Batavia seniors woodworking group build desks for needy children

BATAVIA, Ill. (WLS) -- A group of senior woodworkers in Batavia is busy whittling wood and making desks for needy children, and so far they have helped more than 30 students who have been learning remotely.

"Most of us have grandkids, and we know the impact on them, so we're helping grandkids all over the country. This movement has gone everywhere," said David Anderson, co-chairman of the Wood Shop at Covenant Living at the Holmstad.

The senior living community is complete with its own wood shop, which has more than a dozen members. On Thursday, five members came together to work on a few more desks, which now total 36. It's been a labor of love for the men who are donating their time and effort.

"The motivation is it gives us some sense of great satisfaction to be able to help others out," said Richard Jacobson, one of the woodworkers.

RELATED: Hegewisch woman turns plastic bags into sleeping mats for Chicago homeless

The project has been completed in three phases. The men finished 20 desks in the first round. The second round was 12 desks, which was funded with a $200 grant from Batavia's United Way.

Students at three schools have benefited so far, according to Bonnie Baumgartner, the executive director of the Batavia United Way.

"These kids are just so, so thankful," Baumgartner said. "The families feel very blessed and very fortunate, and they are really excited to have received these."

The men said they are grateful to help others. In turn, the effort is also helping them, as they visit and work together during the pandemic.

"It's something we can do together as a group for a very great cause," said Ronald Hecht, a woodworker. "If I was to spend most of the time in my apartment, I don't know if I would be alive because this also gives my wife a little break."

RELATED: Englewood man hailed as hero for helping girl, 7, found wandering in snow

The group has bonded over coffee and doughnuts in the past, but the pandemic put an end to the social event. Instead, they have stuck to strict guidelines on wearing masks and gathering in small groups only, which means a total of 10 people in the wood shop right now.

They are sharing woodworking, and also life.

"We talk about our problems and our physical ailments, and what's going on, and this and that, we all have a story," Anderson said. "We're all in the same time of life."

It's that friendship that has helped them forge ahead during a trying time.

"We have a lot of interest in each other, so we hear all these great stories," Jacobson said. "Being the age we are, a lot of them go back to many years before and we have lots of laughs."

The woodworkers have not met the children who have received the desks, but the children have sent handwritten thank you notes, which the men saw for the first time on Thursday.

"That's worth all the work we put into this, is the cards we got," Hecht said, smiling.

In fact, they all smiled while reading the children's thank you cards. "It brings it home, oh my gosh, we are having a positive impact," Anderson said.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.