By Greg Gerber
ATHENS, Texas — Following the acquisition of an RV park in Texas, plans to create the National RV Training Academy are moving forward with the first classes scheduled for January.
Terry and Evada Cooper, the owners of RV Daily Report, along with Steve and Kathy Jo Anderson, the owners of Workamper News, acquired the Texan RV Park in Athens, Texas, July 14. The 75-site park is currently undergoing renovation to add 33 additional RV sites and several cabins to accommodate students attending upcoming academy classes.
The campground is also installing fiber-optic lines to bring in high-speed Internet service that can be used to support campers, but also to accommodate live-stream video teaching broadcasts to students and dealerships worldwide.
Construction crews will arrive in September to begin leveling ground and installing utilities for the 12,000-square-foot Big Red School House and Community Center which will become the home of the National RV Training Academy.
Thanks to the generosity of a foundation managed by two former Mobile RV Academy students, the entire $700,000 construction cost of the building and parking area was covered by a grant.
“It’s an absolute God-thing,” said Terry Cooper. “While in the process of raising money, and securing financing for the project, we reached out to several former students and shared our vision of developing a training facility that could help build the industry.
“We approached two individuals who had completed training several months earlier and are now working as RV inspectors. When they learned the whole purpose of our mission, they agreed to cover the entire cost of building the Big Red School House and Community Center.”
The Coopers and Andersons are wrapping up the application to form a 501(c)(3) charity to manage the center. The stipulation to receiving the grant was that a specific percent of activity had to be used in support of non-profit organizations.
“That’s why we added the community center to the project so that local groups can meet there, as well as churches looking for a fun place to bring families for camping,” said Evada Cooper. “We’re going to offer space to youth organizations, like Scout troops, as well as provide training to missionaries heading into the field.”
Working in third-world countries, the missionaries need an understanding of solar power systems, direct current (DC) wiring and absorption refrigeration because electricity is not always readily available in the mission field, she added.
Workamper News Work Study Program
Like most RV parks, the Texan RV Park will employ workampers to help manage the day-to-day operations of the campground. The park will offer a free campsite and free utilities in exchange for working a certain number of hours per week registering guests, cleaning or performing maintenance.
However, workers who would like to take advantage of the academy’s training courses will be able to perform additional work and bank those hours as credits applied toward tuition for training classes at the Big Red School House. The credits can also be used to pay for the plethora of online training courses that will be developed once the academy opens. We call this opportunity to learn our Workamper News Work Study Program.
Other RV parks and campgrounds can take advantage of the same work study program.
“If a campground employs a promising workamper and would like to reward that person by sending him or her to a technical course offered by the National RV Training Academy, we can work with the business to establish credits toward the classes,” said Steve Anderson.
“The park employer could let the workamper bank some hours. By computing a dollar value to those hours, the campground would then pay for training the workamper could attend,” he added. “I’m sure there would be an understanding that the workamper would return the following year and employ their new skills as an RV maintenance campground technician or simply to become a better workamper.”
Other groups are looking to take advantage of the program as well. For example, AGS Publications offers credits to its renewing customers that can be used to pay for co-op marketing or other add-on services. AGS will be allowing campgrounds to use those credits to pay for tech courses at the National RV Training Academy.
Campgrounds interested in working out a similar arrangement are encouraged to reach out to Evada Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Equipment donations needed
As construction of the Big Red School House gets underway, the center is looking for donated equipment that students can use to diagnose and repair during the courses. Because the center will be a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, all donations are fully tax deductible as charitable contributions.
Some companies have already stepped up to offer equipment. Dexter will donate a 36-foot fifth wheel frame with axles and wheels. The center will use the frame to install slide-out and leveling systems so students can clearly see how the parts are intended to work.
RV manufacturers DRV Luxury Suites and Cruiser have asked for a list of needed equipment to funnel toward the training effort.
Two RV dealerships have already agreed to donate used RVs, parts and other equipment that can’t be returned to a manufacturer or supplier. Those dealerships opted to receive credited hours for future training instead of the tax credit.
“We would even accept donated RVs from RV owners,” said Terry Cooper. “How many times do families need to do something with the RV mom and dad have been using before they hung up the keys? Perhaps manufacturers needed to buy back units that needed extra work rather than doing the repairs themselves, the companies could donate the units to us.”
The Big Red School House would have students perform the necessary repairs as part of their hands-on training. Then the units would be resold or given away.
In fact, Cooper sees this as a way to raise additional funding for the non-profit organization by having students repair RVs that are then inspected by people affiliated with the National RV Inspectors Association. That allows the units to become Certified Preowned RVs that can then be resold with an extended service agreement policy.
“The money would be used to fund scholarships and purchase more equipment to use in training at the Big Red School House,” he added, noting the RVs can even be converted for use as mobile clinics to provide service to poor or extremely rural areas. “We see the need to support organizations such as the voluntary fire departments by providing a converted unit that can now be used as a mobile command center.
“We know RV manufacturers are often approached by charities looking for free RVs. Rather than giving away new RVS, perhaps the used units could be put to use by missionaries on furloughs as they visit their families and travel to meet with churches and groups supporting their efforts. We see that some of these RVs can be used by shelters to house women and children leaving abusive situations.
“We see this type of arrangement as being a win-win-win scenario,” Cooper explained. “It’s a win for RV manufacturers or dealers looking to unload repairable RVs and either get a tax write off or credit for future tech training courses. It’s a win for the Big Red School House because we get up-to-date equipment for our students to use in training. It’s a win for other non-profit organizations that may be just as happy with the gift of a certified pre-owned RV for use in supporting their missions or projects.”
Dealers, manufacturers and suppliers will have several opportunities to learn more about the training programs, charitable donation plan and work study program. The Coopers and Andersons plan to attend the RV Dealers Association convention and expo Nov. 6 to 10 in Las Vegas, as well as the National RV Trade Show Nov. 27 to 30 in Louisville, Ky.
For more information on specific equipment needs or ways to donate a recreation vehicle, contact Terry Cooper at email@example.com or call 254.715.7388.