Vocational education is alive and well. It just looks differently than it used to. So…
Restoration as Therapy for Youth
When Shiloh was born, his father was completely out of the picture. His mother was unable to care for him on her own, so she put him in an orphanage. Shiloh was adopted by a married couple—only to have them get divorced, and neither parent could take care of him.
So Shiloh developed what’s referred to as attachment disorder. That means he didn’t want to develop any relationships with anyone, period, because he didn’t trust people.
Shiloh was very angry when he was enrolled at the Klingberg Family Center. “He was very angry,” said Mark Johnson, Vice President. “He would literally destroy things. He would smash stuff.”
But all that changed when a 1914 Model T rolled into the automotive restoration program a year later. Shiloh expressed an interest in the antique automobile, so Mark asked if he wanted to help restore it. Shiloh jumped at the chance.
“It was good therapy, from things being smashed to really taking care of something,” Mark said. “I watched him put a tailgate hinge on. He stepped back and looked at his work. I said, ‘you take pride in your work, don’t you?’”
Shiloh would even come to the shop on Saturdays to spend time with Mark. One Saturday they went out for a lunch break. Mark told Shiloh, “That Model T is a lot like you. Somebody sold it, somebody else let it sit in a field, and somebody else partially restored it. Now it’s at Klingberg, and it found its destiny, its great purpose. You’ve been through the same thing: lived in different places, been passed around, and found your destiny at Klingberg. And you can do anything now.” Shiloh beamed like he never had before. “He established that you can have a positive relationship with someone,” Mark said.
A long time after this, Shiloh was having a particularly stressful day. He ran away from the other students, and a teacher found him sitting up against the garage where he and Mark had restored the Model T. “He had to go back to that experience, to that spot where he felt encouragement,” Mark explained. “The car is something he has taken pride in; he will always go back to it throughout life. Now cars are an important thing in his life.”
Mark and Shiloh completely dismantled the Model T, took the wheels off, and had it professionally painted in a shop. They restored it in an unheated garage that’s older than the car. The garage is so old, it has a wooden floor.
Thanks to a Collectors Foundation grant of $7,500 in 2006, Mark – who started the program with his own funds – was able to stop using his own money and purchase tools, equipment and auto parts. “It’s inspiring to know that the Collectors Foundation is looking to restore cars and to get kids interested in it,” Mark said. “The financial support from the Collectors Foundation has been wonderful.”
Beyond purchasing vital equipment, the Collectors Foundation support has paved the way for others to support the program. “Because of Collectors Foundation support, others see it. People want to get on a moving train,” Mark explained. A local automotive retailer donated a custom-made 15-foot trailer for the car. Car clubs are matching the Collectors Foundation grant, car guys want to mentor students in the program, and one car guy has even stated his interest in being a full-time teacher.
Mark is gearing up to launch a fundraising campaign for a larger, heated building. In the meantime, he’s looking for the next Model T for the program. Mark said they can’t have a car lift for insurance reasons, but Model T’s “sit so tall, you can get the whole class undernearth one!”