Ann Fish special at RockinghamNow
After retiring from United Parcel Service 18 months ago, Patti Belton was often frustrated when she couldn’t fix something around her Eden home.
Then she saw a Facebook post about a Rockingham Community College course called “Intro to Construction” and thought that might be the answer to some of her problems.
Belton joined the first class to be offered at the new RCC Woodworking Center at 333 S. Scales St. in Reidsville.
Although 20 people signed up, only five showed up and one dropped out, the instructor lamented.
But the remaining two men and two women, aged between 20 and 60, learned a lot during the course which saw them build outdoor furniture, Belton said.
As part of a class project, they built a picnic table for the RCC campus and a bench seat for the school ball diamond.
“This course gave me the foundation to be able to do some of my own home repairs and improvements,” Belton said.
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Asked about the possibility of entering the carpentry field, she replied, “You never know what the future holds. I might open my own cabinet shop one day,” Belton said with a laugh and noted that she loves having options in her life.
Tony Kulpa, owner of Twin Rivers HVAC in Eden, is the instructor for the new program which began at RCC in April.
“We knew there was a need in the industry for these young workers to learn a trade, and the demand is there for good paying jobs,” said Kulpa, who has lived in Rockingham County for 43 years. .
His family moved here from Michigan when his father, Harry, took a job at Fieldcrest years ago. His mother, Cindy, was a nurse at Annie Penn Hospital. They have both since died.
Kulpa graduated from Morehead High School in 1991 and immediately enrolled in RCC’s Heating, Air Conditioning and Ventilation course from which he graduated in 1996.
After working in several companies in the area, Kulpa opened his own business five years ago and for the past six years he has been an assistant instructor at the college. The RCC has become a family tradition with daughter Haley now a student who plans to become a teacher.
“This course gives students the opportunity to learn about safety and the use of basic hand and power tools, which leads to the basic carpentry course,” Kulpa said.
Students who have completed the inaugural course will begin the second in a series: “Carpentry Skills” in August. It will last 12 weeks and registration will begin in mid-summer, Kulpa said.
Upon completion of the second course, students will earn National Craft Assessment and Certification (NCASC) credentials through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). Kulpa said graduates should have no trouble finding jobs because the construction field is hiring.
Information on the second course will soon be available via RCC, Kulpa said.
Belton, a Greensboro native, moved to Rockingham County in the mid-1980s after meeting and marrying Mark Belton, a Madison native, in 1982. She worked part-time at Shoney’s restaurant in Greensboro, and he was a customer. Eventually the Beltons moved to Madison where they worked at Fuzzy’s Barbecue.
Belton already knew the value of training at RCC.
While a student at RCC in the mid-1990s, Belton was part of a group recruited by UPS in Greensboro.
At that time, the UPS recruiter was Chris McHone, now Mark Belton’s supervisor at UPS where he works part-time.
The Beltons have two sons: Jon Belton, 37, manager of a biotech lab in San Diego, and Michael, 32, conductor for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad in Minneapolis.
Patti, whose mother Ruth Blank lives in Reidsville, is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Mark is the son of Otis and Sue Ellen McGee Belton of Madison.
Learning how to use hand and power tools safely was one of Belton’s favorite things about his recent RCC course.
She looks forward to the next lesson.
She especially enjoyed the hands-on work in the workshop and the fact that the four students helped each other by making suggestions and solving problems as they set up the picnic table.
When complete, the men built the bench while the women chopped wood and hammered together a set of Adirondack chairs.
Proud of her first accomplishment, Belton realized, “I had to straighten a leg that was too short. I had to straighten out some of the bridge screws that weren’t straight. Then she decided to stain her chair.
When finished, Belton said, “I could finally take it home and set it up” on her side porch where she spends many hours admiring her work.