Dressed in a white T-shirt and bright orange sneakers, Bishop Putney stands out in more ways than one. While the other five boys glue pieces of wood together, he stands over a two-by-four, his right arm sliding a handsaw across a wooden plank. A flurry of dust falls to the ground.
He focuses intently. The cut must be made at precisely 30 inches just like Dan Molinski has shown him.
“He’s very good at fixing stuff, like tables,” Bishop says. “And he’s good at making stuff. He’s showing us how to be a man. A real man.”
Surrounded by young men dressed in a variety of basketball shorts and tennis shoes, Dan Molinksi demonstrates, in simple terms, how the base of what will be a lemonade stand is constructed. The Boy’s Club at the Buckner Family Hope Center at Wynnewood in Dallas meets every week with a purpose: To grow as men and have fun.
“For many children at the Family Hope Center, emotional and spiritual fatherlessness is the norm,” Buckner Ministry Engagement Coordinator Sarah Jones says. “Consistent, strong, compassionate and reliable men are important to every child, but they leave a powerful impact on boys. Dan is teaching the boys valuable lessons about respect, honesty and kindness through these weekly Boy’s Club meetings. The boys are learning more than a cooking or construction skill; they are learning what a father looks like.”
After moving to Dallas from Columbia a year and a half ago, Dan wanted to help the community he lived in, so he called Buckner.
“I asked Wynnewood if they needed any help,” Dan recalls. “I felt like I would be a good fit and someone had just vacated the position.”
That was four months ago. Today at The Boy’s Club, Dan works individually with one boy who is attempting to saw wood and talk at the same time. Dan and the boys use simple things to construct their projects, like heavy-duty Elmer’s glue and nails.
“I buy the supplies myself, but the costs for the lemonade stand will be minimal,” Dan says. “Most of the wood is from old pallets I find at hardware stores trash bins, and in the junk piles my neighbors leave on their curbs.”
Like a magician, Dan pulls out a power saw and lines it up carefully on a long block of wood. He acts like he’s about to cut, then turns around to the group.
“What did I forget?” Dan asks animatedly.
“Safety goggles!” scream the boys.
The Boy’s Club couldn’t have completed projects like Spaghetti Day, wooden Texas flags and Make-A-Bench Day without the help of Buckner Life Skills Specialists Erika Beck and Jennifer Hiland.
“The boys are generally attentive in the class only because Ms. Erika and Ms. Jenn are so good at running a tight ship at the center,” Dan says. “I’m not much of a disciplinarian so I’m glad they keep the children in line.”
Together, Dan, Erika and Jennifer work to give the boys the meaningful experiences. One boy in a black T-shirt looks on with a dreamy smile as Dan cuts the rest of the two-by-fours with power saw. The smell of wood fills the air, making the room seem even more like a rustic cabin in the woods instead of a community center in the middle of West Dallas.
After every piece is taken care of, everyone claps and cheers. Boys Club isn’t a one-man job. They are a team. The boys are grateful to Dan for taking the time to invest different skills in them.
“He’s a nice businessman,” Alex Bowman, 12, says with a smile. “He teaches us more than what we could know by ourselves.”
Time is winding down, and it’s time to take a vote about how the stand will be used. One boy, Keyshawn, offers up an idea, and soon, everyone talks over each other. It’s a chaotic democracy of suggestions. Eventually everyone agrees they should sell lemonade in two different sizes for 50 cents and $1. They plan to give the proceeds to the homeless, because in the end, it’s better to give than receive.