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Crafting Community: How Our Woodshop Inspires Retirement Joy

Spend some time with Oscar I., the Woodshop President at Village On The Isle, and his passion and creativity will inspire you. Always eager for the next project, Oscar’s dedication to the craft of woodworking is balanced with a steadfast commitment to safety. No rough edges here. While he loves the shop, especially its new expansion, Oscar takes pride in serving his fellow residents and bonding through giving back.

But it’s easy to understand why because, as Oscar explains, the woodshop provides more than a designated area to master specific skills—it serves as a gathering place, a creative respite, a repair shop, AND Santa’s Workshop.

older man in woodshop, Photo credit by Stephanie Snow Photography at Venice City Lifestyle Magazine
Photo credit by Stephanie Snow Photography at Venice City Lifestyle Magazine

Fun and Safety Go Hand-In-Hand

Woodworking is truly an enriching and rewarding activity that everyone can enjoy no matter your experience. From beginners to craftsman, Oscar emphasizes safety in the woodshop.

“We want to make [this] a safe place,” Oscar says. “It’s important for people of all skill levels to be cognizant and adopt good habits here, like sweeping sawdust to prevent falls and proper training on different equipment safely.”  

Woodworking can truly be enjoyed by everyone, according to Oscar. If you have limited mobility or don’t want to use the heavy machinery but still want to tool around, you’re welcome in the shop. We encourage participation and learning new things here.  

“It’s a great expression of creativity, it’s relaxing, it’s forgiving. You create a tangible object from start to finish and learn something new,” Oscar beams enthusiastically. “We can show you how to sand something, put axles on a wheel for a toy car, or help paint.”

Simply put: everybody can find their craft. If not, we’ll build something new together. 

New Woodshop Expansion

Thanks to partnerships with local vendors, Lowe’s, and the generous donations of funds, tools, equipment, and material, Oscar shares that there’s plenty to enjoy about the space.

For more square footage, we repurposed our former skilled nursing facility—now known as the Village Commons—to not only allow the creation of designated areas related to toy production but also accommodate residents’ woodworking needs.

The woodshop now boasts:  

Oscar in the woodshop
Photo credit by Stephanie Snow Photography at Venice City Lifestyle Magazine
  • Cubby area for residents
  • Individual workstations
  • Designated areas like:
    • Finishing room
    • Fix-It room
    • Storage 
  • New Equipment Includes:
    • Lathe
    • Table saws of various sizes
    • Band saws
    • Miter saws
    • Planers
    • Jointer
    • Scroll saws
    • Drill presses
    • Pen lathe
    • Oscillating spindle sanders
    • Fixed and portable belt sanders
    • Disc sanders
    • Jig saws
    • Air compressors
    • Dust collection filter systems
    • Chisel sharpening equipment
    • Various types of power sanders
    • Power drills and assorted power tools
    • A large collection of woodworking hand tools and clamps
    • Router tables and portable routers
    • And many more

Our Toy Ministry

For more than 20 years, Dave and Marie Sutherlin (with the help of a small but mighty crew) created their version of Santa’s Workshop in their Nokomis garage. In the season of giving, the workshop served a greater purpose—it’s where the Sutherlins and others devoted their time and skills to crafting hundreds of wooden toys. Those toys would then be distributed to local and national nonprofits and delivered to underprivileged children at Christmastime.

So, when the Sutherlins decided to become residents at Village On The Isle in 2019, they approached our CEO, Doug Feller, with a compelling proposition: they would donate their equipment and continue their toy ministry there.

“It was almost like the stars aligned,” Doug told City Lifestyle, which noted that VOTI already had a small woodworking shop where residents pursued hobbies like whittling and carving. “We had always discussed expanding,” he added.

After visiting the Sutherlins’ home workshop, Doug realized that the equipment donation would significantly expand Village On The Isle’s woodworking facilities and align with the community’s purpose as a faith-based social ministry affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

In 2018, the Sutherlins made 1,500 toys and sent them out for Christmas delivery.

Types of Toys

  • Airplane
  • Truck
  • Car
  • Alligator 
  • Chicken with an egg

All have moveable parts that turn or interact when the toy travels along the floor or other hard surfaces.

Talking Shop and Building Bonds

While requests and projects may vary, Oscar encourages residents to stop in for various repairs. 

“In one area of the shop, we have what I like to call the ‘fix-it room,’” he says. “From minor electrical repairs, say like a broken mixer or hair dryer, to fixing a rickety table or broken table leg, or even building a new leg, residents can come in and we’re glad to help.

“I got one guy who’s particularly good with electrical stuff and likes challenges like that.”

The studio is as much a place to get to know your neighbors as it is a workspace. 

“This environment allows people to easily socialize because depending on what they need help with, you must consult someone more knowledgeable.” Through those interactions, the more experienced craftsperson learns another resident’s likes and dislikes, skills, design preferences, and more. 

However, you don’t need a project or repair to stop by and say hello. See why residents like Oscar and the Sutherlins choose Village On The Isle as their private oasis of fulfillment and fun. Schedule your visit and learn more by calling 941-202-4451 today.