I live in Sun City, a retirement community of about 6000 homes located north of Austin Texas. It can seem as if we also have over 6000 golf carts, as Sun City residents are constantly on the go from one activity to another. My favorite is the Sun City Woodworkers Club. This club was included in the original planning when the community started 15 years ago and it has steadily grown with the community since then. We now have over 500 members, including many women, and after its latest expansion, our clubhouse includes 4400 sq. ft. of floor space, with every type of woodworking tool you could ever want—stationary tools, power tools, hand tools; you name it.
The camaraderie of working and learning with other members is one of the club’s greatest attractions. New members (including many who are also new to woodworking) are required to take a safety and orientation class as well as a one-on-one session with a designated trainer/coach to ensure proper, safe use of all tools and materials. A series of enhanced training classes are also available, including box making, router procedures, picture frame making, and the like. A safety monitor is on duty at all times the shop is open to make sure the tools are used correctly. Many members are also willing and able to give helpful advice.
The desire to help others has led the club into two outreach programs. Each year we make and donate between 700 and 800 wooden toys, cars and animals to several local charities through our Toys for Tots program, which started about 11 years ago. Club members organize into teams, so that experienced members can assist those who are new to toy making and operating shop equipment.
Our club also partners with the American Cancer Society’s Camp Discovery, a program that allows kids with cancer to meet other kids in the same situation and participate in activities designed to help them deal with their illnesses. Club members choose an item to make as kits for the kids to assemble and finish while attending the camp. Club members make the parts, package and deliver the kits and help the kids assemble them.
We maintain a reserve fund to support the club and members pay a small annual fee. Most of our machinery is acquired through our equipment committee, with the approval of the executive board. For convenience, we order lumber from a local yard and resell it to members. We also use this lumber to make the projects that we sell at our fall craft fair. Members build the projects and the proceeds from the fair are used to support our local charities. As the club’s current president, I’m always telling other Sun City residents how interesting and rewarding retirement can be—if you’re a woodworker!