A car was recently donated to Portage Collegiate Institute in Portage la Prairie for its auto shop students to work on and gain experience in the trade. The vehicle was then donated to a Ukrainian family who had recently moved to the community.

Canadian Helicopter got hold of PCI's Career Development Coordinator Blair Hordeski, and it took off from there. 

"We were very fortunate that we had support from Kitson's, who were able to come and pick up the car for us and bring it to the high school. And the staff was  just blown away at the at the vehicle that exceeded their expectations," says Hordeski. "To give some added purpose to this project, we thought, 'What could we do with this car when the kids put in the effort to get this thing running properly and get it roadworthy?' We know that we have a number of Ukrainian families coming to Portage la Prairie right now. To be able to afford a vehicle right now is very difficult. It was agreed upon that we would see if we could find a family that could benefit from this vehicle, and we did find a family. And so, it's just exciting that, actually today (November 2), we were able to connect the dots and the the vehicle is being registered now and the family will be able to take possession." 

He notes it's great on several levels.

"It's a big community feel-good story," adds Hordeski. "We have a local business wanting to do some good. They're donating the vehicle. We have the kids coming together and, as you can see in some of our photos, that all the students under the direction of our automotive instructors, Leo Lanouette and Jonathan Elliott have this car running top-notch right now."

Leo Lanouette is one of the auto shop teachers and says it's a great opportunity for the students to realize and be part of the program and the community. 

"It gives them experience. It's about giving back to the community and realizing that that's an important thing in life. We're here to teach them the skills, but we're here to be lifelong learners and be part of the community." 

He explains they usually take outside customers and go over the work required for the vehicle, and inform them about the nature of the work, and whether or not they can help them. 

"The Community can give us a call there and we'll see what we can do for them. We have a time slot. You got to remember we're a learning centre here. So sometimes, it gets done that day, and sometimes you're going to be a few days down the road. But they all know that. This was a good opportunity for my students to work on another vehicle and learn some different skills and skill sets," says Lanouette. "They come in here in Grade 10 and they leave in Grade 12 and, hopefully, some of them are going to go out into the industry. Some will, maybe, go into parts. Some go into auto body. Lots go into Ag, and for some, it's just they're here for interest sake, which is good, too, if you're a better person when you leave here. That's what we're looking for."

Jonathon Kirby chief engineer for CFTS and Canadian Helicopters, Southport, arranged the donation and shares how it came about.

"It's an older crew vehicle that we had here," says Kirby. "I'd started this position in January and came in midway through the company purchasing a new vehicle to be used for company use. The one that was previously online needed some repairs. The company needed to update the car. Once we updated the car, we had no more use for the older one anymore. We didn't want to go through paying payment fees to get it fixed and whatnot. So, we needed to do something with it. I'm not in the business of selling vehicles. One of the options was we could donate it to a school and they could benefit from it. At that time, I didn't know what they would do with it; if they'd take it apart or use it for training, or whichever. I was talking with Blair Hordeski about some other things and I mentioned I had this car. He said, 'Yeah, we can take it and donate them to local families.' And I thought that was a great idea. So, that's kind of where we carried on."

Kirby says after they explained the process to him, Canadian Helicopters donated the car, and the tires were donated by the school, which he notes was fantastic.

"The kids put all the work in," says Kirby. "The certified mechanics double-checked all their work and did all the safeties for it. So, the only thing that the new owners are going to have to pay for is the parts, which were significantly less than what the vehicle would be sold for, I think, on the market. So, it's a great deal." 

He explains that if a similar circumstance arises, this has been an incentive for Canadian Helicopters to do the same thing all over again.

"If anybody just needs to get rid of something like that, then it's definitely an option to do. They assess it and they let you know if it's a viable resource for this, or not. They're not going to fix up something that's not going to be safe in the long run, of course. It turned out to be really good." 

One of the students involved was Brady Saltise who worked on the brakes and the tie rods. He explains what it's like to be part of a project that helps a family in Portage.

"It feels good that I got to help out the family that needs it," says Saltise. "It helps them go buy groceries and travel their kids to school."

He notes they spent about two classes' worth of time to work on the car. 

Xander Tracy says he worked on the axle and some of the brakes.

"I feel very fortunate to work on this for it to go to a family that is in need," says Tracy. 

He says he enjoys working with cars generally and plans to work in the field later in life. Tracy says the best thing about the program is being able to work on cars that are broken down, or a family's car that needs repair. 

"You can learn to work on the different things it requires."

Saltise adds it provides experience to work on cars, and working on the engines and crankshafts was most interesting for him in school, while Tracy enjoyed working beneath the vehicles.


In response to Canada's Online News Act and Meta (Facebook and Instagram) removing access to local news from their platforms, PortageOnline encourages you to get your news directly from your trusted source by bookmarking this page and downloading the PortageOnline app.