Students Build New Church Benches

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The 17 members of Richard Alvarez's building trades class at Payson High School were incredulous when they read in the newspaper that somebody had stolen two concrete park benches from the prayer garden of a local church.

"We had the newspaper in here one day and kids were talking about different things that had been happening around town," Alvarez said. "We read the letter about the benches being stolen from the courtyard of Payson United Methodist Church (on Easy Street). One of the kids said why don't we do something about it."

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PHS building trades teacher Richard Alvarez and three of his students pose with one of the church benches his class is building to replace the ones stolen from Payson United Methodist Church. The students, Jeff Konop (left), John Beeson and Michael Wilcox (sitting), were the driving force behind the project.

What they decided to do was build two wooden benches to replace the stolen ones. The effort was spearheaded by three students seniors John Beeson and Michael Wilcox and junior Jeff Konop, who summed up the feelings of his classmates.

"We didn't know why anybody would be that stupid to steal something from a church," he said.

"It's just a good community service project," Beeson added.

The students planned to put the benches together Monday and deliver them to the church today (Tuesday).

Retiree Dick Maloney, a member of the church congregation and the author of the letter to the editor the students read, was deeply touched. When he heard about it, he visited the class.

"I'm known as the original grumpy old man, but as I tried to explain how much the congregation and I appreciated the action they took I completely lost it and started crying," Maloney said. "Me, crying! I think they got the idea that I was just overwhelmed by them all."

The new benches, complete with arm and back rests, will be placed (and secured) in the church's prayer garden. The concrete benches, which were later recovered in damaged condition, will be repaired and donated to a young parishioner working on his Boy Scout eagle badge.

"He is hacking out a meditation path through all the manzanita and brush west of the church," Maloney said. "These benches will make excellent rest stops for anyone using the path."

So now Maloney's church has more benches than it started out with.

"This says something about our young people," Alvarez said. "We have a group of kids that are real concerned about what happens in Payson."

Maloney was even more effusive.

"Everyone in church is going to want to try (the new benches) out and tell everyone they sat on the benches built by the most caring teenage carpenters in the world," he said. "We are overjoyed."

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