By Dave Ongie, News Editor
Like a pebble hitting the surface of a pond, the donation of a vehicle to David Crockett High School’s auto body program last year created a ripple effect that is being felt across Washington County.
Gary Lykins, an instructor who oversees the automotive program at Crockett, said the donation created an unexpected opportunity for his students to do some good for a family in need. The students did repair work on the vehicle to get it into good working shape, and then reached out to the Jonesborough Community Chest – a loose affiliation of charitable organizations and other groups – to find a family in need of a vehicle in good working condition.
Crockett student Julia Pierce, the shop manager who oversaw the restoration of the vehicle, said it was gratifying to hand the car over to a local family who needed it.
“This gave them the ability to get to doctors, because they have some health problems, and their son had wanted to play football and he hadn’t had a way to get to and from practices and games,” Pierce said. “Now that they have a car, a whole career has opened up to him and he’s able to play football.”
Destiny Dunbar and Takota Turbyfield worked on the vehicle along with Gage Winston, who managed the mechanical aspects of the project. Josh Whitaker was responsible for reaching out to the Community Chest to find a worthy beneficiary of the vehicle.
Pierce said the opportunity to help someone in need was a great experience.
“Coming into auto mechanics, I thought I’d just be able to help myself with things,” Pierce said. “I had no idea we’d be able to work as a group and help a family in the community and change their lives so dramatically.”
Lykins is in charge of the program, but he said he likes to take a hands-off approach to the shop, opting to let the students take ownership of the work once they’ve learned the basics.
“There’s no other reason to be here if it’s not to get to that point where they’re taking ownership,” he said. “We’re at a place where there should be some ownership, where they have some freedoms to do what they need to do.”
Even though Pierce supervises the shop, her career plans don’t include working with cars. Her father is a mechanic, so the class seemed like a natural fit, and her experience will look good on her college applications. But once she gets to college, her goal is to get a degree and work with children.
Regardless of what career path Pierce ultimately chooses, Lykins said he knows a leader when he sees one, and Pierce is a leader.
“She leads the pack around here, and I’m sure whatever other organization she gets into, she’ll do that,” he said. “You see that and you know. I knew pretty quick with her that she responds to people, and people respond to her. It’s going to follow her everywhere.”
Right now, however, Pierce is focused on leading her team’s effort to fix up another car and donate it to another family in need. A car was not donated this year, so the Jonesborough Community Chest stepped up to the plate and donated $2,000 to cover the purchase of a used car and the cost of replacement parts.
“It’s amazing, and we really appreciate the opportunity to do it again,” Pierce said.
Lykins said the partnership between David Crockett High School and the Jonesborough Community Chest is a natural fit with far-reaching benefits for all involved.
“We kind of stumbled onto this project last year, and we proved that it was a big help,” he said. “(Students) getting involved in something that is community-oriented at this point – I think that will follow them around, too.”