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Students and seniors team up for special project

MECLA?students and a senior citizens woodworking group are working together on a Relay for Life project

October 12, 2011
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Education doesn't just happen in the classroom, and this past week, the start of something amazing did take place after normal school hours.

High school students from Marshall East Campus Learning Alternative teamed up with a senior woodworking group from the Marshall area Wednesday to begin making 2,500 wood bases for Relay for Life luminary bags. Instead of candles being put inside the luminary bags, where they tip over easily, the wood base provides much-needed support.

"Relay for Life asked us if we could help them out this way and we thought we could," said Don Otterson, senior woodworking supervisor. "Relay for Life got ahold of the design. Then we modified it a little for our equipment and time."

Article Photos

Photo by Jenny Kirk
Senior woodworkers recently joined forces with Marshall East Campus Learning Alternative students to begin construction of 2,500 wood bases meant to hold candles inside luminary bags for Relay for Life events in the Marshall area. On Wednesday, senior woodworking supervisor Don Otterson, left, demonstrated proper disc sander mechanics to MECLA students Skyler Bahr, center, and Nathan Vick.

Led by 85-year-old Otterson, the woodworkers are sponsored by the Adult Community Center and are starting their 26th year. The group operates primarily on donations, with people donating money or materials and the group donating their time and abilities.

"Our main cause is Heart To Heart and helping the community," Otterson said. "This work is very dear to my heart. We're the best-kept secret in Lyon County."

Otterson said that the senior group created bookshelves for MECLA last year. He approached MECLA Assistant Principal Robert Walker to see if some students would be willing to collaborate for the project, as a way of giving back.

"We had five volunteers immediately and that was the number that Don wanted to have," Walker said. "I think they get it. They understand the part about giving back to the community. We have a lot of kids here that understand that. It's really neat."

MECLA junior Skyler Bahr didn't need much persuasion.

"Mr. Walker came and told me about the opportunity," Bahr said. "I said I'd gladly do it. I keeps me out of trouble and it's fun."

Bahr also didn't hesitate to jump right into action in the industrial tech shop room at Marshall High School, where the senior group works every Wednesday afternoon. Bahr carried in a number of boxes containing wood ready to be worked as various senior woodworkers, including Margaret Roberts, Bill Koska, Norm Postera, Bob Driemeyer, Norma Gile and Dennis Rafson, started up the equipment.

"I've used almost every one of these tools here," Bahr said. "I've been doing shop class since sixth grade. It's easy, but it takes a lot of practice."

After cutting, the wood bases went through routing, drilling and sanding processes. MECLA junior Nathan Vick started using the disc sander first.

"I used to use one a lot," he said. "Before I went to MECLA, I was in shop. I liked shop class a lot."

Vick learned about the project from Bahr.

"Skyler told me about it and I wanted to volunteer," Vick said. "I decided to help out."

While the students won't be graded on their efforts, the experience undoubtedly has its educational merit.

"The students are learning how to work with other generations," Walker said. "Learning to give back to the community can be very rewarding, too. You can actually see the product that you're making and know where it's going. It's going to stay local."

Otterson praised the woodworkers, who he refers to as "his kids," for their exceptional work. He pointed out the group's diversity in occupations, which includes retired teachers, nurses, electricians, CPAs and a veterinarian.

"My kids are a little older than you high school kids," Otterson said to the MECLA students. "Our kids range from about 60 years old and upward. One of my kids (Les Sanderson) is 90. I hope you learn something from us and I hope we learn something from you. We appreciate you being here."

Otterson thanked the MECLA "associates" for assisting with the community service project. Vick said he hopes that the partnership helps reflect a more positive image of MECLA students within the community.

"A lot of kids from MECLA get a bad rap," Vick said. "A lot of the MECLA kids are good people."

Vick likes attending MECLA. Although he's unsure about his future plans at this time, he is interested in joining the military or possibly pursuing culinary school.

"I'm not really sure yet," he said. "There are so many good choices."

While Bahr and Vick are busy attending to academic obligations all week, Walker said the pair are definitely committed to returning to the shop room each Wednesday afternoon to help complete the project.

"They're very excited about it," Walker said. "They'll go until the woodworkers don't need their help anymore."

More than 100 bases were finished on the first day of the joint venture, which puts the woodworking crew on target for hitting the June deadline.

"It's all in a good day's work," Vick said.



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