Reminder Assistant Editor
WILBRAHAM - What began as a joke among friends has become a well-oiled machine of community service at Minnechaug regional High School.
"It really started as a joke," Julie Mitchell said. "We said 'let's have a club to eat pancakes and we'll call ourselves the Lumberjacks.' Then the club really turned into something more."
The Lumberjack club, formed just this year, is comprised of about 40 students in all four grades. They meet once or twice every week, setting weekly goals for projects within and beyond the school while constantly planning for new ideas.
"Our club is about helping the community, and getting kids involved that don't usually get involved in school activities," Mitchell said.
They are students who were seeking their own niche of community service clubs, a relaxed atmoshere where everyone has a say and there is always something to do. And they do just about everything.
"A couple of kids came to me about this and I just kind of played dumb because I wanted them to really have the initiative to start it," explained Jason Dallissio, the group's faculty advisor, "Eventually 20 of them approached me with an itinerary and I said ok, but if we're going to do this thing, we're going to do it 110 percent."
Projects so far have included painting the school's snack shack, donating wood the wood tech classes, holding a car wash to buy club t-shirts, refurbishing the school's bocche court which hasn't been used in more than 5 years and raking the school's courtyard to remove 30 bags of leaves and plant trees there.
"If someone has something they want to see done, they come to us because they know that we get things done," Jessica Kogut said.
The name of their club has little to do with community service but since it has stuck, their faculty advisor Jason Dallissio has made it serve a purpose by incorporating a host of lumberjack themes into their activities. Some have included hosting a flannel shirt dress-down day to raise money for the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen, participating in a pancake cook-off and taking field trips to see how maple sugar is made and to meet a professional lumberjack.
Next year, they even hope to get the Lumberjack club into the Guiness Book of World Records by making the world's largest pancake or the largest stack of pancake.
The difference that one small club has made is becoming very evident around the school. Dallissio hopes that when their courtyard clean-up and tree planting is finished, the usually locked doors can be opened so that students will be able to use it as a short-cut to classes.
"We're getting our hands into everything," Dallissio said. "I am so proud of them."
While the students are also proud of their own hard work, that is not to say they don't have fun. To cap off their phenomenally active first year, the group is going on a whitewater rafting trip in Maine this spring. They will also be manning the dunk booth at the Wilbraham Peach Festival this year.
More than a club, the they are a close group of friends. Together, they took the lumberjack club from a whim to a reality.
"We came up with it and we made it happen," Jessica Kogut said about forming the non-traditional club. "Instead of a teacher saying that our school needs this, we did it."
In leu of the normal fabric banner for the club to hold during school pep rallies, a tradition for all of the school's clubs and teams, the Lumberjack club is building a rustic sign of wood to represent themselves properly. And like their novel idea for an extra-curricular activity, a wooden signs are built to last.