Woodcraft Seeks Volunteers to Turn Pens for Troops

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Woodcraft is looking for volunteers for the 17th annual Turn for Troops Turn-a-Thon.

Woodcraft will sponsor its 17th Turn for Troops National Turn-a-Thon on November 7 and 8 and is asking volunteers to continue supporting those on active military duty or recovering from injuries by making handcrafted wood pens – at either a retail store event or at home for submission to Woodcraft.

In 2019, volunteers turned 15,385 one-of-a-kind pens for a 16-year total of 190,609 pens. Woodcraft’s goal this year is at least 200,000 pens and hopefully many more.

Why turn pens? Recipients of pens often send notes of appreciation. This note from a sailor serving on the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier expresses the message in many thank-you notes: “We are embarked on an extended deployment and still have a few months to go. Receiving a gift like this means more than you can imagine. Thanks for supporting the men and women of the armed forces. It’s great to know that people like you have our backs.”

“In the midst a COVID-19 environment, Woodcraft is eager to support US military personnel on active duty and recovering from injuries more than ever, realizing that being away from family now is even more stressful,” Woodcraft President and CEO Jack Bigger said. “We look to our faithful volunteers to respond again and turn many unique pens for the men and women who are keeping our nation safe.”

How to Participate. Like everything else in 2020, COVID-19 is changing the way stores and volunteers participate in this annual event. If you live near one of the 75 Woodcraft retail stores, contact the store staff to find out if an in-store turn-a-thon event is planned or whether the store is asking volunteers to turn pens at home and then bring them to the store in return for a new pen kit. Visit woodcraft.com to see a list of stores nationwide.

Woodcraft of Toledo, Ohio, and Woodworkers Club/Woodcraft of Rockville, Maryland, are among stores that are asking customers to turn pens on their own and bring them to Woodcraft.

In August 2020, the Toledo, Ohio, Woodcraft store posted an invitation with a note: “We are unable to safely execute this year’s Turn for Troops event in our store. Instead, we ask that you turn pens at home and donate them by November 8, 2020. For every pen you turn and donate, we will give you a Slimline pen (WC #123052). All pens must be able to fit in a uniform sleeve pocket.”

On October 13, the store posted a Thank You with this message: “Pens are coming in, and we don’t have enough thank you’s for those who have been donating them. Keep them coming!!!! I believe we had over 200 last year. Let’s beat that number this year!”

Co-owners Ralph Duarte, left, and Chris Johnstone, right, join Roman Steichen in admiring the one-of-a-kind wood pens the Woodworkers Club/Woodcraft of Rockville, Maryland, contributed to the 2019 Woodcraft Turn for Troops program. Roman, a volunteer, does most of the hands-on work with the store’s Turn for Troops program.

“We have decided not to try to have a live event,” Woodcraft of Rockville co-owner Chris Johnstone said. “We are asking folks to turn at home or in groups they are comfortable with. We have no illusions that we will attain anywhere near the numbers we did last year, but we intend to do our best.” In 2019, Rockville volunteers turned 1,842 pens.

Woodcraft of Parkersburg, West Virginia, will host a traditional in-store event, but will follow COVID-19 guidelines. Volunteers will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing when they come to turn pens on Nov. 10, 11, 13 and 14.

“We added days this year to allow more folks to come in,” Manager Betty Secrist said, “and we’ll only have four lathes set up, as opposed to six.”

Some volunteers turn pens year-round for this event, including the Milwaukee Area Woodturners. David Drickhamer, who runs the Woodcraft of Milwaukee store’s program, said in mid-October he already had 1,462 pens with more to come.

If you do not live near a local store, your local store is not participating, or you do not feel comfortable attending a turn-a-thon, contact Lori Harper at Woodcraft corporate headquarters – 304-865-4107 or lori_harper@woodcraft.com. She will provide information and instructions for sending finished pens to the corporate office.

Notes & Turning Instruction. Pen makers are encouraged to include notes with their thank-you gift pens. In addition to thanking the military man or woman for their service, notes sometimes include the type of wood used to turn the pen and contact information for the maker.

For volunteers who need some help learning to turn a pen, some Woodcraft stores offer pen turning classes and two Woodworking Adventures blogs include instructions for how to turn pens – Pen Turning 101 and A Great Start for Basic Pen Turning.

After pens begin arriving from the stores, Woodcraft personnel at the corporate office check with their military contacts about where to send the new batch of pens. Sometimes stores will suggest where to send some pens, and sometimes military personnel will reach out to Woodcraft after reading publicity about the annual event.

Woodturners, especially those who have participated in Turn for Troops in the past, I encourage you to join in making TFT in the midst of COVID-19 as successful as it has been. If you are not comfortable attending a store event or don’t have one in your area, consider turning at home or with someone where you can be safe. And thank you volunteers – Woodcraft could not support the military with beautiful wood pens without you!!!

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