehrle of Elmsford's Live Oak Engine Company didn't like the look of a firehouse wall as he entered the building. Boring and bland, it wasn't inviting or inspirational. So he enlisted the help of his friend Tom Blondel, an art teacher at Alexander Hamilton High School , to spruce it up.

Seven students volunteered their after school hours and weekends to paint a mural for the fire department. Completed in April, Woehrle is grateful that the neighboring high school could help give their department more vibrancy.

"I love it," said Woehrle. "We all love it. That's all everybody talks about when they walk in. It's just wonderful. It tells you where you are. And it will be there for years."

The mural took roughly one month to complete and has become a point of conversation in the Elmsford community. Taking pride in his students, Blondel is already enlisting others for a future, secret project that Woehrle has his eye on.

"The kids were fantastic, they really were," said Blondel. "They really got into painting the mural. They earned something. The first day, they got so into it that they wouldn't leave. They were there until 8 p.m. and didn't want to go home."

One day, the students were given the day off. Blondel stopped by the fire department to do touch ups. When the students saw his car in the parking lot, they called him, asking to help.

"It was a really good experience to be able to volunteer and help the community by using something that I love to do like artistic skills," said ninth-grader Angelene Dimaano. "It's for a good cause."

The students and Blondel were invited to Elmsford's annual election dinner where they were honored for their work. Among those giving them a standing ovation were village trustees, the mayor and members of the police and fire departments.

"It turned out really well because I like the painting and I appreciate what the firefighters do," said 12th-grader Jasmine Johnson.

"It was a nice experience working on the mural," said Natalie Stroh, a junior firefighter at Live Oak. "It was good to help my drawing skills and the community."

Twelfth-graders Johnson and Stroh were involved with the whole project. Other painters included Dimaano and Ariel Portillo who recently completed ninth grade, along with Gustavo Barzallo, Christian Fernandez and Melaney Portillo who graduate this week.

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