Harrison Elementary School Garden Tractor Club hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday evening for its new facility, provided by Dan and Eileen Ransbottom. Pictured (L to R) are, first row: Keegan Tom, Simon Miller, Toby Harges, Zachary Mehlberg, Addison Mehlberg, Drake Chilafoe, Thad Harges; second row: Thomas Coulter, Cade Williams, Kelsey Nethercutt, Madison Johnson, Principal Lee Snider; third row: Eileen Ransbottom, Alex Ransbottom, Mason Johnson, Warsaw School Board Secretary Randy Polston; fourth row: Ivory Snipes, Echoes of the Past; Scott Mehlberg, Harrison teacher; Dave Mehlberg; Dan Ransbottom; and Adam Heckaman, Echoes of the Past president. Not pictured is Steve Reed. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Harrison Elementary School Garden Tractor Club hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday evening for its new facility, provided by Dan and Eileen Ransbottom. Pictured (L to R) are, first row: Keegan Tom, Simon Miller, Toby Harges, Zachary Mehlberg, Addison Mehlberg, Drake Chilafoe, Thad Harges; second row: Thomas Coulter, Cade Williams, Kelsey Nethercutt, Madison Johnson, Principal Lee Snider; third row: Eileen Ransbottom, Alex Ransbottom, Mason Johnson, Warsaw School Board Secretary Randy Polston; fourth row: Ivory Snipes, Echoes of the Past; Scott Mehlberg, Harrison teacher; Dave Mehlberg; Dan Ransbottom; and Adam Heckaman, Echoes of the Past president. Not pictured is Steve Reed. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
By sharing his skills and passion for Wheel Horse tractors, Harrison Elementary teacher Scott Mehlberg is enriching the lives of students in the school’s Garden Tractor Club.
By providing their talents and donating money and a storage shed, people like Dan and Eileen Ransbottom are helping Mehlberg and his students pursue their dreams of having a “club barn.”
Thursday evening, Harrison hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Garden Tractor Club’s new building.
Mehlberg said the club started last fall. “I wanted to have a way to share one of my passions with the kids,” he said.
The club meets once a week from 4 to 5:30 p.m. They were meeting in the maintenance storage shed, but they had to drag maintenance equipment in and out of it to work. In the winter, even with three space heaters, the outdoor building was still cold.
What the club needed to work on the tractors was a heated, insulated facility they could use year-round and where they could store their tools and parts.
“They needed a place they could call their own,” Mehlberg said.
The Ransbottoms’ granddaughter happened to be a member of the club. In the fall, Dan Ransbottom visited the club and asked Mehlberg what he needed. Mehlberg said a building would be nice, so Dan took the idea to Eileen and they decided to provide one for the club.
The shed is 12 feet by 20 feet. It’s heated and insulated, and has an I-beam across the top so a chain can be put on it to hoist tractors or parts up. The overhead door is 6 by 6 feet, with a regular door on the side.
“I hope it helps a lot of kids in the future,” Dan said.
Ransbottom Excavating helped move the facility to Harrison. Dan’s good friend, Steve Reed, as well as other family and friends, assisted.
“I wanted to give these young kids a chance to do something they can take with them the rest of their lives,” Dan said. “Something hands-on. Kids nowadays need something to do.”
Mehlberg said others also helped make the dream a reality. Echoes of the Past provided a monetary donation. David Rice, Crawfordsville, donated a tractor for the kids to work on. Members from an online tractor forum Mehlberg belongs to donated money. Ron Greco donated shirts to the club, while Ed Palmer, Columbia City, purchased hats.
Many of the donors don’t know the students, but just wanted to support the kids in their endeavors.
“With what Dan’s done and the tractor community, I’ve always known them to be good people, but this just blows me away. My hope is these kids can take skills away that before they call someone to fix something, they can try themselves and not be afraid,” Mehlberg said.
In the club this year, Mehlberg said they started with a tractor that ran but has many issues. The students tore the tractor down and sanded it. Ed Hochstetler, Milford, finished it, and also taught the kids how to powder coat it. Now the club is working on putting the tractor back together.
Mehlberg’s father, Dave Mehlberg, sold Wheel Horse tractors in Michigan. The tractors used to be made in South Bend but aren’t made anymore and have become collectible. Repairing the tractors is not only a hobby for Scott Mehlberg, but also a stress reliever – one that he now has passed on to about 11 Harrison students this year.
“This doesn’t work without my dad’s help,” Scott Mehlberg noted.
The tractor will be finished by early June.
“We are going to have a sealed bids auction for the tractor the kids are putting together. The money goes to next year’s project,” Mehlberg said.
All bids must be in by noon June 5. Bids can be emailed or a letter sent to the school at 1300 Husky Trail, Warsaw, IN 46580, attention to Scott Mehlberg. The students will open the bids.
Principal Lee Snider said a picture of the finished tractor will be put on the school’s website.
If anyone is interested in the project or wants to help, they can contact Mehlberg at Harrison at 574-269-7533 or email smehlberg@warsaw.k12.in.us