Our own Luke B. took to the podium, having been asked at the last minute (Thanks, Luke!) to update members on this flagship program. He began, though, announcing that the Woodworking Festival scheduled for May 2 and 3 has been cancelled due to the virus issue.
Luke said that if anyone would like to see some totally interesting stuff, he has made a Facebook posting and that “you should follow the comments some of which are not very complimentary”. Yet, in spite of the critics posting these negative comments, Luke said he knows that this program has had a huge impact on those who participate in it every single week.
Some of the data he shared with us included: as of last Wednesday some 114 people have signed up to participate at the workshop. Anywhere betwee 25 and 35 (20% participation rate) show up every Wednesday to work on projects or just sit and drink coffee and fellowship with others., Luke said. He said that when 35 of them are there at one time, things can get pretty crowded. Lastly, 97% of participants in the program, Luke said, were men.
Luke said the annual cost to run this program is about $50,000. “When you take the number of total number of people signed up, that comes out to be $7.14 per person/day. It gets them free education, free wood and other materials, can use every piece of equipment, and free coffee! So, it’s working out very well for us”, Luke said.
Luke shared with the audience the funding information saying that as of today they have received $33,000 in cash. When they reach $35,000 that is the bare minimum needed to continue the program, Luke said. They have set a goal of $50,000 which is the ideal amount and annual goal so as not to “have to run on a shoestring budget”. With some veterans requiring more needs than others, he said, they have had to purchase items like walkers and other necessities.
One of the audience members asked Luke how he got involved in this to which he answered that he actually tried to launch this 4 years ago but it “just didn’t take” at that time since they didn’t have the infrastructure. Luke felt that the workshop was a good thing for the community and he wanted to “share it with as many people as possible and especially with veterans who are in need which seemed like a really great fit”. “Because the environment is not too formal, not too sterile, it’s actually therapy disguised as woodworking”, he said.
Some of the participants, Luke said, come as far as one and a half to two hours away every Wednesday! Luke said that while most of the participants won’t come right out and say how this program has changed their lives, he did say that a Veteran Navigator from the VA told Luke personally that he heard a couple of the guys in the program whose names he could not divulge said that they were contemplating suicide and that the Rotary Woodworking Warriors program helped pull them out of it!
Luke concluded by responding to a question about whether or not he was looking for a larger building to which he responded “yes”. He also said he was in contact currently with Aget Manufacturing for a new dust collection system. By itself, he said, it would cost over $50,000!