Volunteer Spotlight: Wood Shop Volunteers

Resident & Wood Shop Volunteer George Fleet
Resident & Wood Shop Volunteer George Fleet

I bet you would never know that some of the beautiful wooden benches on campus were once painted and almost discarded because of their discoloring and weather-worn look. That was until some of them were taken to our campus wood shop to be stripped of their paint, sanded and stained to look like the beautiful teak wood they are today. To look at this transformation you would think it must’ve taken an employee hours and hours of hard work to make them beautiful again. Well you are right about one thing; it did take hours and hours of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ to make the benches beautiful again, but it was done by the hard work of our faithful wood shop volunteers! Many would be surprised what this fleet of 25 volunteers has accomplished on our campus and that is why we spotlight them this month!

Who Are the Wood Shop volunteers?

Resident & Wood Shop Volunteer Gayle Kerr
Resident & Wood Shop Volunteer Gayle Kerr

We thank our talented volunteers including: Virginia Allen, Tom Barker, Arlan Bond, Jack Burmeister, Bill Butler, Mark Cauffman, Mac Chandler, Andy Cruse, Ken Davis, Bob Davis, Walt Derkacz, Skip Emery, George Fleet, Paul Givler, Herb Horikowa, Russell Hyde, Gayle Kerr, Bill Kocher, Annie Law, Don Ludwig, Bruce McCleary, William Miller, Rod Muthard, Bob Palmer, Tom Parke, Ed Ritti, Carl Rogers, Rich Toscano and Bob Witters!

Why Do They Volunteer?

When asked how long they have been working with wood, many of the volunteers simply looked around the room as if to say, ‘I can’t remember a time when I WASN’T working with wood.’ Realistically, they have been working with wood anywhere from 84 years, 40 plus years, all the way to a brand new volunteer who has been learning the craft for 2 weeks.

One member remembers looking through a magazine and seeing something and saying, “Yea; I want to make that! And I ended up making 13 more of them for family and friends. From there, the rest is history.” Another member mentions he saw his father working with wood for most of his life and he started to dabble in it. He became even more serious while in the war and he saw others around him working and decided to become serious about learning the trade.

Resident & Wood Shop Volunteer Rod Muthard

The wood shop is open to new craftsman as well as the seasoned wood worker and everyone in between. “I find I come to the wood shop when I need help finishing a project. It’s nice to know people are here to help me if I’m not 100% sure on how to complete my work. All the guys are nice like that.”

Most of the members would agree that the wood shop helped draw their attention to Tel Hai and was helpful in making their decision to make Tel Hai their home. “I wouldn’t say it made the decision for me, but it definitely helped to know that I would have somewhere to go when I wanted something to do with my hands.” Most want something to do with their time that doesn’t include sitting behind a desk, rather sitting in front of a block of wood and knowing that in a few short weeks that block of wood will be a jigsaw puzzle for some child to play with.

Other members admit they joined the wood shop because they don’t have the typical wood working tools in their homes anymore and it’s so convenient to come in whenever they have something that needs fixed. “My wife let me bring most of my tools from home, but some were just too big or too messy. Since I’ve become a member of the wood shop, I don’t have to worry about the mess in my own home; I can just come here and work.”

What keeps these volunteers coming back for more saw dust? “Camaraderie; it’s really nice to have a place to go with people who have similar interests and where you can talk shop.” All the volunteers agree it also feels great to accomplish something. “It’s really nice to start with large pieces of wood, knowing I want this to turn into a bed or a sign and working through the whole process; it’s really good for the mind and soul.” They also claim they like to sit and listen to each other’s stories, time and time again. “If you sit in here long enough, someone will tell you 10 times how they made a particular piece, and we just like to razz on them about it.” Camaraderie? I would say so! Other volunteers added they like that the wood shop is a place to share information and they learn new things all the time.

What Do They Do?

