The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 8, 2013

Mike Pound: Students, seniors build bond over birdhouses

By Mike Pound

— I watched Sylvia Klor expertly drive a nail into the birdhouse she was building and asked her if she learned how to use a hammer in one of her education classes.

The fourth-grade teacher from McKinley Elementary School in Joplin looked up and laughed.

“No, it’s from raising four boys,” she said.

Then she told the young boy standing by her to try his hand at the hammer, and he began driving the nail.

He did a pretty good job. Sure, he missed the nail a few times, but he didn’t hit his thumb, which is something I tend to do. When I told the kid that I normally hit myself more than I hit the nail, he grinned.

Sylvia’s entire fourth-grade class spent most of its school day Tuesday learning to make birdhouses at Spring River Christian Village. The instructors were a group of men living at the independent and assisted-living communities at 201 Northpark Lane.

The men are part of what Allen Brintnall likes to call the Spit and Whittle Club. Allen said that in the small town where grew up, a group of men would gather in front of the post office every Saturday evening for whittling and talking.

Allen is the chaplain and assistant administrator at Spring River. He said the men in the club get together on the first Tuesday of every month, have breakfast at a local restaurant and then find something to do. Spending the day with Sylvia’s students was what they decided to do Tuesday. They connected after Allen and Susan Warden, the lifestyles coordinator at Spring River, chatted about the idea. Since Sylvia is Susan’s sister, it was sort of a no-brainer for Sylvia to bring her students in.

Sylvia said that when her sister asked her about bringing her students to Spring River for the day, she jumped at the chance.

“It’s absolutely great for them (the students) to interact with other generations outside of their family,” she said.

Allen said the same was true for the men who were patiently working with Sylvia’s students. “Most of the guys are parents and grandparents, and to get a chance, again, to spend time with kids this age is great,” he said.

The 20 students who spent the day making birdhouses were Aubree Armstrong, Cecilia Barron, Zach Boyd, Auria Brown, MaLeah Brown, Sarah Dill, Dylan Enochs, Anthony Fowler, Elizia Garcia, Tyler Gray, Isabella Jones, Matthew Leonard, Elijiah Leyda, Anthony Seymour, Kaelan Shannon, Dominick Simmons, Ben Smith, Jade Smith, Tyrin Turner and Nicholas Vang. They all seemed to have a great time.

Anthony Seymour told me he had a special person he wanted to share his birdhouse with as he walked it outside to sand and prime it.

“I can’t wait for my grandmother to hear about this birdhouse,” he said.

It turns out that Anthony, not too long ago, helped his grandmother, who lives in Lamar, paint a birdhouse that now hangs outside of her house. As Anthony began rubbing sandpaper across the side of his birdhouse, he disclosed his plans.

“Actually, I’m going to take it to my grandmother the next time we go to her house and hang it in a tree,” he said.

Before Allen stopped to chat with me Tuesday morning, he was explaining to a young girl how to put her birdhouse together. The girl had a slightly intimidated look on her face, and when Allen asked her if she understood, she gave an uncertain nod.

When Allen finished chatting with me, he checked on the girl’s progress. It turned out that the girl had asked another gentleman for help, and he was nailing one side of the house together for her.

She looked at us and smiled. It was a good smile. It was a happy smile. So was the smile on the face of the guy helping her with the birdhouse.

It was a neat deal, is what it was.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.