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story.lead_photo.caption Lane Fennewald, left, looks on as Hunter Kueffer grinds down weld spots on the metal work. Fennewald is a junior at Blair Oaks High School while Kueffer is a Russellville High School junior. They and fellow students in Kenny Thomas' welding class at Nichols Career Center are once again making stainless steel yard ornaments to sell for Christmas. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Nichols Career Center welding students are putting Christmas cheer to work with the school's annual yard sign project.

Students will craft metal signs to raise funds for Special Olympics Missouri and the VA Clinic in Jefferson City, instructor Kenny Thomas said.

Nearly 30 students from the Jefferson City School District, Helias Catholic High School, the Cole R-1 (Russellville) School District and other sending schools work on the project about three times a week.

Nichols offers career and technical training to students at 12 area high schools.

Holiday pieces range from 40 inches to 3 feet tall with a variety of phrases such as "Joy," "Noel" and "Merry Christmas" as well as a figure of the nativity scene. The group is also selling monogrammed door hangers and taking custom orders.

Signs are made from donated low-grade stainless steel and cut on a computerized plasma cutter the center purchased in 2017, Thomas said.

Designs are cut by the machine in less than five minutes, and the long stakes slide into the ground easily, he said.

"If you don't like climbing on your roof putting Christmas lights on, pop these in the ground and they're there," Thomas said.

Prices range from $25-$150. The group will stop taking orders Dec. 12.

Sales from 2017 and 2018 raised a total of $8,000 for local charities including The Salvation Army and Toys for Tots, Thomas said. This year, the goal is to land between $3,500-$4,500.

A small portion of the holiday sign sales go toward taking the students to welding competitions around the state.

The project teaches the students to give back, Thomas said.

"I like giving back because I got a talent," he said. "I was blessed with a talent of welding and knowledge. In return, I try to teach my kids: Always give back the extra that you have been given."

Before the holiday break, Helias senior Beau Winge cut a 36-inch three-piece nativity scene. The plasma cutter took about one minute to cut Joseph's image.

Winge is training other students to use the machine.

"I like the fact that we're working for the community doing the charitable stuff," Winge said. "My neighbors have the Christmas signs in their yard. I like seeing my work out around town and knowing that I did it, that we did it as a class."

Orders can be placed by email to [email protected]

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