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Superior Heights shop students nail good deed for elderly neighbours

Grade 11 tech students construct raised planter beds for residents hoping to garden this summer at Finnish Resthome across the street; 'It feels good to help out'

A group of Superior Heights shop students has helped improve the quality of life for residents of the Finnish Resthome across the street.

The team of Grade 11 technical shop students built three wooden eight-by-four raised planter beds to enable elderly residents to enjoy some gardening each summer.

The students began work on the project and completed it Wednesday, with the beds delivered to the Ontario Finnish Resthome Association (OFRA) Friday morning.

“I was the lead on it but a lot of students worked on them. There were about 10 students in total,” said Superior Heights Collegiate student Nick Ryan, speaking to SooToday.

“The residents don’t always have a lot to do here. The days can be long. They don’t leave here a lot of the time so there’s not a lot to do other than whatever is in their rooms, so this gives them a chance to get outside. It’s good for them mentally and physically to get out in the sun and work in the garden.”

“It feels good to help out the people at the Finnish Resthome. I try to help people as much as I can,” Ryan said.

Ryan and his fellow shop students worked under the supervision of Darren McClelland, Superior Heights technology teacher.

“These kids are great,” McClelland said. 

“If you can empower them to do something, especially a community project, they get more engaged. They came here and visited the residents, they’ll see these raised planter beds in the gardens and they’ll be proud that they made them. I’m proud of them.”

McClelland and his students plan to build wheelchair accessible planter beds to enable OFRA residents with mobility issues to get up closer to the beds and enjoy gardening in the 2023-24 school year, McClelland said.

The raised planter beds delivered to OFRA on Friday are made of hemlock, a type of lumber commonly used for building garages, sheds and barns.

Funds had to be raised by OFRA residents to pay for the lumber.

“We started this project a year ago,” said Barbara Poling, an OFRA resident and who serves as resident council chair.

“One of the first questions we asked the residents in our building is what they would like to see. They said: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have raised garden boxes?’”

The residents approached Thayer Lumber for an estimate on the lumber needed for the job and the price tag was approximately $1,400.

Tim Thayer, Thayer Lumber owner, was kind enough to hold that price in the face of inflation while the OFRA residents raised funds for the project through pasta dinners and tea parties held at the North Street seniors residence over the past year.

Thayer estimated that with inflation the final price tag would have been over $1,600.

“It always feels good to do things for people,” Thayer said.

“He held the price, which was really great. You know how expensive wood was last year. Last year a toothpick practically cost $25,” Poling said.

“Then we started to look around for people to actually build the boxes. It’s amazing that you can’t find people to do work sometimes. Then I was told Darren McClelland at Superior Heights might know somebody who would do the work, and my gosh, he got his students to put them together. The wood was delivered to him by Thayer Lumber and now they’re here.”

“I just thought it was absolutely great for Tim Thayer, Darren McClelland and the students to help with this,” Poling said.

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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