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Generations Connect

The Hope Haven Wheelchair Workshop in Ireton, IA is looking a little bit different lately. While the workshop is normally occupied by local retirees, lately it’s been filled with the robust energy of 5th-8th grade students from Ireton Christian School. During the school year, students are at the workshop a few times a week as part of a service learning project, initiated by their teacher, Phyllis Van Gelder.  

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Phyllis, a teacher at Ireton Christian School and a part-time Hope Haven employee, was searching for a meaningful community project for her students to engage in. She drives by the Ireton Wheelchair Workshop every day, and out of curiosity contacted John Schelling, a volunteer at the workshop. Initially, both parties were unsure as to what the children’s involvement would look like. After some time and prayer, Phyllis also connected with International Ministries Manager, Luke Russell, and the ball started rolling from there. 

Now, six students travel with Phyllis and the Ireton Christian School Principal, Marlin Schoonhoven, to the workshop on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The students are there for about 30 minutes each time. While they’re there, they help with a variety of tasks – from sorting parts, to boxing wheelchairs for shipping, to assembling chairs with direction from John and the regular volunteer crew.  

Not only are they directly involved with helping to rebuild wheelchairs, but they also have learned about the work of Hope Haven’s International Ministries, and where the wheelchairs end up.  “It makes them feel like there’s a mission they’re a part of,” says Phyllis. Phyllis’ goals for this program include helping students develop compassion for their neighbor, as well as instilling a sense of service learning and community goodwill as a regular part of their lives, not just something they partake in a few days a year. She affirms, “We are all learning so much and are truly enjoying this venture.”