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Education Foundation steps up to facilitate sales for SHS trades program

posted Dec 8, 2017, 8:47 AM by Fran Hunter
THE SMITHVILLE TIMES/Nov. 21, 2017   Fran Hunter

With a classroom filled with student-built products, but too busy teaching to be able to market and field calls
from people wanting to buy the goods, high school construction trades teacher Ryan Moerbe was in a predicament. His inventory was high, and his working space and material’s budget was low.

However, John Summarell, owner of A&S Electric and a guest teacher in Moerbe’s classes, saw a solution in his wife Melanie’s volunteer work. Summarell contacted Smithville Education Foundation’s (SEF) president Nancy Towry for help. After a few conversations with the board, the foundation agreed to take on the task of both marketing and answering calls to facilitate sales of the products.

Within 24 hours of starting the Smithville High School Woodworking and Metal Crafts Facebook page, SEF sold four deer blinds.

 “We had over $5,000 in sales in just five days,” Moerbe said. “And we received an order for five more deer blinds. We’re about to get a whole bundle of lumber delivered. That was just yesterday.”

Towry calls it a win-win-win.

“I think we’ve taken a load away from the teachers in selling product,” she said. “We’ve given the kids a chance
to gain more experience and learn more by replenishing their materials budget. It’s a win for the foundation in that we get a little bit of money to pay for our programming.”

Smithville Education Foundation will receive 10 percent of the sales to fund their programming and partnerships projects: innovative teaching grants, enrichment days, the art banner project, Top 10 Honors Banquet and the Smithville Elementary movie trailer project.

Moerbe said that adult and child-size picnic tables, benches and Adirondack chairs are very popular. They have also recently built full-size sheds, cornhole games, A-frame swings, bookcases, fish cleaning table with sink, and mineral feeders. Moerbe said the students could build just about anything someone wanted and customize it.
To gain experience with the tools of the trade, freshmen make stacked crosses and bird houses. Out of 19, Moerbe said that 75 percent had never used a jig saw before.

Students also cut out the music note and megaphone silhouettes for band members and cheerleaders to put in their yards, and have built things for various other school departments as needed.

“Last year was when we really started selling products,” Moerbe said of the school course now in its third year. “Our first big sale was to the First United Methodist Church — 12 benches and six chairs to match for their prayer garden.”

Moerbe said that this experience is extremely beneficial to the students in their skills training.
“They’re really paying attention to detail,” Moerbe said. “If we sell it, it has to be right.”

The students are also learning about cash flow and picking up on business sense, he said, and some students
are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs with their new skills.

Also in line to benefit from the partnership is Lance Hanson, a vocational agriculture and industrial arts teacher, who teaches students how to build with metal. In his class, students use a computer-aided design software to create designs which are then cut in metal. Students can custom create pieces, but Hanson said there’s a two-week lead time because students must first computerize the design.

The students also weld sizable items like barbecue pit trailers.

“I love the partnership” with SEF, Hanson said. “This moves the marketing to a group that can do a better job than us. It puts us back in the business of producing products. I can focus on the kids again.”

Towry said she anticipates the business will keep growing, especially when it includes Hanson’s metal work.
Currently, all orders must be picked up during school hours. To order from either department, call 512-710-5135 to reach Towry.

Though she receives the “almost daily calls” as a volunteer, Towry feels that she also benefits from the partnership.

“I get satisfaction that the kids products are being moved out into the community and that people are becoming aware that this is available,” Towry said. “A lot of people I’ve talked to have been very positive and would buy from the school because it helps the kids learn even more skills through the process.”