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My class was the first to do these trucks in 02'. It was very fun and very rewarding and good expierience for highschoolers.

Toy trucks to treasure
By Myrna Fearer/ [email protected]
Thursday, December 9, 2004

Danvers High School students have been putting their best saw forward to create 250 wooden toy trucks to be donated to kids in town through teacher Jim Farley's annual "Toys for Tots" project. And as a bonus, each truck will have a Christmas bag filled with candy.

This is not to be confused with the Marine Toys for Tots campaign, for which the town has a number of collection spots. Instead, this is something strictly for Danvers, under Farley's care for 35 years with generous contributions of all kinds of toys from the students and faculty.

For the past three years, the campaign has also benefited from the expertise of technology teacher Mike Gargan and his students.

More than two dozen young men and women in Gargan's technology classes are busily putting the final touches on the trucks that will be brought to Farley's room for kids right here in Danvers.

"We have a very fair and very private distribution process," says Farley, a social studies teacher. "It's so wonderful to see them get their gifts. These are the people who need a helping hand at the time. We've serviced thousands of kids (in Danvers) over the years."

Seniors in Farley's community involvement course enthusiastically participate as part of their community service.

"I took this course because of its involvement with Toys for Tots," says Danvers High School senior Melanie Walentuck, who is in Farley's class, as well. "It's awesome that people as fortunate as us can give back to the community."

She is also in Gargan's technology class. Her teammate in the class, Vicki Andruszkiewicz, echoes her statement while the two girls work on one of the trucks. Andruszkiewicz then explains how the project was tackled.

"Every group had a certain part to make," she says. "It was pretty tricky. We had to set up the jigs to make the parts. As a class, we put it together. I did the hardest part, the fenders."

The students needed 80 jigs, which are devices to hold the wood in a certain position relative to the tools that will be used.

Sarah Conway was one of the other fender benders.

"I think this is awesome," Conway says. "I think the trucks are really cute. It's like being Santa's helpers."

"It's like putting a smile on people's faces," adds Andruszkiewicz , who wants to be a Spanish translator in the future.

"I like building stuff," says junior Daniel Bowen. "I think it was a good idea. If you're going to build something, build it not for ourselves but for other people who need it. I feel pretty good about this but it took a lot of time to make all of them."

While some kids in the first class, the smaller of the two, were finishing gluing wheels and parts onto the body of trucks, others were dipping paintbrushes into vegetable oil, making sure each truck was completely coated. Those that can't be oiled in time will be finished by class two, which has almost twice as many kids.

"The vegetable oil keeps them from getting dirty," Gargan explains. "We can't use a petroleum based product when little kids are going to use them."

Concentrating on his task in the first class, senior Michael Ouellette pauses long enough to talk about why he particularly enjoys this project.

"I feel good because it's an easy way to give back - with toys," he says.

Jacki LaPointe, his senior classmate, adds, "I just think it's a really good idea. It makes me feel better that some little kids are getting what they want for Christmas.

"I get a sense of joy out of it, knowing I'm helping people with what I make."

Fashioning these trucks out of 12-foot pieces of raw lumber would be a daunting task for anyone, especially kids, some of whom have never worked with wood. But Gargan makes sure they are all equal to the challenge.

"The kids in Danvers are great kids," Gargan says. "They're fun to work with."

First comes in-depth discussions and lots of instruction, not only on working with the wood, but also learning safety rules, which are always reinforced. The basic design of the truck, with template, is out of a book. But, the actual construction and modifications are left to the class members. After initial brainstorming, each class is divided into seven groups and assigned a part to make. How they get to the finished product is theirs to decide.

In essence it's an assembly line concept even the late Henry Ford would have admired.

Gargan has been donating toy trucks (although one year they were biplanes) to Farley's toy project for several years. Each semester, students make about 150 trucks - 125 as Christmas toys and the rest for every student carpenter to take home. The second semester's classes give the following Christmas a head start.

But then again, so does Farley, who shops during the year when he can pick toys up inexpensively.

Gargan's students also get to do a special semester project for themselves. They can make either an oak end table or coffee table.

Through careful shopping - Gargan even has a source for seconds on wheels and he tries to get barrels, axles, gas tanks and headlines at a good price - he can keep the yearly cost down to about $1,200 and $1,300 a year.

"If you spent $30 or $35 for each truck, it would come to $8,000," Gargan says. "For us, it's a labor of love."

Fortunately, DEEP has come through with a grant for the project and last year, Gargan says they received an unexpected but very welcome donation of $1,000. In appreciation, the kids fashioned a VIP truck for the donor, which is in the process of being painted rather than oiled.

Before each truck goes out, it will be filled with bags of candy either contributed or bought with cash donations. On Gargan's wish list is finding a source that will supply the candy.

In addition, thanks to a donation of some Beanie Babies, some lucky kids will also have one of the little plush toys in the truck as well as the candy.

"They're finally finished," adds Brittany McDonald, laying down her oiling brush after working on a truck. "I think it's awesome giving them to other kids who don't get much."

"The good part is, we're meeting the needs of the town," Farley says.
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