A helping hand

Mike McConnell leads the restoration old Falls City jail building.

Photo by Jolene Guzman
Mike McConnell leads the restoration old Falls City jail building.

FALLS CITY — Mike McConnell’s philosophy on giving his time is “if somebody doesn’t do it, it doesn’t get done.”

McConnell gets a lot done. He can be found teaching classes for Falls City’s after-school program, assisting sports programs and the athletics booster club, serving on city committees and being there to help fellow residents in need.


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“Some of it is in the early days, I found myself complaining,” McConnell said.

He decided instead of pointing fingers, he would try to help find solutions.

He joined the city’s public works committee, and later the historic landmarks commission.

“Now, I’m not a hypocrite,” he said, laughing, “I’m part of the problem.”

McConnell said he found the work fascinating once he jumped into it — even the details about the city’s water and sewer systems and the laws that govern how they are maintained.

“It didn’t sound that interesting, but it was something that really gained my interest,” McConnell said.

Guy Mack has served with McConnell on the public works and historic landmarks commissions for about 18 years.

“I’ve known Mike since he started coming up here from California as a teenager,” Mack said. “He’s just volunteered a huge amount of time to the schools, to the city. We could use quite a few more Mikes around.”

Ten years ago, when the Family Academic Community and Enrichment for Success (FACES) after-school program began, McConnell started teaching classes. He hasn’t stopped.

McConnell’s business, Luckiamute Auto Body, is a partner with FACES. He is paid a small amount to teach classes, and in exchange, has been one of the program’s avid supporters.

He strongly believes that high schools should be offering more industrial arts classes, and that is what he focuses on when teaching for FACES.

“Since the 1970s it’s been going downhill in industrial arts,” McConnell said. “It’s going to come back and bite us in the butt. … Kids don’t know how to change a tire or find the dipstick.”

He said his classes provide students with practical knowledge and skills. Instead of working on projects like building a tool box or birdhouse, he’s teaching how to repair small engines or building maintenance work.

“I wanted to do something a little bit different, to do what was needed around the schools,” he said.

FACES Director Amy Houghtaling said he’s been a reliable contributor to the program, and a fun teacher for the students.

“He’s quirky sometimes, and he’s kind of like the kids where he kind of goes from one thing to another a lot,” she said. “As long as they can keep up with him, they love him. They enjoy being in his class. They enjoy Fix it (class) and just being creative and doing outside-of the-box projects.”

She said he’s only missed a few terms of FACES in its 10 years. The hope is to expand his role in the schools.

“We’ve looked into getting him CTE (career and technical education) certified to teach classes during the day,” she said. “Years ago, it was a lot more challenging to get non-teachers certified, but the requirements have lessened, and CTE is a big push right now, so I’m hoping someday his dream will come true.”

Mack said McConnell doesn’t reserve his giving for the city and schools.

“He’s there to assist you mechanically, just any way you need,” Mack said. “For me personally, the whole rim fell off my car. He gathered everything up, got here and fixed it within a short amount of time. Mike is there when you need him.”

McConnell said his motivation is his community — and he hopes his example will inspire others to give their time.

“It’s my town,” he said. “When you look back, you can say, ‘Well I think it made a little difference.’”

Houghtaling said that already is the case.

His dedication is admirable. He really loves Falls City,” she said. “He loves our kids and always looks for ways to make things better.”

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