TILTON — For some time, when residents of New Hampshire Veterans Home passed away, their families were given an American flag, properly folded to mimick the tricolor hat worn by the colonial soldiers during the War of Independence and encased beneath glass in a handsome wooden box. Then the stock of boxes ran out.
Yesterday the inventory was replenished thanks to the ingenuity and generosity of two teachers at Gilford High School — Steve Riordan, who teaches business, and Sean Walsh, who teaches woodworking — and their students. They presented Margaret LaBrecque, commandant of the Veterans Home, with nearly two dozen boxes made by the students of woodworking with materials purchased with the capital raised by their counterparts studying business.
Riordan recalled when his daughter Marti Bolduc, who then worked at the Veterans Home, told him that although families were given flags but no boxes, he thought "the tradition had lapsed for want of boxes, he took the initiative. He asked Walsh if his students could make the boxes and what it would cost. Walsh assured him that his classes could make 60 boxes a year for $25 apiece.
Riordan then set his business class to raising the money by forming a company that packaged and sold brownie mix. "We got jars and layered the ingredients, like doing sand art, and called it Sand Art Brownie Mix," he explained. Students began selling the brownie mix in anticipation of Valentine's Day. "We called it the gift that gives twice," he laughed. "Your mom makes you brownies and we raise the money for the boxes." Altogether the firm raised $800, enough for materials to make 32 boxes.
"It was a really good project, " said Tyler Thibodeau, a sophomore from Gilmanton, He said that students learned not only to "measure twice and cut once" and other woodworking skills but also "to pay attention costs by not wasting materials."
Kaitlyn Marcella of Gilford, one of nine girls in a woodworking class of eleven, said "it was definitely a wicked-fun class." She said that Walsh was surprised so many young women in the class, but he soon found that "we were there and ready to work." Marcella said she confined herself to supervising the sanding while her colleague Evelyn Johnson of Gilmanton preferred cutting the pieces to size. Apart from woodworking, Johnson remarked that she also learned "you better not wear black in the shop."
Both Thibodeau and Johnson had grandfathers who served in the armed forces and were especially pleased to put their talents to work for the benefit of veterans.
Riordan and Walsh intend to continue the program and expect to deliver another two dozen boxes in the autumn. But, Riordan said that while the boxes would remain the same, his students will be producing, marketing and selling a new product.
Bill Bertholdt, president of the New Hampshire Veterans Home Resident Council, said "it feels really good that the kids are putting the effort into this. We'll all wind up with one someday, with our colors folded up inside," he continued. "It's a beautiful thought."
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