Tallmadge -- Building on youngsters' natural curiosity, The Henry Bierce Co., 50 Southeast Ave., encourages hands-on learning through a free Saturday program once a month.
Bierce's "Little Builders" program welcomes children to the store, where they get to tackle various wooden projects, like catapults, school buses and bug barns.
Emily Morrison, the office manager with Bierce, says the Little Builders program was the brainchild of her colleague, Daniel Bell, a sales associate there. Known as "Dan the Handyman," Bell has experience as a construction worker, a carpenter and iron worker.
"He has three kids who want to spend time with their dad and he works every Saturday," Morrison says. "So he's like, 'Why don't we start a program here for kids?' and we kind of ran with it. I have the organizational skills and Dan has a can-do attitude."
"All some kids do today is play video games or on a computer," Bell says. "But I wanted to give back and share the joy I get from making things. Some of these kids have never built anything and they realize it's fun. You see them shine when they finish a project, amazed at what they're capable of."
The Little Builders program debuted in July with two sessions, accommodating 20 children in each. Today, Morrison says, 60 youngsters take part and there is a waiting list to participate. Sponsors cover the cost of all the materials and tools, goggles and aprons are provided.
Participants must be 5 years of age or older and many are regulars, coming every month.
"The kids are so happy and they're all so excited," according to Morrison. "They're making friends, and the older kids help the younger ones. And parents often stay and they end up making memories with their kids. I think they have as much fun as the kids do."
The Henry Bierce Co. has been open in Tallmadge since 1910. A big draw for children on site are the company's two birds, as well as free popcorn and 10-cent Cokes.
On Oct. 22, a fall festival is being planned for the Little Builders participants. They'll visit Ritchie's Sporting Goods, 137 South Ave., where they'll try their hand at screenprinting. Then they'll head back over to Bierce, Morrison says, to make candy mazes and trick-or-treat on the premises.
That same day, Bierce will be conducting a bucket sale. When a bucket is purchased, the buyer will get 20 percent off anything that fits inside (with the exception of Milwaukee Power tools). The Little Builders will use proceeds from the sale of the buckets toward a Christmas tree project for Akron Children's Hospital.
"To give up a little bit of time for these kids, to give them some basic skills, a little pride in themselves, that's not a sacrifice," Bell says, "that's investing in the next generation. As a dad, I wouldn't want to be doing anything else."
For more information about the Little Builders program, contact Morrison or Bell by calling 330-633-3282 or visit the Henry Bierce Little Builders Facebook page.
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC