Senior handymen carve out helpful niche
Updated 1:11 pm, Tuesday, September 29, 2015
On Tuesday morning, a quartet of men busied themselves in a well-equipped workshop with table saws, sanding equipment, and shelves full of tools and materials to fix wooden furniture and other objects.
Bill Kirsch, 82, stood at the center of the room trying to find a solution to steady a distinguished looking but wobbly table that had been damaged by what he called an earlier inept effort at repair. Kirsch, who is considered by consensus the most able woodworker of the group, spent half an hour applying epoxy and other materials to stabilize the loose leg.
“I’ve been doing this since I was five years old,” said Kirsch, who recently moved to Newtown after living in Darien for 50 years. “I come here to be with my friends.”
Kirsch and the other three men, all over 70, are part of a core group of volunteers for the Darien Woodshop Donation Program, which meets twice a week at the Darien Senior Center to repair broken chairs, tables, dressers, or other wooden items mostly for other senior citizens and at a modest cost.
The spacious room and equipment have been available at the center since April and were sponsored by the late Charles Meisner, a man who frequented the former Darien Senior Center’s wood shop, said Elizabeth Paris, director of senior programs at the Mather Center.
Tom Williams, who has lived in Darien for 46 years, said a core group of seven or eight men do most of the work but a larger group take part in the twice-weekly sessions on Mondays and Tuesdays. He said the group asks for donations for the work ranging from $5 to $50, but usually on the lower end of the range.
On Tuesday, Williams, 84, was finishing up a repair to the back of a large cabinet and covering it with layers of black lacquer. Williams said most of the volunteers were white collar retirees with home workshops where they did their own projects.
“This is a way to stay creative and keep active,” Williams said. “I had a workshop at home and did a lot of work years ago, and this is a great chance to get out of the house.”
The group also uses the space to take part in a slew of community projects such as carving wooden signs for trails at the Darien Nature Center, building a bulletin board for the Darien Community Association, and making plastic collection bins for Person-to-Person’s food drives, said Jerry Mucciolo, a 70-year-old former executive at Pitney Bowes.
“We’ll consider trying to fix anything people bring in if we can,” Mucciolo said.
People can bring small wood items, chairs, drawers or tables to be repaired at the woodshop at the Mather Center, 2 Renshaw Road any Monday or Tuesday between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. A member of the donation program will discuss the cost of repairing it.