Jared Owens, his family and 16 volunteers of the church made the long drive to East Milton Elementary to repaint the school. Owens selected the school based on future growth plans for the congregation that include building a new church in East Milton.

MILTON — When students return to the classroom at East Milton Elementary School on Aug. 12, they will be greeted with freshly painted hallways thanks to a group of volunteers from the Living Truth Church in Chumuckla.

This past weekend, Jared Owens, his family and 16 volunteers of the church made the long drive to East Milton Elementary to repaint the school. Owens selected the school based on future growth plans for the congregation that include building a new church in East Milton.

Owens said he will be the pastor of the new Living Truth Church in East Milton once it is built. The expansion project is in the beginning stages and Owen said it will take some time for construction.

Alexandra Timmons, assistant principal at East Milton Elementary, said the school needed the help.

"The school has the highest number of free and reduced lunches in the county (85 percent), and we have 55 families that we give food to for the weekend so they have something to eat," Timmons said.

"Children can't learn when they are hungry," Timmons added.

Owens and his volunteers, including his son Silas who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair, grabbed paintbrushes and started painting the interior of the school.

"We just provided the labor," Owens said. The Santa Rosa County School Board provided all the paint and other materials to finish the job.

There is still more to come.

Rebecca McKeithen, a founder of FriendsRaising Food Inc. and a teacher at East Milton Elementary, and FriendsRaising Food co-founder Kellie Hardy announced on their Facebook page that they plan to build a food pantry at the school. The pantry will allow students to pick food readily available to take home if they do not have the resources to buy food, McKeithen said.

If you would like to volunteer at East Milton Elementary school, call 850-983-5620. For more information on FriendsRaising Food Inc., go to @FoodRaising Friends.