Group photo in Bill’s workshop (front row, left to right: Doris Van Roekel, Carolyn Craver, Missy Laverman, Rebecca Benge, Jane Rourke, Colleen Hoogheem, Marilyn Almond, Mark Huston and Theresa Anderson; back row, left to right: Calvin Tolles, Tim Fairchild, Daniel Allison, Mike Johnson, Bill Bruxvoort, Dan Beeghly and Katie Nikkel)
The Christian Opportunity Center completed a five-week woodworking program at Bill Bruxvoort’s Leighton workshop, unofficially known as Bill’s Woodworking Ministry.
Beginning on Thursday, May 15, COC Oskaloosa’s Life Skills Program traveled 11 miles northwest to improve their woodworking skills at the professionally stocked workshop. Sessions lasted two hours on Thursday and Friday mornings.
Guided by Bill, volunteer Dan Beeghly and COC Life Skills Supervisors, every participant constructed and painted a stepstool. Those who completed the project ahead of schedule had the additional option of building a birdhouse or doorstop.
In 10 days, people served by COC logged no injuries and built a plethora of stepstools. Both Bill and Dan were impressed by the patience and pride shown by the people served and COC’s staff.
“It’s amazing how patient the people served at COC are with us,” said Bill. “I can’t say enough good things about the people being served at COC and COC’s staff. They’ve been phenomenal.”
“There have been no complaints and no problems at all,” said Dan. “There’s been a lot of satisfaction in the fact that they built something with their own hands. Working with the people supported by COC has been an incredible experience.”
Dan was the driving force behind the partnership with Bill. An Oregon native and retired educator, Dan roomed with COC Executive Director Rod Braun in college and the two reconnected in recent years. It was a trip to Iowa and a visit to COC that sparked Dan’s interest.
“After visiting Pella and touring COC, I wondered about the possibility of returning and doing some woodworking with people served,” said Dan. “Rod thought it was a great idea, presented the idea to Bill and here we are.”
Bill’s workshop has been featured in the Des Moines Register, on KCCI TV and CBS Chicago and New York and is chronicled in an upcoming book. Built in 2000, it was originally intended for personal use. But after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Bill found both he and the workshop had a greater calling.
“Why did God bless me with the resources to build this workshop, but then limit me in what I can do,” Bill asked. “I had a feeling that I was supposed to share my workshop, even though that was not in my plans. But my plans were not God’s plans.”
Churches and community groups came knocking and Bill answered. It was not long before the purpose had outgrown the space and, in response, he doubled the size of the workshop.
“It’s been an exciting adventure,” said Bill. “It’s not about getting our name in the paper. We said, ‘Lord, it’s your building; do with it what you will and let us know what we’re supposed to do.’ And we’ve been blessed.”
And with that blessing Bill continues to bless others.
“I’m thankful Rod thought of using the shop,” said Bill. “It’s been a great five weeks.”
The program concluded Friday, June 13, but the skills last a lifetime.
Founded in 1969, COC provides residential and vocational support and services to 290 people with disabilities in Marion, Mahaska, Warren and Polk counties. For more information visit christianopportunity.org or connect with Christian Opportunity Center on Facebook and IowaCOC on Twitter.