Mary Holsten was tickled pink when a group of students and staff arrived at her house Saturday morning, armed with rakes, chainsaws and trash bags.

The volunteers were following up on a promise made after a January tornado walloped the 3-acre property south of Gibson City. Organized by Assistant Principal Mike Allen and teacher/coach Ryan Tompkins and backed by several local businesses, the Falcons cleared debris as Mary, 82, and her husband, Jerry, 83, looked on. Afterward, the couple posed for a photo and chatted up the group.

“The neatest part was at the end when Mrs. Holsten came out with Mr. Holsten and told everyone how much it meant to her, that we were all her family,” Allen said. “That was neat to hear her say that.”

Mary retired in 2001 after 35 years as a teacher in the school district. Her connection with GCMS, however, remains as strong as ever.

“We often say, ‘Once a Falcon, always a Falcon,’ and hopefully Mrs. Holsten and her husband felt that throughout this ordeal,” math teacher Susan Riley said.

You bet, Mary said.

“These students were cooperative, polite and respectful — they really were,” she said. “It was wonderful what they did. We feel very blessed and grateful.”