Playground Fix Uncovers Huge History of Giving
Left, Victor and Damien Cejka of Stevens Point take advantage of the spring weather to enjoy shooting hoops against newly- refurbished backboards at Madison Elementary. (City-Times photo)
By Lisa Pett
What started out as a spring break improvement project for a Madison Elementary parent turned up a generous act by a local business owner.
When Jamie Dahlstrom decided to refurbish her own family’s basketball backboard and hoop, she realized similar playground equipment at her children’s school also needed a little work. She said she approached Madison Elementary Principal Karl Bancker, who in turn asked her to research the costs associated with the project.
It turned out to be a bigger job than she imagined. The school’s backboards were metal, it turned out, not fiberglass and needed far more than a fresh coat of paint. Dahlstrom said she called some local body shops to find out how deep into their pockets the school’s PTO might have to dig.
Enter Dave’s Body Shop.
Owner Dave Suchon offered to sandblast, condition, prime and paint the four backboards free of charge- something which otherwise would have cost almost $1,000.
“I’ve been helping people my whole life,” Suchon shrugged, who said he doesn’t donate for recognition or publicity. “God brings those people into my life.”
This isn’t Suchon’s first contribution to the Stevens Point Area School District. The plain-spoken business owner was recognized for his service to the district at a school board meeting last November for donating bicycles to area children, which he’s been doing for the past two decades.
“We buy them brand new and just hand them to the school,” Suchon told the School Board in November. “It just never seemed right for a kid to not have a bike, so when we get a phone call for the kids, we don’t say no.”
Superintendent Attila Weninger estimates the Suchons have donated almost 2,000 bicycles during that period. According to Weninger, private organizations and individuals can make a big difference with donations and volunteer work.
Groups and businesses that donate time, labor and resources to small projects can help instill pride in the local schools for the staff, students and community, according to Sarah O’Donnell, Administrative and Public Relations Coordinator for the district.
O’Donnell said donations like Suchon’s “happen a lot more often than we hear of.
Suchon’s generosity extends beyond the school district. After spending an afternoon eating ice cream with his wife and watching children play in the city’s downtown fountain, Suchon decided to pay a portion of the city’s water bill.
“You could see how much fun the kids were having in there,” Suchon reasoned.
Don Keck, buildings and grounds manager for the school district, works with Woodlands Church Outreach Coordinator Doug Schneider every year to plan improvement projects. This spring, with the help of Woodlands, Oelke Lodge at Boston School Forest will receive a new roof, with the district paying for the shingles and Woodlands providing volunteers, resulting in a large savings to the district.
“Which is great, because I didn’t have that in my budget,” Keck said, “I don’t leave off big projects from this list because they may be too much work. Woodlands manages to do large jobs with heavy equipment and experienced volunteers.”
Past projects involving volunteer help from the church include painting the boys’ locker rooms at SPASH and building a football shed at Ben Franklin Middle School.
Keck estimates the coordinated effort between private individuals and organizations saves the district tens of thousands of dollars every year in labor and materials.
“My people do an excellent job maintaining the buildings and grounds but there is only so much you can do,” Keck said. “When community members chip in, that is the icing on the cake.”
Woodlands Church also has a group scheduled to refurbish cabinets at Madison Elementary, according to Principal Bancker.
“This kind of help frees up more money that can be spent on educating the kids,” says Bancker.