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Woodshop students turn handiness to helping hands

Published January 24, 2013 11:13 am

Spirit of giving • Teens create small wooden cars for cops to give kids in tough situations.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Hillcrest High woodworking students put the "car" in "caring" as they worked on a project that combined classroom skills with a charitable cause. They made little toy cars for the Unified Police in Midvale to give to kids in time of crisis.

"We did this last year and donated it to Midvale Elementary," said Travis Rowley, woodshop teacher at Hillcrest High. "This year we wanted to do it a little bigger."

Rowley also asked his students to bring in crayons and coloring books, and they gladly obliged. The crayons, coloring books and toy cars were packaged together into 50 bags and presented to the police.

The idea is for the officers to keep the packages in their vehicles and give them to kids they encounter who might be sad or scared.

"It's to keep the kids calm, something to help them through the situation," Rowley said.

Leslie Covington-Taft, career and education coordinator at Hillcrest High, gave some examples of when the toy-car bags would come in handy.

"What they were thinking is when [the officers] come in on domestic-abuse cases," Covington-Taft said. "When they have to take small children out of the homes."

She also said it would be good to present the gifts to children at accident scenes or to kids who are homeless.

The students worked for two weeks off and on making the cars, which are about 8 inches long and 4 inches tall. They also hand-painted the cars different colors and put wooden wheels on them.

"They worked together to make it come to fruition," Covington-Taft said. "It was something they really enjoyed and how they wanted to give back."

Covington-Taft said she was impressed when she stopped by the classes to watch the kids work on the cars.

"They were cutting, and they were sanding," she said. "They were really excited to be doing it."

The students asked Hillcrest High's resource officer, Paula Stinson, to approach the Unified Police of Midvale to see if the agency would be interested in receiving wooden toy cars to give to kids. The officers were quickly onboard.

"We always handle and deal with kids that may have been in bad situations and need some cheering up," said Stinson, who is also a detective at the Midvale precinct. "There could be an accident when the children and parents are involved, any type of victimization, or there's been lost children."

A majority of the students from four classes that worked on the wooden toy cars were in attendance when the packages were presented to the police officers last month. Among those also present were Unified Police Underchief Tony Mason and Midvale Mayor JoAnn Seghini.

Covington-Taft said the students were enthusiastic and paid great attention when the officers explained how much this would mean to the small children.

"It got really hushed, very quiet," she said. "They listened intently … had smiles, and I think they all felt like we did a good thing here."

Manuel Weffer, sophomore at Hillcrest High, said he had a great time working on the toy cars.

"I love donating it, and I like the cause it was going toward," he said.

The officers at the Midvale precinct told him they don't get many donations, only some stuffed animals, so the toy cars can really make a difference. Manuel said he believes that even a small gift like a wooden toy car can cheer kids up.

"I have little brothers, and when they're sad, I give them a stuffed animal and they're better," he said.

Rowley first got the idea for his students to work on the cars when he took some time off for vacation in December last year.

"I didn't want the kids to just sit and read a book, so I came up with an idea that the kids could do safely," he said.

Rowley said the students were very encouraged by the fact that the cars would be given out to little children.

"It's amazing that when you ask kids, teenagers to do stuff like this, how willing they are," he said.

As they worked on the car during the holiday season, Rowley, who also teaches at Jordan High School, said the project really added to the spirit of giving.

"Between the two schools at this time of year, it's just fundraisers and donations one after another," he said. "It's amazing the kids always come through, and if you ask them they'll bend over backward to do it."

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