A closer look – repurposing microscopes for good

by Mike Wadle, First, DeKalb and Marlene Winkie, Our Savior’s, Rockford

When the science classes at the Rocky Boy Indian School in MT and the Red Cloud Indian School in SD began the fall semester this year, there was a gift of love awaiting the students. Ten refurbished microscopes for each school were shipped from Northern Illinois.

3-lens student microscope

This “microscope story” began in the summer of 2018, when Pat Schlinder was contacted by Sara, a middle school science teacher in Minnesota. Her school was replacing old microscopes, which had Pat’s Scope Shoppe phone number on the base. Sara hoped to avoid the microscopes being put into a dumpster. Pat called Mike Wadle, member of First Lutheran Church, DeKalb and retired DeKalb High School teacher. In previous years, Pat, Mike, and DHS teachers and students had refurbished other used microscopes, including changing their electrical systems to solar, and worked out transport to Lutheran Secondary Schools in Tanzania, Africa.

So Mike contacted former First, DeKalb members Jim & Carol Dayton now living in Cambridge, MN, and they agreed to meet Sara in St. Cloud, MN to exchange the microscopes. In the fall, Jim & Carol brought the microscopes to Mike when passing through DeKalb, and Mike moved them to Pat’s Shoppe.

Nancy Dashner, member of First’s Social Justice Team, suggested that we investigate the possibilities for these 20 microscopes going to Native American Schools, including Rocky Boy in Montana, which is a partner of our Northern Illinois Synod, and Red Cloud in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, which Nancy’s neighbor had been supporting for some years. With guidance from Kim Choin, N IL Synod Women’s President, Mike contacted Rocky Boy School, and Nancy established contacts with Red Cloud School.

4-lens teacher microscope

While Pat cleaned, lubricated, and replaced parts, the search was on for a means of transporting the microscopes to MT and SD. Kim connected Mike with Carol Swenson from Our Savior’s, Rockford, who planned to drive with her sister to visit Rocky Boy in August. Tammy Farley, member of Bethlehem, DeKalb, and Synod Council Treasurer, transported the renewed microscopes to Carol in Rockford while in route to a Synod Council meeting.

Determining there was insufficient room in Carol’s car for the 20 microscopes, the quest began of how to cover the cost of shipping. After exploring various options, two members of Our Savior’s, Rockford, each applied for Thrivent Action Grants to help with the shipping cost. The grants were promptly given and, with joy, the microscopes were packed and shipped on Thursday, August 15.

On Tuesday, August 20, we received the following email from Red Cloud: “Hello. The microscopes have made it to Red Cloud today. They will be going to our second elementary school, Our Lady of Lourdes in Porcupine, SD. Thank you so much for the donation!”

It takes a team! Many of Our Hands doing God’s Work.