Southwestern Michigan College welding students from St. Joseph County, Mich., provided Battle Creek VA Medical Center veterans with additional summer recreational opportunities thanks to a Michigan Elks Association grant.
For May’s “paddle project,” St. Joseph County Intermediate School District students taught by Dan Miles and earning SMC credit at Constantine High School designed and welded a sturdy rack mounted on a trailer to transport 12 kayaks.
Veterans and students kayaked around Omena Lake after the June presentation of the completed project at Elks Lodge 1381. Some followed along by pontoon, and dinner for all was brought over from Sturges-Young Auditorium.
“We haven’t had anything this cool to spend the grant on in a long time,” said Elk Stoney Summey, director and veteran service officer of the St. Joseph County Veterans’ Affairs office, who connected the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with Miles, who is also a veteran.
Summey said he received a letter from a recreational therapist praising the students for being respectful and helpful. He felt students benefited twice educationally — first welding the rack, then interacting with veterans.
Summey said the population served by the Affairs office is younger and faces long stays for prosthetic training, which kayaking or golf on a nine-hole course can help break up. Now they can say, “Let’s hook up the trailer and go!”