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Donors turn woodcraft into engaging activity for Veterans

The experienced hands of the woodturning instructor hold a block of wood while the Veteran holds his project, a pen, in place as they try to assemble it.
The experienced hands of the volunteer woodturning instructor, Mike Kuterback, hold a block of wood while U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, Larry Daniels, holds his project, a pen, in place as they try to assemble it on March 31, 2023 at Coatesville VA.

Donor organizations, volunteers, and staff at the Coatesville VA Medical Center came together to launch a woodturning program in March.

The primary goal is to provide an engaging activity for our hospitalized Veterans who are suffering from anxiety and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Veterans participating in this cost-free woodturning program under the oversight of Recreation Therapy are provided with the needed tools and instructions.

Behind the activities
Meeting the needs of a complete equipment set-up, were donors Justamere Foundation and the charitable organization David's Drive 831, donating two new lathes, valued at $12,000, to include the necessary hand tools and safety equipment.

The Center for Development and Civic Engagement (CDCE), formerly known as Voluntary Service, recruited volunteer instructors, coordinated the space, scheduled safety evaluations and developed a standard operating procedure.

Mike Kuterback and Thomas Scurto-Davis serve as volunteer instructors and share their woodturning talents by providing Veterans basic knowledge and instruction. Training covers equipment use, proper handling of tools, and how to turn a block of wood into a pen or a bowl. Regardless of their skill level, Veterans leave each session with a completed project.

The Veterans turn
A wooden pen was the project of Larry Daniels, a Marine Corps Veteran, adding with a smile, that he'll give his creation to his mother. "The most difficult part of this project is learning to have the right touch, but the instructor does a great job explaining the techniques," said Daniels, "Last time I worked with wood was in high school." Daniels gives this program a thumbs up, "yeah, I enjoy it, it's a great experience."

Also enjoying the experience and making a pen is Navy Retired Richard (Rick) Watson who has some wood working experience, but never worked with a lathe. "I find it interesting to get to know how this lathe works, knowing where and how to cut," said Watson.

Both, Veterans definitely find the woodturning program to be a valuable experience and would recommend for their peers to take the opportunity to sign-up during their stay at the Coatesville VAMC.

Recreation Therapy will continue to advertise and hopes for this free program to catch on and grow amongst Veterans.

The woodturning program is currently offered every other Friday, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

How to start
The woodturning training and other recreational activities are only possible with the support of volunteers who give a few hours each week to touch the lives of hospitalized Veterans.

CDCE is looking for additional volunteers for the woodturning shop. If you are interested in volunteering and have the knowledge, please contact Jennifer Lilly at 610-383-0272.

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