The Spirit of Christmas Thompson High TSA students make Christmas bright for abused youth

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 23, 2002

Some 80 children affiliated with the Owens House, Shelby County’s Advocacy Center, will have something to smile about on Christmas Day, thanks to the Technology Student Association at Thompson High School.

About 100 students in Tim Parker’s Wood Technology class produced 80 wooden toy trucks for the Owens House kids and presented them to director Helen Rardin at the THS library recently.

But the toy trucks she received for the youngsters are actually

toys within toys.

The toy combinations are actually rolling, interlocking wooden puzzles which include a semi-tractor trailer cab connecting to a trailer, which hauls three separate vehicles. All the parts are colorfully painted, roll and can be played with as individual toys.

Parker, the technical career exploration teacher at THS, said each of his four wood tech classes were set up like shifts in a toy manufacturing company with a supervisor and timekeeper for each. There were also production quality control supervisors for each class, he said.

Parker said each shift of

students was set up partly as an assembly line and partly as a job lot painting system.

All of the supplies necessary to build the 80 toy trucks and cargo were purchased with class fees.

To make the toys, Parker said, students used a chop saw, scroll saw, table saw, band saw, drill press, router and shaper.

Making these colorful Christmas gifts even more special, like every child who receives them, each of the toy trucks is one-of-a-kind.

Parker explained that no matter how careful you are, you can’t hand-cut a piece of wood along a line exactly the same every time. Therefore, all of the parts to a toy cut from one piece of wood must be kept together. If not, he said, the interlocking parts may not fit.

The three vehicles carried on each tractor trailer, Parker said, include a bus, a sedan and a sports car. And the vehicles are painted either solid blue, green, yellow or red.

&uot;It feels really good to be making stuff for children. It taught us to have a lot of teamwork and trust in each other. And it makes us feel really good to know we helped out,&uot; said David Brown, the ninth grade TSA president.

Brown said the Christmas toy project also taught the students to believe they could accomplish something like helping those less fortunate than themselves.

On the practical side, Brown said the project taught the students a lot about business and how an assembly line works.

Tracy Smith, one of only four girls in Parker’s wood tech class, served as a timekeeper.

She said she thought the project was for a good cause, especially around the holidays.

&uot;I learned it’s good to do things for other people than yourself, and it was fun making (the toys),&uot; she said.

As a timekeeper, Smith said she kept up with what everyone in her class was doing, what they worked on and whether they worked or &uot;goofed around.&uot;

She said she learned about all the jobs on the assembly line, indicating she might like to have a business of her own someday.

Brown said it took four to five weeks to make the toys with students in four classes working five days a week.

Parker told his students as they presented the 80 toy trucks to Rardin: &uot;This is what we have been working toward …

This is the time you get to stand up and see where your work is going. I hope when you look at the 80 toys you made, you will have a sense of pride.&uot;

To help the TSA understand something about the children they are helping this holiday season, Rardin presented a music video by country music singer Colin Ray which includes the words: &uot;God does not overlook it what should have been written, the Eleventh Command-ment, honor thy children.&uot;

She asked the students how many thought the toy-making project was dumb. She said that being the director of the Owens House, she meets some of the best people under the worst circumstances … parents and children.

She spoke of just how prevalent child abuse is today and noted that in the past 12 months in Shelby County alone, some 657 incidents of child abuse were reported involving 453 cases.

She said each child receiving one of the TSA toys will be a child who has been abused.

Rardin explained to the students that abuse is often different from the common perception.

She asked the students to think about each scene in the video. When it was over, she pointed out that the daddy coming into the bedroom of a little girl was not something people think about when they think about abuse. Instead, she said, they think about the little boy with the black eye.

In addition to sexual and child abuse, Rardin told the students about babies who are born addicted to drugs.

&uot;You did this as a project of cooperation,&uot; she said, indicating that the spirit of cooperation must be learned and used not only at school, but also at home.

She related a recent article from the Shelby County Reporter to the TSA students which told of 40

Owens House children whose angels on an Angel Tree were not selected to receive gifts this Christmas.

She assured them, however, that with their donation of the toy trucks, &uot;This relieves our burden, and I appreciate very much your teacher and my friend, Tim Parker.&uot;

Rardin asked that on Christmas morning each of the TSA students think about the children who will be smiling because of something they did for a grade (the 80 children who are going to be happy because they can play with not just one, but four new toys).

Thompson High School Principal Ron Griggs told the students it was rewarding to see them step up and do something where their only reward would be pride in themselves. He stressed the importance during the holiday season of thinking about others.

Ninth-grader Alex Kinner said he shaped the cabs for the semi trucks and learned to shape wood. Ninth grader Ryan Kabcenel said he cut trailers, painted and helped drill.

Eleventh-grader Hugh Hogue said he served as a production control supervisor. He said he learned a lot about responsibility, having to keep the trailers and cars together to make sure they were cut right and properly painted.

&uot;I felt honored to be part of something to help so many kids,&uot; Hogue said.

The Owens House provides a warm, non-threatening environment where professionals responding to reports of child abuse meet with child victims.

It was initiated by the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office as an effort to coordinate the Shelby County community’s response to the problem of child abuse.

The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Human Resources, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department as well as other public and private agencies formed the center in June 1993.

It became fully operational that October and was renamed the Owens House in 1997 in honor of district attorney Robby Owens, who initiated the project.

According to an Owens House brochure, &uot;Owens House serves the needs of victimized children and their families. These young people and their families tell us that their experience with our community’s new way of dealing with child abuse is therapeutic.

&uot;The professionals who serve them are working together more closely than ever before and finding more satisfaction in the positive resolution of a great number of cases, while more offenders are being held accountable for their crimes.&uot;

Among services provided at the center are:

Coordinating interviews and investigations with all agencies and professionals from the initial screening to the final disposition.

Gathering evidence, verbal testimony, medical documentation and all other relevant evidence necessary for criminal prosecution and custody proceedings.

Providing swift prosecution in all child abuse cases referred for prosecution.

Coordinating efforts in preparing child victims and their families for the criminal justice process and preventing further victimization.

Offering mental health therapy intervention for child victims and their families so that the healing process can begin.

Providing multidisciplinary training in all areas of child abuse for professionals from participating agencies.

Coordinating local efforts in child abuse education and prevention including educational programs in local schools.

Offering parent services including parenting classes, encouraging healthy families, and non-offending parent support groups