Safe Harbor Boys Turn Christmas Tradition

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Safe Harbor

Safe Harbor Maritime Academy, located in Jacksonville, Florida, is a Christian residential education program for 15-17 year old boys who are fatherless, have lost one or more parents to death, and those who are experiencing behavior problems in home, at school and need an alternative home setting. This waterfront program instills in the boys to become responsible, mature and independent young men through spiritual, educational and vocational training to achieve academic success, while providing a safe, stable, structured, alternative home environment. The boys live aboard vessels, learning seamanship and maritime skills as well as studying for a high school diploma.

Fundamental principles also taught at Safe Harbor are personal integrity, positive character, team work, listening and speaking abilities, problem solving, ability to instruct and lead others, enabling one’s time, money, and resources using reasoning, honesty, self management, social abilities such as perseverance, self-reliance, and life disciplines.

You can check out some of the Academy projects the boys have worked on HERE.

The Academy also has a Hallmark movie produced, about a middle-age couple who took in troubled teens and lovingly helped them to improve their lives to become responsible human beings. This is a true story that takes place on the boat, about the real people that run the boy’s Academy, all of which is portrayed in the movie. You can purchase a copy of this movie at

Safe Harbor

Safe Harbor Maritime Academy is a customer of Woodcraft, Jacksonville Florida, owned and operated by Jim & Julie Ford, and managed by Janet Roessler. Julie contacted the Woodworking Adventures Blog to share this Christmas story with you.

Each month the Jacksonville chapter of the American Association of Woodturners (AAW)(Northeast Florida Woodturning Association (, meet at Woodcraft. This group, always looking for a way to be involved in the community, decided to find a way to help the Safe Harbor Boys School. About a year ago the jaxturners learned of Beth Ireland’s Turning Around America program to promote woodturning, especially geared to helping kids. According to Ed Malesky, President of the Northeast Florida Woodturning Association, “Beth was scheduled to attend the Florida Woodturning Symposium, and our Outreach Coordinator, Kay Seivert, contacted Beth and arranged for her to spend three days in February teaching the boys at Safe Harbor Maritime Academy.”

Beth rolled her mobile workshop up to the classroom, and the sawdust began to fly!

Ed organized the 3-day class with Beth and the Safe Harbor leaders. The Association members and Jacksonville Woodcraft volunteered with donations of lathes, tools, turning supplies, and assistance. When Beth arrived, she did more than just teach the students, she taught the jaxturners Guild volunteers how to teach woodworking and woodturning so that when she left, the program could continue to flourish for future Academy students.  Beth said, “It’s one thing to learn to turn, and another to teach turning.” Beth succeeded in her efforts of passing on her knowledge to the Guild.

Initially the 9 or 10 boys looked in during Beth’s turning classes with curiosity. Beth invited them in and in a short time, the Guild members and Academy students were creating spindles, beads on cylinders, pens, and other items using their creativity. Beth’s inspiration for taking a woodworking program on the road comes from all the woodshop, metalshop, drafting, and other artistic programs that have been closed and phased out of our school classrooms across the nation. Beth believes that she is the “Johnny Appleseed” of woodworking, planting seeds wherever she can to promote woodworking, artistic ability, creativity, problem solving, and the rebirth of manufacturing in our young people’s minds and futures.

Safe Harbor

Ed stated, “The boys enjoyed the program so much that our club decided to make this an on-going project. Since March 2011, we have taught the boys woodturning every Friday, and the Association has established a continuing education program for the Safe Harbor Boys, bringing woodturning to the community.”

Woodworking Adventures spoke with the Safe Harbor Boys Academy CEO Executive Director, Robbie Smith. Robbie shared these sentiments, “I liked the engagement of the entire brain processes coming together with cognitive creativity, learning, emotions and the shaping of something the boys can be proud of,” and, “Unlike the destructive elements of video games, woodworking adds engagement to build something with time.” One of the boys (Tyler) was so proud of the pen he had made, gave it to Robbie as a gift, and in Robbie’s words, “Made someone else feel good.” This pen is special to Robbie, and she uses it every day!

Robbie also commented, “This woodworking program is on top of the list going forward,” and she felt that, “The volunteers got more out of the program than they gave.” Well I’d say that’s a win-win scenario for everyone involved!

Safe Harbor

The story doesn’t end there. Each year at Christmastime, the Jacksonville St. Johns County Festival of Trees at the World Golf Village benefits needy families and individuals in the community of St. Johns County. Supported by the primary businesses at World Golf Village (World Golf Village Associates, Inc.), the Festival brings together businesses, organizations, churches, schools, friends and families who donate their time, talents, trees, wreaths and decorations.

Ed continued, “While in the past our club has worked with our local Woodcraft store to provide ornaments for their Festival of Trees entry, we felt that it would be a good project for the boys to take over this project. Starting in August the boys turned the tree from pine for the main stem, and laminated pine pieces from 2×4′s for the branches. Each week afterwards, the boys were taught a different style and series of turned ornaments made from various woods. Between turning and painting the boys worked a full three months to complete the tree, which was initially part of the woodturning display at the Greater Jacksonville Fair and was then transferred to Janet Roessler, at Woodcraft, who entered it into the Festival of Trees.”

Janet has been involved in setting up the Festival of Trees project for the last 4 years. She assisted the boys by adding the lights and skirt to their wood turned tree. Janet commented, “This is a neat event, and the boys tree brought the most interest this year because it was different from the rest.”

The Festival of Trees ultimate goal of creating a beautiful scene for visitors to enjoy will be concluded with a silent auction to raise funds for the event’s two benefiting charities, the Empty Stocking Fund and the United Way of St. Johns County.

When this story was presented to us, there were four bids on the tree, the highest being $150 with another week of bidding to go. The final auction price will conclude on the Friday before Christmas Eve.

When we spoke with Beth Ireland, she said, “Two of the fundamental principals of woodworking is creativity and problem solving.” Beth has spent the last year on her nationwide quest to teach woodworking to children of all ages, using these fundamentals in the hopes of bringing back the use of hands, hearts and minds to the manufacturing future of this country.

We’ll have a special story on Beth Ireland’s “Turning Around America” adventures, where her awakening ideals on the education system in America is not just about woodturning.

Special thanks to Jim & Julie Ford, Beth Ireland, Ed Malesky, Janet Roessler, and Robbie Smith for all they give to woodworking, charities, and community involvement.

See you at the next Woodworking Adventure, and a Merry Christmas to ALL…Frank

Update: January 31, 2012 – As a follow up on the Safe Harbor/Woodcraft Festival of trees entry, Safe Harbor and Woodcraft Jacksonville won the Handcrafted with Heart award. Follow this link to the article in the St. Augustine newspaper.

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