What started as a student’s request to learn more about carpentry turned into a project that benefited both classmates and the area’s four-footed friends.

Diane Reinhardt, secondary transition consultant with Educational Service Unit 13, said ESU faculty work with students through the VALTS alternative high school and LifeLink programs.

“LifeLink helps students develop skilled interests,” she said. “One student was interested in carpentry but we didn’t have a lot of job opportunities available. We still wanted to get him some experience in carpentry work.”

PHOTOS: Students build animal shelters

With a Skipper’s Cupboard recent “painted pack” PAWS dog art auction, the non-profit agency came quickly to mind as a possible learning opportunity for ESU 13 students.

Reinhardt said she attended the auction and visited with Steve Morgheim and Becky Hale about working together to build a number of animal shelters. Skipper’s Cupboard would provide the materials and ESU students would provide the labor.

On Friday, students were in one of the lower bays in the Harms Center at Western Nebraska Community College. VALTS and LifeLink students were divided into groups and, that morning, built and painted 10 animal shelters, which Skipper’s Cupboards provides without charge to people who need them for the pets.

“The kids had a really good time working together,” Reinhardt said. “Everyone had the chance to collaborate and assemble a dog house from beginning to end.”

She said most people know about vulnerable animals in the community and her students are all animal lovers, so the project was their gift of kindness.

Tyler Aguiniga from Kimball is a senior in the LifeLink program.

“It was really fun to nail the houses together and do the shingling,” he said. “I like knowing we’re building shelters for animals that don’t have them. I’m helping pets in need and I also had the chance to express myself through painting.”

Morgheim and Hale have operated Skipper’s Cupboard for the past 10 years, providing a free source of food for the pets of people in need.

When ESU 13 personnel talked with them about building some animal shelters, Morgheim thought it was great idea.

“As we get more into winter, a lot of both dogs and cats will be in need of a place to stay warm,” he said. “We’ve already taken out four shelters to people who requested them.”

Morgheim said Skipper’s Cupboard volunteers have been learning as they go to improve the construction process.

“We’re now making the houses lighter and more portable so people can take them along if they move,” he said. “We’re also using recycled materials like paneling and foam insulation. It keeps more of those materials out of the landfill. We try to be resourceful.”

Morgheim smiled as he watched the students finishing up the last of the 10 animal shelters they built that morning.

“I’m blown away and so pleased with what the kids have done for us,” he said. “We’re happy.”

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!

Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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