On a not-so-cold Saturday in early January, 17 4-H youth members and 16 adults met in the maintenance building of the Cass County Parks Department to construct “buddy benches” for area schools as a county-wide community service project. The group built six benches that will be donated to area schools this summer.
Hailey Harman, Cass County 4-H Program Coordinator tells, “The benches will be placed on the playgrounds of county schools, and when a child feels they need someone to talk to, is having an issue or just needs someone to talk to, they will go sit on the buddy bench. Other students, upon seeing the child on the buddy bench, can then go initiate a conversation, include them in an activity or even just go sit with them. I like to look at this as a meet-in-the-middle approach.”
The bench system, utilized in other school settings around the country, allows kids to develop empathy for their peers, as well as allowing youth to express their emotions; a two-way situation for both the giver and receiver.
Sponsors for this activity include Melody and Brian Kuemin, North Red Hill 4-H Club, Cass County 4-H Teen Leaders, Sleepy Hollow 4-H Club, Dorinda Charles and Creative Kids 4-H Club. Harman would like to give special thanks to Lowe’s in Elkhart, IN for allowing them to purchase the lumber at cost, to Michelle Schuur for donating the stain, Deb & Gordon Ridenour for refreshments, and to Scott Wyman, Parks Director & Jody Wade, Maintenance Supervisor for the use of the building and the extra help.
The benches will be allowed to set for the winter, stained in warmer weather, and placed this summer before the school year begins.