Over the past semester, what began as two friends building a coffee table together over Winter Study transformed into Willy Good Wood, a new innovative student woodworking initiative. Aiming to combine the art of woodworking with community service, the club has already made incredible strides through volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and partnering with the Center for Learning in Action (CLiA).
Table builders and co-founders Robbie Hefferon ’18 and Anna Neufeld ’18 have a long past history of woodworking experience. Neufeld, for example, shared how woodworking was a childhood hobby. “I loved woodworking when I was younger, and it was offered as an activity at my summer camp as well as at my middle school,” she said. Once they realized they wanted more opportunities on campus to build, they began to share their idea for a woodworking club with friends. Before they knew it, five initial members started discussing a name for the club, drafting their official constitution and reaching out to service-oriented organizations. And within a few days of the club’s conception, Willy Good Wood already had a 30-person listserv, created solely by word of mouth.
Collaborating with service-oriented organizations and the local Congregational Church, Willy Good Wood has already completed a number of projects and has many more planned for the future. “We mentioned to [CLiA] that we wanted to work with Habitat for Humanity … and we helped them move materials from a warehouse to another garage,” Hefferon said. In addition to volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, the club has constructed a set piece for a student-directed play.
“We’re interested in assisting projects for the College and beyond,” Hefferon said. “One thing we’re really interested in, once we learn woodworking for ourselves, is going to the elementary school.” Where the club potentially would first help pre-cut and pre-sand wood to use in a project and the completeit with kids in a safe an fun wayusing only glue. Willy Good Wood also plans on partnering with the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives to use Zilka’s reclaimed wood for smaller projects to improve the design of the College and nearby churches. “There are a lot of places on campus that have hooks for coats but don’t hold coats very well, so we would definitely fix those,” Hefferon added.
One of Willy Good Wood’s most striking and ambitious plans is a “Williams College Sandathon,” which derives inspiration from the College’s annual ergathon held in Paresky. “We’d want a 2×4 to sand down and get lots of cheering,” Hefferon said. “We’re hoping to extend beyond just the woodworking part to create a community.”
A primary challenge the club faced throughout the semester was finding a space to do its woodworking. Recently, however, the club may have found a temporary space. “We are pursuing a partnership with one of the churches, which has a children’s workshop space in the basement,” Neufeld said. The club hopes that once it establishes a permanent space on campus, it will be able to attract more students who have woodworked in the past, since, according to Hefferon, “the space would give them the outlet, opportunity, resources and tools to do personal projects in addition to helping out with the bigger ones.”
The club will be meeting with College Council this week to establish itself as an official club on campus. Through the whirlwind of the last few months, both Neufeld and Hefferon have been incredibly surprised by the enthusiasm of students and adults in the community alike, crediting this support for being the driving force of the club.
“All of this enthusiasm has really inspired me because it makes me realize that people obviously think there is a hole that can be filled, so hopefully we can fill it,” Hefferon said. In just a few short months, Willy Good Wood is well on its way to doing just that, as it has already begun to make a remarkable impact on the College and beyond.