Making a Buzz–White Horse Village

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The saws hum. The drills purr. The hammers bang. The woodworkers are making a buzz again.

In the Woodshop at White Horse Village, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Newtown Square, Pa., it is rarely quiet. Industrious woodworkers are going about their various tasks—from building shelves to handcrafting tables. Some of them are hobbyists, others professionals, but they all work for free and donate the proceeds of their efforts to the White Horse Village Endowment Fund or Residents’ Association. Most of the craftsmen’s philanthropic efforts benefit their beloved community and their fellow residents.

White Horse Village woodworkers: FRONT - Phil Voltz, Bill Erb and George Garman; BACK - Charlie Bates, Matt Laine and Anne Nichols.

White Horse Village woodworkers: FRONT – Phil Voltz, Bill Erb and George Garman; BACK – Charlie Bates, Matt Laine and Anne Nichols.

Since its inception nearly 25 years ago, White Horse Village has been home to two woodshops, and carpentry continues to be a popular activity among residents. Although most of the participants are men, some female residents have gotten in on the action over the years. Today, most of the work going on in the wood shop is to benefit the White Horse Village Resident Reserve Fund. The woodshop has contributed more than $75,000 to the community through the years. The talented woodworkers are also always willing and able to lend a hand to a neighbor in need of a shelf or a furniture repair.

While most of the projects benefit White Horse Village, the woodworkers have also taken on some interesting—and unusual—projects to help the larger community. For instance, several volunteer woodworkers have constructed bone boxes— boxes used by University of Pennsylvania medical students to hold bones from cadavers used for research. This past winter, the woodworkers partnered with Swarthmore College and Widener University to build Gamelan cabinets for Stetser Elementary School in Chester, Pa. A Gamelan is a set of traditional Indonesian instruments, and the custom cabinet was built to safely house the unique instruments.

Over the years, the woodworkers have also helped with both preservation and environmental efforts. They constructed historic replicas of colonial water jugs and benches that are used at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation in Ridley Creek State Park, which is adjacent to the campus. Nearby Edgmont Township received custom cabinets to house their town’s archives.

Finally, the woodworkers have been instrumental in the promotion of the statewide bluebird trail. Once an endangered species, bluebirds have returned to the east coast as a result of the efforts of various conservation groups. White Horse’s woodworkers have constructed and maintained 14 bluebird houses on campus. These houses keep the beautiful birds safe from predators, and are now monitored by a dedicated group of residents. The woodworkers also constructed and donated many bluebird houses to neighboring Ridley Creek State Park and Edgmont Township.

Even while taking on outside projects, the woodworkers are still always ready to help at home. Their efforts were essential to the recent renovations to the White Horse Village Clubhouse. With their help, the community was able to salvage and repair much of the existing wood furniture—saving thousands of dollars. The newly refinished benches and tables perfectly complement the beautiful new pieces that were purchased as part of the renovation.

The woodworkers have also been essential to the growth and expansion of another White Horse Village institution—the Village Singers. An 80-member chorus, the Singers are the pride of the community, and they continue to grow in both numbers and professionalism. A major boost to their development came when a local chorus offered to donate their library of choral music to the Singers. While the group gratefully accepted the donation, they quickly realized that storing such a large volume of music would be a challenge.

“We had all the music envelopes stacked in a helter-skelter fashion,” recalled Kay Stretton, co-director of the chorus. “After we received a donation to purchase wood and supplies, two master craftsmen from the Woodshop volunteered to design and build a superb library, with floor to ceiling shelves, a built in desk, and a work table, which were then painted by their colleague. The result was spectacular!”

One project that never seems to end is the woodshop’s work for Octofair, the Resident Association’s largest annual fundraising event. The money

A sampling of items that are sold at the annual Octofair, all made by the woodworkers, including: a miniature doll house, bowls, plates and wine bottle holders.

A sampling of items that are sold at the annual Octofair, all made by the woodworkers, including: a miniature doll house, bowls, plates and wine bottle holders.

raised during Octofair covers programs and activities for the following year; last year, the event raised more than $20,000. Throughout the year, the woodworkers make crafts, toys and gifts to sell at the fair. They also create an intricate dollhouse every year for the accompanying auction. The house is completely furnished and every room is painted, wall papered and carpeted.

The projects the woodworkers take on for White Horse Village and the surrounding community are seemingly endless. The dedicated craftsmen are already preparing for Octofair 2014. These talented and generous individuals have become such an essential part of the community that nearly every day someone at White Horse Village says, “Ask the woodshop; they can fix it!” And they do. And that’s what all the buzz is about.

Published: April 2014

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