Just off HWY 101, a large outbuilding once used as a flooring workshop holds the sounds of multiple hammers pounding nails. It’s a much more pleasant sound than most would assume. The chorus of banging nails also contained youthful exclamations of joy, wonderment, and an overall embodiment of learning something new.
Midway through the COVID pandemic and resulting restrictions that confined most of our school-age children to their homes, came two retired professional builders with a small idea with a potentially significant impact. Charles Fink, the “flooring guru,” founder of locally based Everlasting Floors, and Bill Feeley, retired general contractor and owner of Feeley Construction, came together to create a series of classes for area youth that would teach construction techniques named “Hands on Tool Time”.
Simple in its scope but complicated in its realization, the two retirees executed class plans for multiple age ranges to ensure appropriate lessons and techniques based around home improvement and construction. The class plans included a curriculum for older students that educated them on the construction basics including home electrical, hot water heaters, toilets, drywall, and numerous other areas of home construction. Younger classes concentrated on proper uses of tools like a tape measure, T-square, hammer, screwdriver, and prybar while also paying attention to the different types and uses of nails, screws, and different construction materials. Kids even took great pride in learning how to sharpen a carpenter’s pencil.
When we visited the class, the passion and excitement of kids, mainly under 10, was unmistakable. They showed no signs of boredom or lack of attention as they each figured out with personal instruction what the tiny marks on a tape measure stood for, what nail to use for roofing and how utilizing a T-square would help them draw a straight line. Children were constantly asking questions while praising their classmates on the previously instructed task, like hammering a nail. The learning was palpable as much as it was contagious.
It’s obvious how much Chuck and Bill care about passing along their knowledge while providing a safe and devoted space for learning skills that will stay with the students. They are engaged, overtly positive about every student’s progress, and they see giving back as a responsibility to the community and our future generations. This is not a glorified daycare for kids, but instead a place for stretching the boundaries of learning past a digital screen or a sports field. Kids are expected to act courteously, stay engaged, listen and follow directions. A big hope would be that one or more of the students could be inspired enough to take on a future opportunity in a skilled job like home construction. The local building industry is in desperate need of skilled and responsible workers, and the average compensation frequently exceeds or competes with those who have completed a four-year degree. Living in a rural environment like the Olympic Peninsula has its obvious advantages and presents some real challenges to the kids who will make up our future local workforce.
Both Chuck Fink and Bill Feeley have intentions of continuing with the program and are currently working out the details and scope of potential future classes. Please follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our newsletter HERE to hear of future news regarding Hands-on Tool Time’s future classes.
To close, we want to mention that all the material supplies for the classes were 100% donated from Thomas Building Center in Sequim. All the tools that each student will keep were 100% donated by Angeles Millwork and Hartnagel Building Supply.
“On the Olympic Peninsula, we’re blessed to have three independently-owned lumberyards to service our building needs. All three have long-established ties to the community and support many charitable initiatives and programs. We at Thomas Building Center are pleased to join forces with our friends at Angeles Millwork and Hartnagel to support and provide materials to Bill Feeley and Chuck Fink for the “Hands-On Tool Time” program for kids. Bill And Chuck are teaching valuable math and work skills that we all need and use throughout our lives. This program helps build a strong foundation for our future tradespeople by showing them how fun and exciting the lumber and building industry can be.
We’re honored to contribute to this investment for our future.”
– Tony Steinman, Thomas Building Center