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IES fifth-graders give back

INDEPENDENCE -- The picnic table building process has reached a critical point. It is time to attach the table legs and everything is finally level.

Volunteer Austin Rowlader helps IES fifth-graders Jose Chavez, Gabriel Dodge and Jacob Parmer, from left, assemble a picnic bench April 17 at Colonia Amistad.

Photo by Pete Strong

Volunteer Austin Rowlader helps IES fifth-graders Jose Chavez, Gabriel Dodge and Jacob Parmer, from left, assemble a picnic bench April 17 at Colonia Amistad.

April 23, 2013

INDEPENDENCE -- The picnic table building process has reached a critical point. It is time to attach the table legs and everything is finally level.

Attaching the legs may become a much longer process, thanks to a malfunctioning electric drill screwdriver bit.

Austin Rowlader, a volunteer with nonprofit HandsOn Willamette, searched for another.

"This should be much more efficient," he said, pulling a bit from a case to show a group of Independence Elementary School students helping build the table on April 17. "If it's not, like I said, I have screwdrivers for all of you."

The prospect has the class holding their breath until Rowlader gets the drill working.

Once finished, the picnic table will be placed in the community and children's garden at the Colonia Amistad housing complex in Independence.

IES fifth-graders were on hand April 17 to help build the picnic tables, weed and prep the gardens for planting, and paint wooden plant markers. The community service field trip was coordinated through volunteer organizer HandsOn Willamette, IES, Marion-Polk Food Share and Colonia Amistad.

Samanatha Lopez, Natalie Rodarte and Josie McDonald, from left, paint and label stakes that will identify the different crops in Colonia Amistad

Photo by Pete Strong

Samanatha Lopez, Natalie Rodarte and Josie McDonald, from left, paint and label stakes that will identify the different crops in Colonia Amistad's children's garden.

"It was great because we always need help," said Fabiola Camacho, the education program manager for Farmworker Housing Development Corp., which operates Colonia Amistad.

The children's garden is part of Colonia Amistad's after-school program. The food raised in the garden will be donated to Marion-Polk Food Share, said HandsOn Willamette Program Manager Melissa Padron.

Padron said HandsOn received a grant from GenerationOn, the organization's youth arm. The grant's purpose was to raise awareness about child hunger.

"With that we were able to fund the picnic tables and the rest was just a bonus," she said of the work in the gardens.

Two IES fifth-grade classes took a field trip to Colonia Amistad, one on April 17 and another on Friday.

"She (Padron) asked if we would be interested in doing a service project and we thought it would be a really good opportunity for the kids to be able to come out in the community and give back," said IES teacher Jessica Hanslovan, who shares a class with teacher Mandy Olsen. "We talked to the class about how if the community is thriving and doing well, then usually the individual is doing well, too. It comes back to you."

Hanslovan said she and Olsen considered having the students do an in-class project, but decided it would be better to go out in the community to volunteer.

"There is a big group of kids who live here (Colonia Amistad), so it's fun for them to come into their home, their community, and give back."

Working in a garden is a new experience for some of the students, but that didn't hold them back.

Fifth-graders Chance West, David Glade and Owen Park were a little too ambitious when shoveling soil into a wheelbarrow to dump in the gardens. When they were done, it was too full for one of them to move by themselves. Using teamwork, they pushed and pulled the load to the entrance of the garden.

"I always liked it," Chance said of getting his hands dirty in the gardens. "I grew up doing this."

Classmate Samantha Lopez said serving others requires hard work, but she believes it is worth it.

"I think it's really good helping the community and everybody is going to be happy about this," she said. "Everyone is going to be really excited and I feel like this is a great project."