Trades students help restore school spirit

A community pulling together to create something positive — that’s the outcome of a sad situation in the Cowichan Valley.

Marilyn Assaf Special to the Citizen

A community pulling together to create something positive — that’s the outcome of a sad situation in the Cowichan Valley.

Trades students at Vancouver Island University are the latest group to come to the aid of students and staff at École Mount Prevost Elementary School who were devastated when someone chopped down several trees on school property.

Matt Melgaard, instructor in VIU’s Residential Building Maintenance Worker program (RBMW), says his class of 18 students will build a new garden shed for the school.

Melgaard and the students are helping to repair school spirit.

On Sept.30, the day of the annual Terry Fox Run, students and staff at École Mount Prevost arrived at school to find 12 trees on school property destroyed, including several memorial trees.

The trees had been planted just last year as part of a playground project undertaken by the school’s Parent Advisory Committee. Fundraising efforts included $125,000 from the 2013 Aviva Community Fund, which was used to build a school playground and community park.

Mona Kaiser, a member of the school parents’ group and coordinator of the project, said 30 trees were planted to create a welcoming community space.

“We had a number of trees that were purchased by kids themselves who donated their birthday toonie-party money, their lemonade stand funds, their own savings,” said Kaiser. “So it was understandably devastating when they arrived at school to see so many trees destroyed.”

News of the destruction circulated quickly, but kind-hearted community members like Kelvin McCulloch quickly put a plan into action.

McCulloch, chief executive officer at Buckerfield’s Country Stores, offered to pay the cost of replacing 10 deciduous trees. He also offered to donate funds to cover the building supplies for a school garden shed.

“I was told the parent group had poured the foundation for a garden shed during playground construction, but ran out of money to complete the building itself,” said McCulloch. “So I said, why not build the shed now when you are replacing the trees?’ We had a whole school of unhappy children and really needed to replace those bad memories with something good.”

McCulloch’s act of kindness sparked others in the community to step forward. Bernie Dinter from Dinter Nursery (south of Duncan) offered to replace an ash tree that he had contributed when the trees were originally planted.

Randy Beggs from Apex Landscaping agreed to pay the cost to bring the deciduous trees over to the school from Speciman Trees, a tree supplier in Pitt Meadows, which helped reduce the total cost. Dan’s Precast also offered to move the completed shed from VIU’s shop to the school for free.

McCulloch is elated that apprenticeship students from VIU’s RBMW program will also pitch in.

“My students are building a little town for the BC Forestry Museum’s annual Christmas train display,” says Melgaard, “but as soon as that’s done, we’ll start on the garden shed. It’s a good project for my class, similar to building a small house, with roofing, walls, and doors.”

Melgaard says it’s a project the students can take pride in, knowing that it will brighten the smiles of everyone at École Mount Prevost school.

VIU’s Trades programs have a long history of helping with community projects and the instructors see great value in authentic learning partnerships that improve the lives of others.

McCulloch adds that the outpouring of support is “the community way” in Cowichan.

“When things like this happen, the whole community pulls together,” he says. “It’s heart warming for everyone.”

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