REFUGIO – Thanks to a program sponsored by Rebuild Texas and led by Del Mar College, eight area residents have new building construction skills that will help them find jobs or aid in their volunteer work.
The 10-week classes were recently completed, and on Oct. 15 instructor Eugene Fricks handed the keys to the class project — referred to as a tiny house — to First United Methodist Church representatives Clint Brown and Lenny Anzaldua. FUMC allowed the classes to be taught at the church. It will sell $35 raffle tickets (or four for $105) and the proceeds will be used for community outreach programs.
Graduates of the course talked about how the skills they learn will help them improve their lives — and the lives of others.
Alan Guerra, a lifelong resident of Refugio, said he found out about the building skills classes in the newspaper.
“I saw it in the paper and a friend encouraged me to take the class, so here I am,” he said.
Guerra began working with tools with his grandfather, and was eager to improve his skills.
“I used to work with my grandpa growing up — he taught me a lot about tools as a young person, but I wanted to learn a whole lot more. What I liked about this class was actually getting to do the work. That really helped me.”
Guerra said he hopes to put his skills to good use.
“In the future I’d like to own my own woodshop,” he said. “I hope to keep it going and make it a family business.”
Bailey Martin lives in Corpus Christi, but he stayed with his grandparents in Refugio while he took the class.
“I live off of Padre Island, but my sister is enrolled at Del Mar and she told my parents about the class,” he said. “I was interested in what I could learn and decided to do it.”
Martin said he has helped build an entertainment center and window seat, but the opportunity to improve his construction skills appealed to him.
“I really liked the physical learning side — getting to go and actually do the work,” he said. “This was great hands-on experience.”
He has applied with a company in Corpus Christi and hopes to be able to use his newly learned skills on the job.
“The tool skills you can learn here will help you wherever you go, and it doesn’t matter how old or young you are,” Martin said.
Colton Wright, a Refugio resident, said his cousin told him about the construction class.
“She encouraged me and pointed me in the right direction,” he said. “I used to do construction work in Rockport after Hurricane Harvey working on fences, houses and roofs.
“This is right in my line of work and it is really fun making stuff.”
Working with others in the class was a highlight for him, he said.
“The people here are great,” he said. “I just liked working together as a team and it was hands-on, that was the best part.”
Wright said he hopes one day to run a construction business.
“Right now I’m looking for a job,” he said. “I’ve got four kids and I want to help make a better future for them.”
Melanie Wright, Colton’s aunt, said she had no experience in construction or working with tools before she took the class.
“I didn’t know the first thing about it,” she said. “The teacher said, ‘Melanie has learned that the saw is her friend.’ At first I really didn’t know how to use it, and I was afraid. I was scared to use it.”
The class has made her comfortable using tools, she said.
“I have rental property, so I wanted to learn about repair work,” Wright said. “I also run an animal rescue (Pappy’s Animal Rescue) and I thought I could learn how to build dog houses to raise money for the rescue.
“I feel like I did learn a lot in class. It’s a really good program for helping people out, and I’m also proud of Colton for doing it, for bettering himself.”
Wright said having an opportunity to actually do construction work was something she enjoyed and she appreciates the job the instructor, Eugene Fricks, did in explaining things.
“He’s a really good teacher — he did a good job,” she said.
Fricks, who lives in Bayside, taught high school career and technical education courses for 30 years, including 20 at Woodsboro Junior/Senior High.
“I taught welding, drafting and construction,” he said. “I was an industrial arts major so that means I’m a jack of all trades and master of none.”
Fricks said he is one of four former high school CTE teachers that Del Mar hired to teach the construction classes to adults — three of whom were brought out of retirement.
Del Mar received an $800,000 grant to offer the classes free of charge to residents living in coastal areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.
In appreciation for the church hosting the classes, the finished product of the students’ labor and education was given to the church.
Lenny Anzaldua, a church member, said there will be a drawing on Dec. 5, and that the structure — called a tiny house instead of a shed because of the use of higher quality materials and standards — will be delivered to the winning ticket holder within a 100-mile radius. There will also be another raffle prize to be determined later.
Those interested in purchasing a ticket can call the church office at 361-526-2440 or Anzaldua at 361-813-3160.