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Morgan Nowland cleans the bottom of the pool Thursday at the Chambliss Center for Children. Keller Williams agents spent the day volunteering at the center.

An army in red T-shirts fanned out across the Chambliss Center for Children on Thursday, stripping wallpaper, pulling up weeds and sprinkling mulch wherever needed.

The work was part of the fifth annual Keller Williams Realty Red Day, when the company's offices across the country close their doors for business and agents get out in the community.

"It's a great way to help the community and give back, because they give so much to us," said Teresa Clegg, an affiliate broker at Keller Williams' Hixson office.

Darne Ridgley, an assistant broker at the downtown office, said nearly 83,000 Keller Williams agents were participating nationwide.

"We have people across the [country] today who have shut down their offices to work in the communities that they live in," Ridgley said. "It's my favorite day. I love it."

Complementing the volunteers' red shirts, the Chambliss Center staff sported green shirts reading, "It takes a village."

"I think it does take the whole community's effort to take care of hundreds of children," said Chambliss Center Vice President Katie Harbison. "And we're deeply appreciative for Keller Williams for taking time out of their busy day to come and make a difference in the lives of these children."

The center, a private nonprofit organization, provides 24-hour child care for families in need as well as residential and foster programs for children removed from their homes because of drugs, alcohol or abuse. The center serves about 700 children a year on a $4.2 million annual budget.

The volunteer work came at a crucial time for the center. In the summers, the center takes on about 75 additional children to help local parents who can't afford child care.

The 120 volunteers helped ready the pool, cleaned classrooms left empty since last summer and readied the playgrounds for the coming influx of children.

"It's a great help for us in preparing for a very busy time," Harbison said.

But the day wasn't all about work. At 11:30 a.m., volunteers grilled burgers out back and shared them with about 60 3- and 4-year-olds.

Amidst the chaos of small children with ketchup, Keller Williams presented the center with a check for $8,000 that the company had raised at a vendors day.

"I was very excited about that," Harbison said. "We will probably use that to help support our extended child care program because so many parents have lost jobs and are unable to pay the fees, but we are still taking care of their children."

But for many of the volunteers, the fact that they were all working together for the greater good made the event special.

"You know, we can volunteer on our own, but it's so great that we do it together, too," Ridgley said.

Contact staff writer Lindsay Burkholder at or 423-757-6592