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Building friendships

Woodshop groups at Erickson Living communities collaborate

Created date

May 7th, 2017
(From left) Maris Grove woodshop chairman Bill Queale shakes hands with Charlie Bustard of Ann’s Choice, and Maris Grove woodshop member Hal Marden shakes with Jack Cunningham of Seabrook.

(From left) Maris Grove woodshop chairman Bill Queale shakes hands with Charlie Bustard of Ann’s Choice, and Maris Grove woodshop member Hal Marden shakes with Jack Cunningham of Seabrook.

Members of campus woodshop groups at Erickson Living communities love their hands-on hobby and use their skills on a variety of projects. Two years ago, when members of the woodshop at Seabrook, the Erickson Living community in Tinton Falls, N.J., needed new project ideas, they reached out to their peers at sister sites. 

Woodshop members at Maris Grove in Delaware County, Pa., accepted Seabrook’s invitation to tour its shop, attend its monthly meeting, and have lunch in one of Seabrook’s private dining rooms.

As the woodworkers talked shop, they got to know one another. 

For instance, Seabrook’s woodshop does more repairs than anything else. Jack Cunningham, who chairs the group, says that every week community members bring them items that need repair, from broken lamp switches to furniture. 

“We don’t know where residents would go if they didn’t have us,” Jack says.

But his group does more than just repair work, so to share ideas, Jack gave the Maris Grove guests a book of patterns for wood items his group makes. 

Maris Grove members brought finished projects to share with their hosts.

Returning the favor

Last October Maris Grove’s woodshop group invited its colleagues at Seabrook and Ann’s Choice, Erickson Living’s community in Bucks County, Pa., to visit. 

Ann’s Choice’s woodshop boasts 90 members. Its focus, says president Charlie Bustard, is repairing furniture for their campus neighbors. 

“The shop is so large and so well equipped that I think it’s one of the things that attracts people to Ann’s Choice,” he says. 

The same thing could be said of Maris Grove’s woodshop. 

Its chairperson, Bill Queale, says that members possess a wide variety of skills. Two of them are former shop instructors. Several others, DuPont retirees, are engineers. A woman member is an artist.

Members also have project preferences. Some specialize in small projects like the wooden toys the group sells at Maris Grove’s craft shows. Others make furniture. Many focus on making items for their own use.

Proceeds from the items they sell are donated to Maris Grove’s resident care fund, scholars fund, and staff appreciation fund. Last year’s donations totaled $3,300.

The Seabrook and Ann’s Choice groups make similar donations to their respective communities.

The Maris Grove group also turns out work for use on campus, designing and making items such as collection bins for charitable donation drives organized by the resident outreach club.

It’s even established an off-campus collaborative relationship with nearby Newlin Gristmill. Besides making small wooden items for the mill’s educational programs, the group makes reproductions of c. 1750-era mill furnishings that are as authentic as possible. 

Some of the pieces call for skills rarely found today. For example, the mill commissioned two desks that required hand-cut dovetails, nearly a forgotten art. But Maris Grove woodworker Bob Sklar knows how to do that, and he did. 

Using that age-old skill made the project especially meaningful for Bob. 

When Seabrook’s members heard about the gristmill connection, it gave Jack Cunningham the idea to contact Crawford House, a historic home near Seabrook in New Jersey. The call was serendipitous for both parties. 

“We have the wood if you’ll do the work,” Jack was told. Since then, his group has made two cabinets for the historic site. 

Jack and Bill hope the annual get-togethers continue. Seabrook will likely host Maris Grove again this fall so the groups can talk shop and swap ideas. 

But mainly, they’ll share the special camaraderie that exists among people who work with wood.

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