July 10, 2015 // 1:42 PM
Meet the Garden Spot Village Wood Shop
Written by Scott Miller
Soon after John Dolan moved to Garden Spot Village two years ago, he found a home. His first week here, he discovered the Woodshop, paid his dues, and joined.
"It was like making 35 instant new good friends," says Dolan, who will serve as the group's chairman this year. "You can spend a couple hours down there and only get 15 minutes of work done, because you're having so much fun with friends telling jokes and laughing."
Dolan spent most of his career as a dentist, but he had worked as a carpenter during some summers and did woodworking as a hobby for 10 years. Recent projects have included an acorn-shaped birdhouse for the Birdhouse Show & Silent Auction and a reproduction of a Shaker low-back chair with a rushed seat for the Fall Festival & Country Auction. Woodshop members generously contributed their time and talents to make those annual fundraisers successful. In fact, their handiwork is visible throughout Garden Spot Village.
"Look at the oak work around the conservatory doors," says Bill Ashley, who served as chairman last year.
From the welcome center to the conference room table, display cases and shelving, to the signs around campus, the Woodshop members have had a hand in it. They spruce up items for the Share & Care Shop and repair items for residents. Every other year, they hold a cardboard boat regatta. "That's a lot of fun. Some are absolutely extravagant," Ashley says. "When the staff has Take Your Child to Work Day, we set up a project in the Woodshop so the kids can build something like a birdhouse or a game. We do the same for Grands & Kids Camp."
Woodshop members have also played a key role in mission projects in Honduras and Mennonite Disaster Service projects on and off the Garden Spot Village Campus.
The Best Year $35 Can Buy
The Woodshop has about 75 dues-paying members, about half of whom are very active. It includes a small group of women who do outstanding decorative work. The annual $35 dues goes toward lumber, screws and nails, hardware, glue, sandpaper, and small hand-held electric tools that need to be replaced. The shop is fully stocked with top-of-the-line power tools and hand tools, much of it donated by members, as well as a supply of plywood and different hardwoods. Local lumber yards and cabinet shops often donate their remnants.
"I've been to other communities that have shops, and ours is by far the most elaborate. We're very fortune," says Dolan.
"Over the last 15 years, we have developed almost a commercial-type shop. In the beginning it was kind of a home workshop," says Bill George, who has been a member throughout. The Woodshop has expanded to fill three rooms, including one dedicated to painting and refinishing.
Woodshop dues also include the combination to the lock, so members can work on projects when the spirit moves them—as long as they don't run machinery on Sundays.
"My wife used to say, 'Why don't you take a cot?'" says George, who spends a lot of time in the shop. "the Woodshop is what brought me here. The last thing the mover put on the van when I moved here was my workbench. I put it in the Woodshop."
George has enjoyed woodworking as a hobby since he was 14, and spent most of his life in the construction industry, working his way from carpenter to construction manager. But experience with wood is not a prerequisite for membership.
"If you're an experienced woodworker, we welcome you, and you'll fit right in," says George. "If you never have worked with wood, we welcome you the same way. The camaraderie here is wonderful, and we all help each other."