Expansion of the woodworking shop at Green Ridge Village in Newville is giving seniors new opportunities to go after a hobby they love. Actually, the shop is home to the Green Ridge Village Wood Workers Group, a membership of 18 Green Ridge residents who enjoy carpentry and woodworking.
The expansion, which includes renovation of the shop and construction of an addition onto the building, is possible due to a $140,000 fundraising campaign organized by the group and supported by their families and friends, as well as local businesses.
Features include restrooms and new entryways, as well as a ramp to make the building handicap-accessible.
“We also have a special finishing room to paint, varnish or lacquer without sawdust from the machines,” said Dan Cash, one of the members who helped found the group in 2011. “There’s more room for the machinery, and that makes it safer … (and) a ramp makes it very easy for any of our residents to come to the shop.”
Shelly Northcott, sales director of independent living at Green Ridge, said the men and women who make up the group are well known throughout Green Ridge. They have repaired furniture, rewired lamps, helped reconstruct the campus chapel, and built everything from shelves and television stands to benches and birdhouses, often at the request of administrators and other residents.
“Their role is to give back, not just to Green Ridge but to the broader community, through something they love, and that passion is woodworking,” she said.
Northcott said the group worked with Mission Support through Presbyterian Senior Living, which is Green Ridge’s parent corporation, to create the fundraising campaign last year.
She said campaign donations came in quickly, and the construction phase of the project was finished in about four months.
“We’re now in the process of painting, and then all of the equipment will be moved back in and repositioned,” she said.
Debonny Shoaf, 64, is one of four women in the group. She said she had no experience using power tools but was impressed with the group when she learned about it during a tour of Green Ridge. A biologist before retiring, her only concern was safety, however Cash put her fears to rest and volunteered to be her mentor while she learned to properly operate the equipment.
She took part in just a few months after she and her husband moved there in 2014.
“It was because I worked in a laboratory that I was sensitive to the need for safety … (and) the idea of using power equipment was very scary,” she said. “But he (Cash) put safety first. He paid so much attention to safety that it gave me the courage to overcome any fear I had of power tools.”
Cash said safety is indeed a top priority. Members of the group are required to be certified in the operation of each piece of machinery they wish to use.
Shoaf said Cash taught her all about woodworking, and she finished her first project – a cherry wood bench for her cottage – in six months.
“Dan led me through, step by step, and I learned so much,” she said. “I learned about specialized cuts and finishing techniques. It was a remarkable project.”
Shoaf said she joined the group because it provided an “opportunity to do something that engaged the heart and mind and soul.” She remains a member because she found a hobby she loves that helps her stay young.
“The idea of being in a state of discovery – I think that is the secret of aging well,” she said.
Cash agrees. “We take a lot of pride in what we do, and we’re always learning new woodworking techniques,” he said. “It involves a lot of mathematics to keep our minds young.”
Cash, 68, introduced his wife to woodworking, too.
“I’ve been a woodworker for many years, and Carol has always helped me,” he said of his wife, who is also a member of the group.
When Cash and his wife moved to Green Ridge five years ago, he and another resident worked together to organize the woodworkers group. Over the years, membership has grown from six to 18.
“We got the bylaws and permission from Green Ridge Village, and we gathered some machinery,” he recalled. “As time went on, we improved the machinery. Eventually, we needed more room, and that’s where we are now.”
Membership in the woodworking group is open to all residents of Green Ridge Village, both experienced crafters and beginners.
“Anyone who wants to sign up is great with us,” Cash said.
The group holds monthly membership meetings, but the shop is open any time for members to work on projects. Funding is through membership fees, annual fees and donations. “It’s just an extraordinary group here at a village that is in itself extraordinary in so many ways,” Shoaf said.