Pellston High School students step up to help out Brave Hearts Estates veteran facility

Posted on April 16th, 2021

Each year, students who participate in Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) programming at Pellston High School participate in a community service project that benefits an area organization.

This year, several welding students learned of some needs they could tackle at nearby Brave Hearts Estates, a retreat for injured soldiers and veterans. A broken metal lawn roller was laying idle in the garage, and the facility had no suitable racks for storing firewood for the many campfires that bring veterans and staff together at the spacious Pellston property.

The senior students, all in Roger Armantrout’s Career and Technical Education welding class, got to work designing and fabricating two large metal firewood racks and repairing the lawn roller.

“It felt really nice to help them out,” said student Noah Sydow.

Student Drue Duffield sealed the gap in the lawn roller, and Noah Sydow and Noah Thomson used square metal stock to create the racks for firewood, improvising as needed to make sure they are sturdy and aesthetically nice, too. Gideon Schneider, junior, and Griffin Landon, senior, also assisted.

All told, the students spent nearly 5 hours on the projects during their welding class.

“It was nice to have something different to work on, a bigger project. This really kept me active and engaged,” said Thomson. “I’m really proud of the way they turned out.”

As part of the project, JMG Specialist Mike Vandermus encouraged the students to call area businesses for donations of materials. They found a willing donor in Metal Head Welding of Petoskey and its owner, Jim Moore, who donated supplies.

Susan Ward, JMG Manager with Northwest Michigan Works, said the JMG program requires 5 hours of community service from its students each school year. “JMG is all about connections – connections with our schools, students and communities,” Ward said. “We want our students to be engaged.”

Paula and Mike Brown are the caretakers of Brave Hearts Estate. They said seeing the young men dedicate time and attention to helping their facility and their veterans is heartwarming.

“It means a lot to us that they chose us and chose to help veterans,” said Paula. “This is our veterans’ home, and we are here to help take care of it and them. Help like this is just such an added bonus, and our veterans were touched by their actions.”

Vandermus said the students showed initiative and care for this community organization. “They stepped right up to the plate,” said Vandermus, who works with Char-Em ISD’s Career and Technical Education Department staff to help students find and pursue post-secondary career and college paths. “I helped them with different resources, but they had to design the plans and make the phone calls. The students really took this and ran with it.”

After a photo opportunity on a recent day to present the new materials to Brave Hearts’ caretakers, student Thomson was headed to a job-study of FeAL Metal Design in Petoskey with Vandermus to explore job opportunities in the welding field.

“This is what it’s all about – giving them hands-on experience to spark their interest in a career path and then helping them make connections for their future success,” Vandermus added.

About Brave Hearts:

Brave Hearts Estates is an eight-bedroom, four-bathroom, 8,400-square-foot home with several common areas, sitting on 238 acres in Pellston. The facility was donated to Operation Injured Soldiers by a Korean War Navy veteran who wanted to help other veterans.

There are three cabins where veterans and their families can stay, as well as an area for campers. Brave Hearts Estates offers multiple hunting and fishing trips for veterans. Specialized wheelchairs and golf carts allow veterans with mobility issues to be able to move around on the compound.

Veterans from the area and the state utilize the facility and the grounds year round. The facility is operated by Operation Injured Soldiers, with everything free to the soldiers. Veterans can visit www.injuredsoldiers.org for information about utilizing the facility, or call (248) 437-3130.

Caption: Pellston High School welding students delivered two large metal firewood racks and a repaired lawn roller to Brave Hearts Estates recently. Pictured are (front row, from left) students Noah Thomson and Drue Duffield; (back row, from left) student Noah Sydow, Pellston welding instructor Roger Armantrout, Brave Hearts Estate caretaker Mike Brown, Susan Ward, JMG manager, and Mike Vandermus, JMG specialist.

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