KENTLAND – Coming into the school year South Newton welding instructor Matthew Armbruster’s biggest worry was that he may have to turn away students who wanted to take part in his classes.

“Because of COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines, students would not be able to share welding gear this year,” said Armbruster. “That meant we had to find a way to get gear for three different classes, around 45 students. I was worried that I would have to turn away students who couldn’t afford to purchase their own gear.”

With that in mind, Armbruster started reaching out to people in the community and the region looking for help.

“I contacted Wabash National in Lafayette and John Frischie (Rotary District Governor),” added Armbruster. “John really took the initiative and took it to a whole new level.”

Frischie went out and contacted area township trustees and Newton County Economic Development.

The result of all these talks was $4,500 to purchase new gear and equipment with $1,000 coming from Grant Township, Washington Township, Iroquois Township, and Newton County Economic Development (NCEDC), and $500 from Jefferson Township.

To top everything, Wabash National came through and donated 40 sets of gear (jackets and gloves) for the students, NCEDC was able to get new welding curtains and tools, and Dan Myers of Cintas donated safety glasses.

“With the donations, the money, and the gear, we were able to get a lot more replaced than we ever thought,” said Armbruster. “A lot of stuff was on backorder, but we do now have everything and it’s a huge plus for our students.”

“A lot of us had to start the year off using old worn-out jackets,” said Gonzalo Hernandez, a junior at South Newton who has been in welding classes since his freshman year. “Wielding is a very useful skill and has grown in popularity among students the past several years. The new equipment and gear, especially the jackets are extremely nice. It was a huge relief to the students that we didn’t have to use our own money to take these classes and now we are using top-of-the-line equipment.”

Through funds from Indiana Trails, South Newton was also able to recently upgrade three welders.

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