For a couple years now, Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity had sold wooden snowman cutouts to be decorated for display at Independence's George Owens Nature Park as a fundraiser. The snowmen went on display along the trail for the annual Winter Solstice Torch Lit Hike and stayed up through most of the winter.

This year, Habitat planned to do penguin cutouts for the solstice hike, which is Wednesday. But with a store move and building projects, volunteers were a bit busy.

So, someone got a hold of Fort Osage High School and asked if some industrial arts students might be able to lend a hand.

“They seemed pretty gung-ho,” shop teacher Justin Dealy said of the students. “It's always good to give the guys an opportunity to give back; a lot of them don't get the opportunity.”

By mid-November, they had cut out about 70 penguin figures.

“We were pretty slammed with our construction program, and we didn't want to take crews off the home-build projects,” Truman Heritage president/CEO Christina Leakey said. “We worked with the vocational training classes, and they designed the cutout.”

“I was for it; it's just been fun helping out,” junior Zach Wittman said, having just completed his latest project – a tall, square end table.

“It was good practice for the jigsaw,” senior John Leibrecht added, referring to the hand-held saw with a vertical blade ideal for such outlines. “It sounded fun and seemed easy enough. I got the hang of it quickly.”

With students from three classes working, Dealy said, on average they cut two figures apiece.

“It was really good for first-year students, a lot of practice,” he said. “For a while it was all hands on deck.”

The penguin figures have been available for $10 apiece at the Habitat for Humanity ReStores, 505 N. Dodgion Ave. and 1219 N.W. Missouri 7 in Blue Springs, during regular business hours, until supplies run out. Participants then drop off decorated penguins at the George Owens Nature Park, 1601 S. Speck Road.

Leakey said the penguin cutouts have proven to be a little harder for people to find inspiration to decorate, but “there's some really cute ones.”

“What we've loved the first few years is we saw community groups come together and get engaged in decorating them. “Some people liked the snowmen cutouts so much they bought them just to decorate and put in their yards.”

The Winter Solstice Torch Lit Hike is 5-6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the nature park, and the penguins will remain on display on the trail through the end of the January.