Students in the welding and fabrication program at the Clearfield County Career and Technology Center (CCCTC) repaired more than 20 stainless steel baskets that are loaded with meals each morning as Meals on Wheels drivers deliver up to 800 hot meals daily.
“These baskets slide into the warming ovens that are in each delivery van,” explained MRAAA Fleet Dispatcher Joshua Bush.
“Once loaded up, the ovens keep meals warm until they make it to the door of each consumer. Seeing regular daily use, you can imagine, the normal wear on this equipment adds up.
“Help maintaining this equipment at no cost to the agency is a huge help – and the students did a fantastic job.”
Many of the wire baskets had welds that failed around joints in their construction that needed to be repaired to assure their dependability during meal runs.
Fortunately, MRAAA Human Resources Director Dan Bell was able to set up a mutually beneficial arrangement with CCCTC Executive Director Fred Redden.
“This is a perfect project for us,” Redden said. “We try to take on projects that embody community service, while also providing learning opportunities for our students.
“The students take pride in what they do, and this allows them to see how they’re providing a real-world impact.”
For MRAAA, the students are helping to further the mission of the Meals on Wheels and More program. The program provides up to 800 hot, nutritious meals each day to consumers in Clearfield County.
MRAAA contracts with Morrison Living, an international food service provider, to supply the meals that are prepared fresh in the kitchen at the agency’s Curwensville office.
In addition to hot meals, each year Blizzard Boxes are packed and delivered to home-bound Meals on Wheels recipients across the county.
A combination of nonperishable foods, they are packaged and delivered at the onset of winter. Consumers are encouraged to store the meals in a safe place to use as a backup for stormy winter days when the Meals on Wheels staff may be unable to deliver a hot meal.
Bell said, “When Fred and I first talked about a learning opportunity for students that also allowed them to contribute to the mission of Meals on Wheels, it already sounded like a win-win.
“Seeing the quality of the work these students are capable of makes it even better. We cannot thank CCCTC and the welding students enough for the professional job they’ve done for us.”
To tackle the project, welding and fabrication instructors enlisted Ben Lombardo and Warren Diethrick, both seniors in the program from Clearfield Area School District.
“We used a tig welder,” Diethrick said. “It works best on stainless steel, and because it’s really thin.”
Lombardo explained, “It’s thin and easy to burn through, but we just took our time. You have to be patient with it.”
Welding and Fabrication Instructor Dave Rupert said the program puts strong focus on the quality of work students will produce while at CCCTC and in their future careers.
He said, “We want to help make them a better welder, better fabricator, and all-around better person. We train them in all aspects of the job.”
Rupert explained that in addition to welding, students are trained on computer-aided fabrication equipment including lathes and plasma cutters, and have even created their own workstations, contributing to the educational experience.
“They take a lot of ownership over the shop and the work,” Rupert shared. “They are responsible for the shop, the equipment, the tools, the tables, setting up welding booths, everything. It teaches them how to be responsible in the workplace.”
There are currently 60 students enrolled in the CCCTC Welding and Fabrication program.
For more information, or to find out how you can support the Meals on Wheels and Blizzard Box programs, call 814-765-2696, or visit https://www.mraaa.life/.