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Apr 25 2017

Turning at the Eisenhower Center

Several years ago Jose Avila, a staff member of the Eisenhower Center (EC), an organization working with folks with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), approached our outreach coordinator, Russ Clinard. He wondered if our club ever worked with these unfortunate accident victims, veterans, and athletes whose brains had been injured.

This population varies a great deal in symptoms but TBI can affect speech, walking, thinking, fine motor coordination, and emotional control. Russ initially invited several EC clients to his own workshop and they started making a wooden football and a baseball bat. As more clients indicated an interest, Erica Perry, Dan Konyn and Ron Hall joined Russ in this volunteer work.

It was such fun for both clients and our members, that Dan and Erica decided to write a grant to the AAW for a lathe that could be placed at the EC. This would allow more clients to become involved.

We were thrilled to receive $1400 which allowed us to buy a lathe as well as several tools and other supplies. Initially, we had to carry the lathe from a first floor conference room to a courtyard where we mentored over 6 clients in doing woodturning. We began by going out to the EC once a week but soon realized that this did not meet the needs of our TBI folks so we added another day, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 3 to 5.

Dan realized that we would not be able to mentor outside in the winter and he and Russ spoke with Jose and Charlie, his boss, and discussed other possibilities. Erica called a board member and explained our dilemma. Shockingly, the board decided to spend $5000 and create a little workshop for us behind one of the campus buildings.

Meanwhile, Dan utilized his “it doesn’t hurt to ask” skills and began to supplement our supply of tools, grinder, lathes, wood, etc. so that now we have three lathes in our little workshop and can mentor up to four folks at any given time. Hartville, Woodcraft, Lee Valley, Penn State, Packard, and Yazaka, have all contributed out of the kindness of their hearts so that we now have quite a wonderful space to mentor in.

Each of the TBI clients is a character in some way, and a sweetheart as well. They have amazing stories to tell about how they came to have TBI and they very much appreciate our listening as well as our mentoring of woodturning. One woman is wheelchair bound, can hardly use one hand, yet is making wooden pendants and earrings that she paints. She was run over in a hit and run over 20 years ago altering her life forever, yet she maintains a sparkle in her eye and funny sense of humor.

Another client also is in a wheelchair and we have watched his fine motor skills improve dramatically as he moved from making candlestick holders to bowls. He joins Russ and Ron in teasing Erica mercilessly, and a wonderful camaraderie has developed. One Afghanistan war vet told us that this was the best therapy that EC offered.
We also are able to use this workshop for the Learn and Turn Saturdays that we have planned for this year.

Russ, Dan, Erica and Ron welcome any club members who would like to mentor these fascinating and grateful folks. Please contact Dan for coordination and times if you are interested. His telephone number is 734 658-4238. His email address is dankonyn@gmail.com.