We all love to decorate for Christmas, and sometimes the decorations can have more meaning then just celebrating the season and keeping up with our traditions. Concordia at Cabot Haven resident Jack Brown uses his woodturning skills to create beautiful ornaments and other projects to help those in need.
Jack’s interest started when he was growing up in Gibsonia, PA.
“When I was a young kid, I was always interested in some kind of woodworking,” Jack said. “I loved making decorations at Christmastime.”
After he grew up, Jack started working at his family’s excavating business as an excavating contractor, and his interest in woodworking was rekindled by some extra lumber in 1995.
“We were working a job in Seven Fields one day, and the carpenters were throwing away waste materials,” Jack said. “I thought that I could use the lumber for something, so one day I went down the road and bought a lathe – that started it.”
Jack started working on different projects for himself, and he also found a community of people with similar hobbies.
“I saw on our bulletin board at work that there was a woodturning club in Pittsburgh, so I joined and kept on going from there,” Jack said. “Right now, I belong to three different woodturning clubs in the area and the American Association of Woodturners in St. Paul, Minnesota.”
In addition to learning from his fellow club members, Jack has also taken woodturning classes, and recently did a virtual demonstration for the Indiana County Woodturners Association.
“You just pick up woodturning as you go along – like any other hobby,” Jack said. “You don’t always know in the beginning how something will turn out, but you just keep going.”
What he has learned over the years goes into the many charitable projects he has participated in, including making Christmas ornaments for a program at Hosanna Industries, a non-profit mission headquartered in Southwestern Pennsylvania that builds and repairs homes for needy households.
“I’ve known the people who started Hosanna Industries since they first started the organization, since I did work for them as an excavating contractor,” Jack said. “After they started their Festival of Trees, I began donating ornaments that I made.”
At the Festival of Trees, Christmas trees and handmade decorations are available for purchase, with all proceeds benefiting the mission. Jack makes a wide variety of ornaments for the project, including snowmen, lighthouses and other beautiful designs. This year he completed about 60 total, some painted, others inlaid with different colored wood and others left to let the natural wood shine through.
“I make all kinds of shapes, and I mostly use pine construction lumber,” Jack said. “I like to use whatever lumber scraps I can find to make them – pieces that many people might just throw away – that way nothing gets wasted.”
Through his woodturning clubs, Jack has also helped out with other volunteer projects, including making spinning tops for children staying in hospitals over Christmas, creating wooden bowls to hold Beads of Courage (a program in which children and teens receive colorful beads to represent their strength during medical treatment experiences) at children’s hospitals, helping to teach veterans woodworking skills at the Wounded Warrior Project and much more.
When Jack moved to Concordia earlier in January 2020, he gave most of his woodworking equipment to his niece, who lives in Hopewell Township. While he can still visit with her and use the machines periodically, he mainly works out of the woodshop in his Concordia Haven retirement living community, always creating new pieces.
“It’s a great pastime to have,” he said. “It’s good for you because it can take your mind off everything else. And it’s been great to meet so many people over the years with similar interests.”
With the ornaments finished, Jack is now focused on making and donating wooden pens for our overseas troops to use, a project he has helped different woodturning clubs with many times.
“I believe the original goal for one club was 100,000 pens, and now I think we’ve reached up to about 300,000,” Jack said. “We just keep on going.”
Jack has had even more free time to dedicate to his projects during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he’s happy to be at a community like Concordia.
“Being here has been great – Concordia delivers meals to our rooms and even picks up our grocery shopping,” he said. “It’s a great place, and I’ve really enjoyed being here so far. Everyone is very nice.”
If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about the retirement living options offered at the Concordia Haven Apartments on our Cabot campus, visit www.ConcordiaHaven.org or schedule a tour today. Call Peggy at 724-352-5378 or message us through the contact form on our website.
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