ILWACO — The invoice said $8,612.72.
The amount paid was $0.
No wonder there was a smile on Ilwaco High School teacher Stephen Blasko’s face.
A truck bearing the Oman and Son Builders Supply logo reversed up to the cavernous entrance of the industrial arts building on the high school campus Thursday.
And employees Luke Schweizer and Casey McDonald enlisted some willing students to unload it.
Out came 50 2x4s, 24 packs of safety goggles, 20 bags of premix concrete, 200 sets of ear plugs and six 32-inch televisions.
That wasn’t all.
The delivery included multiple drill kits, five complete saws, and myriad other building supplies including screws and batteries. The largest of the saws, with state-of-the-art safety features, is valued at more than $3,050.
The generous gift came courtesy of the Joanne Oman Memorial Fund. Joanne Oman died from breast cancer in 2005. The foundation was created by Steve Oman to memorialize his mother.
“She always liked to give back and donate where she could, and always to help children,” said Oman, president of the family company.
Blasko teaches skills that cover all elements of construction technology used in the building of a house, including electrical, plumbing, framing, blueprint reading and the use of hand tools.
“In this country, we are seeing a lot of Baby Boomers retiring who have been in the skilled trades for years and years,” he said. “For the past 15 years, people have been saying, ‘Go to college,” and that has created a skills gap.
“There are not enough skilled trades workers, and because there are not enough people in these jobs here on the Peninsula we see the contractors all backed up.”
He noted that Steve Oman and Troy Ramsey, vice president/general manager, serve on the Ocean Beach School District’s Advisory Committee for Skilled and Technical Sciences.
Both are IHS graduates, Ramsey in 1993 and Oman in 2001. As the two considered how best they could help Blasko’s program, they asked him to put together a “wishlist” of desired items that would considerably assist his program but aren’t funded because of budget limitations.
“This is the biggest contribution we have ever had from the community,” said Blasko, who has been at IHS for more than 10 years.
‘The right tools’
Omans has hosted an annual golf tournament each July, supported by Peninsula contractors and others, which has raised money for a selected charity.
“We wanted to get people back in the trades, and at the same time Steve came up with this idea of the foundation,” said Ramsey. “Mr. Blasko has been doing a great job, we thought we could give him new tools. And they have all got new safety features.
“We have a saying: ‘The easy way is hard enough, but not if you have the right tools for the job’ — and we are trying to get them the right tools.”
The idea of creating a skilled workforce enhances the community, Ramsey said. “If you can get kids to learn trades, they can learn with new tools,” he said. “Even if they don’t got that route, they have something that they can fall back on.”
As he resumed teaching his class after the delivery, the smile hadn’t left Blasko’s face. “This is amazing. I gave them a pretty extensive list,” he said, “and I think they have given me everything on it!”