Resident & Wood Shop Volunteer Rich Toscano
Resident & Wood Shop Volunteer Rich Toscano

Many residents would be surprised by all the projects the ‘elves’ in the wood shop have helped with. A small listing of their handy work includes general repairs for residents, refurbishing benches on campus, wooden podiums for the pools, fix lamps, fix chairs and tables, fitness room materials, re-do chairs in chapel, build ships, personal projects, suggestion boxes for staff, shelves, vacation form boxes, wooden signs, decorative pieces, physical therapy practice stairs, bird house, many other personal projects and whatever else comes their way from their neighbors and friends.

The wood shop volunteers can be found in the wood shop 7 days a week with varying hours, but you’re guaranteed to find someone there accepting items in need of repair every Tuesday morning from 9am-12pm. “This is the time residents can bring something in need of a fix to the shop and we take a look at it. Almost all of the time we are able to help them and fix it the right way instead of them having to go purchase something new.”

Some of the projects are a team effort. “Sometimes a chair will come in that needs repair and I can do the seat part of it and someone else can do the back part of it. It’s nice to be able to work as a team with other members to get things fixed.”

Resident & Wood Shop Volunteer Don Ludwig

Staff praises!

The wood shop volunteers help residents BUT they are also a big help to many staff, as well.

The wood shop has helped Residential Living by making wooden boxes for Social Services and the Wellness Nurse to hang outside their office. They also have made wooden boxes for both resident business centers for vacation forms, which is greatly appreciated! I love our wood shop volunteers- they are GEMS!” stated Katie Dougherty, Social Services – Residential Living.

“We love the folks in the wood shop! They are always willing to help!  They never say no to a job! Specifically, Rod Muthard was very willing to take on the task of creating the wooden signs for StoneCroft resident storage areas. He made 105 wooden signs with numbers,” stated Karen Cochran, Administrative Assistant – Residential Living.

“Rod Muthard made this beautiful stand in my office that I love it to stand and work at. The woodshop even comes in very handy when doing Christmas shopping.  Rod made a puzzle for my son that was from the movie Frozen and Bill Butler painted a beautiful picture for my daughter of her favorite horse,” stated Jessica Martin, Administrative Assistant – Residential Living.

While these 25 volunteers quietly work in a cloud of saw dust, listening to the same stories while laughing and making beautiful wood pieces, most of Tel Hai is blissfully unaware of all the great things happening in the lower level of the Hertzler Apartments.

Resident & Wood Shop Volunteer Bill Butler
Resident & Wood Shop Volunteer Bill Butler

Next time you are able to travel around the campus of Tel Hai, take a look and take a seat on one of the nice wooden benches and admire the new finish. Next time you’re signing in for water volleyball, take a look at the podium that was crafted just for that pool. Next time you’re submitting a vacation form, take an extra minute to look at the box to admire the hours it took volunteers to make. Many items have been crafted or repaired by our wonderful volunteers in the wood shop and that is why this month we are saying thank you and spotlighting our Wood Shop Volunteers!


Tel Hai’s Train Club welcomes you to their holiday open house during the dates and times listed below. View the 30-foot mural showcasing the Chester County countryside, created by professional artist and Tel Hai resident Loretta Gable Englerth! Bring your grandchildren and explore all the railway communities within the detailed tablescapes during the 2023 holiday…

Read More


Join Residential Living Counselor Tracy Weaver as she shares about Tel Hai at an in-person ‘Taste of Tel Hai’ event. Learn more about the Tel Hai lifestyle and decide if it could be perfect for you! Join us for a delicious lunch where you’ll learn about residential living options. You will get a great overview of our…

Read More


Discover the connected, convenient, and all-under-one-roof advantage of Hillcrest Apartments at our ‘Winter Open House’ from 1- 3 PM. Centrally located with indoor access to campus amenities like wellness spaces, a pool, various culinary venues, a convenience store, onsite medical suite and library, you’ll enjoy the winter months embraced in the warmth of community. With…

Read More

4 Replies to “Volunteer Spotlight: Wood Shop Volunteers”

  1. Thank you Wood Shop Volunteers for helping to make Tel Hai beautiful! I think I have a couple of repairs at home so I think I will stop by one of these Tuesdays. I’ve also been wanting a couple of butterfly houses! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *