‘All the work is worth it’: Hawlemont custodian runs scrap metal fundraiser to pay for sports programs

  • Duane Graves, custodian, coach and crossing guard at Hawlemont Regional School in Charlemont, with a shed full of sports equipment he purchased for the school using money raised from scrap metal donations. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Duane Graves at center, custodian, coach and crossing guard at Hawlemont Regional School in Charlemont, with the Hawlemont Hornets baseball teams. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 6/20/2022 4:30:53 PM

CHARLEMONT — Full-time custodian and crossing guard Duane Graves first noticed the sports equipment at Hawlemont Regional School was old and worn out when he started coaching baseball there four years ago.

“There was no money for equipment, so I had to get the money in some way,” he said.

Graves got the word out that he was collecting scrap metal as a fundraiser.

“My phone started ringing off the hook,” he said.

Graves was able to quickly collect people’s scrap metal and sell it at the local transfer station to get money for the school’s after-school athletic programs. He has raised more than $3,000 so far.

There are currently seven teams in the after-school program and more than 100 children involved. Before Graves started his project, there were around 45 children on teams.

“There are about 120 students at the school, so nearly all the kids participate,” said Hawlemont principal Amber Tulloch.

There are now baseball and basketball teams. Volleyball and track will soon be added to the school’s list of sports.

There were so many children enrolled in sports, the school used the money Graves raised to add a second field where children could practice. Additionally, the programs bought new equipment.

The seven teams at Hawlemont play full games with other elementary schools. Each team is mixed gender and divided by skill level.

“It builds a sense of camaraderie across the student body,” Tulloch said. “So many of the teams are mixed ages, it changes the dynamics for the school.”

“I believe at this age it is more about learning sportsmanship and camaraderie,” offered Graves, who said he cares less about the level of skill the students exhibit, and stresses the fun in the experience.

“When the kids get to Mohawk, they are afraid to play. This program gives them the confidence to join a team,” Graves said.

Graves said he chose scrap metal for his fundraiser because, “I didn’t need to ask anyone to help.” He said most fundraisers require initial investment, like a bake sale requires buying ingredients and making something. “This model is pure profit.”

Graves drives his own vehicle around, picking up everything from radios to washing machines, and separating the plastic and metal in the old equipment to be sold.

“The goal is to have $5,000 in the account at all times,” he said. “I want it to cover the entire program with little to no cost for parents.”

About 30 children on sports teams at Hawlement would not have joined a team if there was a financial barrier, according to Graves.

Graves also thanks the program’s volunteer coaches.

“It is not easy to teach kids who have never picked up a ball,” he said. “The coaches have done an amazing job.”

He also thanks the scrap metal donors. He explained most donors do not have children at Hawlemont, which demonstrates the community buy-in for his project.

“All the work is worth it just to see the kids’ faces when they make their first catch,” he said. “We won five games and lost 11, but they are the happiest kids I have ever seen.”

To donate scrap metal for the Hawlemont sports program, contact Graves at 413-624-3639.

Contact Bella Levavi at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.


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