FOR THE CHILDREN: Annual service project benefits local families

Refurbishing for gifts-- Auto tech sophomore Izack Garcia works on a bicycle wheel during fourth period auto tech class in November. The auto tech class built or refurbished 57 new and used bikes for the Give a Child a Smile project.

Once school releases for Christmas break, the Auto Tech SkillsUSA chapter will give away 57 new and refurbished bicycles to underprivileged children through the Give A Child A Smile project.  

  “We do this project every year to help the kids in the community, as well as the high school students,” Auto Tech SkillsUSA sponsor Thomas Spence said. “The students learn about what’s going on with other people and understand that not everyone is as fortunate as they are.”

  SkillsUSA sophomore Jenny Klassen was a first-time member on the project.

  “I love community service,” Klassen said. “Doing this project makes me feel good and brings a type of satisfaction that I don’t usually feel doing anything else.” 

  The project has been sponsored by the Optimist Club for 19 years when it started under retired Bob Summer, but this year marked a change in that sponsorship. Spence had to look for new sponsors and managed to find them in the Rotary Club and the Heritage Project of Gaines County who are providing names of children and families in need. 

    Despite this initial setback, the project thrived with continuous donations and a record-breaking showing Mistletoe Market in November. 

  “Alina Faircloth, Sarah Teichroeb and I broke the previous record of $1,400 in donations at Mistletoe Market,” Klassen said. “We got over $4,000.” 

  Spence said additional donations brought the total to $4,250, marking the best year yet. 

  In 2017, SkillsUSA won both state and national contests in the SkillsUSA community service category using this project. These wins, though, never changed the real meaning of this project.

 “We did this project for six years before entering the competition, so it has never been about competing,” Spence said. “The true meaning of this project is ultimately about helping others and giving back to the community.”