HALEYVILLE - Residents in need, who receive assistance each week from Main Street Ministries, have inspired a partnership between the Winston County Extension Office and Haleyville City Schools to work on a project with an unlimited outreach.
The project will establish a walk-in cooler to preserve perishable foods stored for giveaway at Main Street Ministries, a food pantry project that assists 800 low income persons per month at its headquarters in Double Springs.
“I didn’t expect this project to take off like it did,” noted Winston County Extension Coordinator Zack Brannon, when speaking to the Haleyville Area Chamber of Commerce Friday, Oct. 11.
“This is a very, very, very big project,” Brannon pointed out.
The Northwest Alabama Resource Conservation and Development Council has awarded a $5,000 grant to get this partnership project off the ground and reimburse on any projected related expenses, Brannon noted.
Also, Alabama Power has donated $800 to Main Street Ministries for electrical work on the building; on the same project with a $2,000 donation of lumber by MillCreek Lumber.
The Winston County Diabetes Support Coalition, operated through the Haleyville Community Foundation, also submitted $2,115 to purchase equipment and supplies for the project.
“A project shouldn’t be this easy,” Brannon said. “But this has just rolled and we’re really excited about this.”
When Brannon came on board as Extension Coordinator replacing the retiring Mike Henshaw, he was informed about the needs at Main Street Ministries, not just for the residents receiving sacks of groceries each week but also for the volunteers that work with the program in being able to keep their perishable food items preserved for the giveaways.
Main Street for some time has benefitted from a Cool Bot trailer, which helps keeps perishable foods at a cooler temperature to preserve them for the giveaways at Main Street each week.
The walk-in cooler will free up the cool bot trailer to be used by area farmers in order to keep their produce preserved, officials said.
The cool bot trailer was designed by Jeff McKinney’s agriscience class when he was an instructor at Colbert County. When McKinney was hired to work at the Haleyville Center of Technology, he brought that knowledge with him.
The idea of a Cool Bot trailer, through discussions between the school and extension office, was expanded to design a walk-in cooler room for Main Street.
“Plus, it was going to add storage space for Main Street, so they would be able to have more perishable food items than what they currently have,” Brannon said.
The extension office also has a Snap Ed coordinator who conducts classes at Main Street. “With the food they are able to get to give to those families, she’ll have a lesson planned and a dietary plan,” Brannon said. “This is the kind of healthy meals you can make with the ingredients we have available.”
The project called for the walk-in cooler to be designed by Jamie White’s drafting students at the center of technology and built by McKinney’s agriscience class.
Brannon told White’s class the size of unit needed, according to White.
“We tried to do it, since they were on a budget, to have the least waste possible,” said White. “So it took a little bit longer, making sure that we were not going to cut off a board we would end up wasting.
“Our kids really jumped in and took off with it, and they did a great job with it,” White pointed out.
The class used a model from a computer program to design the unit, he added.
Although the walk-in cooler is being built on the HCS campus, plans are to have the cooler completed, delivered and re-assembled by students at Main Street on Wednesday, Oct. 30, with plans afterward for HCS students to volunteer in giving out food to families in need during one of their weekly giveaways.
“It kind of puts it full circle on that project,” Brannon stated.
The walk-in cooler will be a 12X12X7.
“This will be a big expansion of what Main Street has,” noted Henshaw, who presented the idea to Brannon.
“They are serving 800 (people) a month, and they need more storage room,” Henshaw added. “When they use perishable foods, it tends to be healthier foods, less processed.
“If they have cooler space, they can get say donated apples, donated cheese...and that allows the families there being served to have a healthier diet,” Henshaw pointed out.
The large walk-in cooler will feature the same technology as the cool bot trailer, except on a larger scale, officials indicated.
The cooling system for this unit will put out 24,000 BTUs compared to around 5,000 BTUs for the smaller cool bot trailers, officials added.
The unit also features an LG model window unit air conditioner that keeps the trailer’s internal temperature to at least 36 to 45 degrees, but can go as low as 32 degrees, in order to protect the perishable items.
The project was, in part, a major science and math project, as students had to figure how much insulation would be required within the unit’s walls.
“We’re looking at trying to get a four-foot door and if you go buy a four foot door for a cooler, it’s going to blow your budget,” White noted. “So we actually designed one.
“A lot of common sense goes into what we do,” added White. “That’s what we try to teach our kids is how to think outside the box, This is the problem. We need the solution.”
“We had an idea but we threw it to the kids and said, hey, this is our problem. Can you figure it,” Brannon said.
High School Assistant Principal Candy Garner said this project should also be considered from an employer’s perspective.
“Do I want to employ a student who sat and looked at a project in a book, or do I want to employ a student who has hands on experience, experience in working with other agencies and how it ties together,” Garner said.
Student Caleb Williams noted students had to know the room’s dimensions and how much room was needed.
“It was just a good learning experience for me, because this is what I actually want to do,” Williams said.“I want to go into architecture.”
High School Principal and COT Director John McCullar said the state is pushing workplace simulation at the COT.
“In other words, we bring the workplace to school,” McCullar said. “We do projects very similar to what you would see in the real world.”
The collaborative project with the extension service and diabetes coalition is an excellent way to teach students problem solving, McCullar said.
“This is real world application,” he said, “especially for jobs in our area. That’s a big push for us here at the center of technology. We’re excited to be a part of it. We’re excited to partner with these folks, McCullar added.
“It’s a great experience for our kids and for our school, to be able to reach out and help folks in the community as well,” he said.
J.D. Snoddy, president of the board for Main Street Ministries, noted this project will enable Main Street to store on site more goods to help others.
“To feed our clients and those who need it in emergencies, for us to have food on hand, to be able to help them, that’s what’s so great about it,” Snoddy pointed out.
“We’re so tickled with the cooperation between the diabetes coalition, Haleyville technical school and Mr. McKinney and extension service and Main Street, working together in order to get that done,” he added.
“That enables us to better serve the people of Winston County,” Snoddy pointed out. “It’s just another example of people in all different entities working together to help people in the county.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.