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Creative fundraising leads to much-needed school construction trailer

Students in the Constructions Trades program at the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center (WACTC) spend almost 80 percent of their time in the program on actual job sites, building or renovating different houses. But they could not easily transport the equipment they need to the site, until now.

With the help of Warwick resident Jim O’Connell, whose son Dan is in the program, the cost to purchase a larger trailer to transport equipment to job sites has been covered by 15 local businesses that are serving as sponsors.

According to instructor Brian Vadeboncoeur, the program has been using a 6-by-10-foot trailer that can be attached to the bus for the past 12 years.

“The problem is the size; it’s too small,” said Vadeboncoeur.

He explained that a few years ago, the program was given a 10-foot, six-inch break, which is used to bend aluminum, after attending a convention called Journal Of Light Construction Live.

“There’s no way for us to get this equipment to the site,” said Vadeboncoeur.

He, or Michael Haynes, another instructor, will bring their own trucks to the job site to bring more equipment.

But the construction sites are the classrooms for the students in the program. The program will either build an entire house or completely remodel an entire house each school year, with eight or nine miscellaneous projects in between, such as re-siding or re-roofing. They have even worked on municipal projects for the town of West Warwick and projects around Toll Gate High School.

“We try to do, one year a new house, one year a remodel,” said Haynes, which gives students in the program different opportunities each year.

“Instead of sitting in a classroom, asking why they are doing this, they’re out there doing it,” said Vadeboncoeur.

But they needed a larger trailer. So Vadeboncoeur asked O’Connell, who has a great deal of experience finding sponsors and fundraising, to help them figure out how to get a new trailer.

“They can’t even get [equipment] to the job site because it doesn’t fit in the trailer,” said O’Connell. “Brian wanted a new trailer but he didn’t know how.”

So the idea was born to reach out to businesses to sponsor the trailer to cover the cost. O’Connell explained that teachers are not allowed to solicit sponsors for projects, but parents are, which is why he was able to complete this process on the program’s behalf.

The original goal was to find 10 local businesses to sponsor the trailer, each paying $500.

“We were shooting high at first,” said Vadeboncoeur.

So they searched for 15 local businesses willing to sponsor the project for $300 each, a total of $4,500 for the cost of the trailer and the logo wrap. In return, their company logo would be placed on the front of the trailer.

“Companies stepped up,” said O’Connell.

Vadeboncoeur said they reached out to businesses that often provide supplies for the program’s projects and they were all open and receptive to the idea. All of the sponsors are either vendors or suppliers for the Constructions Trades program.

The new trailer is 7 feet by 14 feet, and 6 feet high, and will be wrapped with the program and sponsor logos by Cool Air Creations, whose donation was used to offset the price of the work. Photos of the two most recent housing projects completed by the students will also be featured on the side. According to Vadeboncoeur, the wrap will also protect the trailer from the elements, helping it to last longer. He expects the trailer to be in good working condition for the next 20 years, if not longer.

Approval for the purchase was made by the School Committee at the April 8 meeting.

The trailer will be purchased from RI Truck and Trailer. Trailers such as this one do require an annual inspection, but Mike Winwiller of RI Truck and Trailer is going to waive the inspection fee each year for the program.

The trailer is in the process of being wrapped with decals, and it will need to be outfitted with racks, shelving and other features inside, so Vadeboncoeur predicts they will have the trailer before the end of the school year but won’t start using it until fall.


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