This spring, welding students at Western Nevada College learned much more than the skills that will help them pass the certifications necessary to secure employment. They discovered what it means to provide community service.
Joseph Brillhart’s welding classes undertook a project to fix what vandals and thieves had done to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Nevada. Brillhart’s classes repaired nine collection bins that help generate approximately one-third of the nonprofit’s operating budget. Their work was really appreciated, too.
“This is an incredible service to us,” said J Merriman, a community outreach specialist for BBBS. “This is something we deal with all of the time. Finding people who can even fix them is difficult, and it’s an incredible amount for us to spend. WNC is not only saving us the cost to fix the bins, I know Joe is looking at ways to deter people from breaking into them in the future.”
Merriman said it typically costs $250 to repair a bin, but since this project required multiple repairs, WNC saved the nonprofit approximately $3,500.
Thieves have been cutting through the padlocks, then damaging the locking mechanisms safeguarding the 4-by-5-foot bins so they can steal clothing and household items that the public has donated to the organization responsible for bringing caring role models into children’s lives. Doors to the bins are also being damaged.
“My classes are trying to improve theft from the boxes in the future, with some small modifications,” Brillhart said. “Part of the project is to get the students involved in the community and gain weld repair maintenance skills.”
WNC Director of Career and Technical Education Georgia White said that it is important for WNC students to partake in these types of projects.
“Community engagement is a cornerstone of the community college experience,” White said. “When students are able to combine acquired knowledge and service, engaged learning takes place. Our Career and Technical Education instructors look for projects that provide benefits to a nonprofit and local communities while meeting the learning goals set for a specific class. In the words of the National Service Learning Clearinghouse, it is ‘a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities.’ ”
Merriman said they have caused another major problem by breaking into the bins.
“Once they break into the bin and not finding what they want, they are pulling all the clothes out and that leaves us with another issue: the mess jeopardizes us having the bin there,” Merriman said.
BBBS has 50 collection bins set up at stores such as Home Depots, Walmarts and Save Marts in Reno, Sparks, Carson City and Dayton. Reno Tahoe Rustic Decor picked up and transported the collection bins to WNC for the repair work.
“There’s no amount of thanks to say to WNC for this work and how much it’s appreciated,” Merriman said.