WILLIAMSPORT—To help veterans expand their skills by learning to incorporate the latest technology with traditional woodworking, Keystone Wood Products Association (KWPA) recently donated funds to purchase a BOSS laser engraver for the Veterans Program at the Williamsport Community Woodshop.
“This donation aligns with our mission of education, outreach and workforce development,” says Nicholas Bisaccia, chairman of KWPA, a nonprofit organization that promotes the wood products industry throughout central Pennsylvania. “We wanted to honor and express appreciation to those who have served our country.”
The Veterans Program is open to those who have been honorably discharged from all branches of the military during war and/or peacetime. Serving approximately 20 veterans ranging in age from 19 to 100, the program gives each participant an opportunity to learn skills and connect with others who have experienced military life.
“Veterans are coming home and trying to integrate into society,” says Tim Higgins, director of the Veterans Program. “We want them to connect with other veterans who have had similar experiences. Beyond that, we are looking for ways to empower them and offer them a marketable skill set.”
Interested veterans and community members will be trained to operate the laser engraver. As a highly computerized piece of equipment, it is located within the woodshop’s CNC room.
“Technology is the future,” says Paul Derr, woodshop director. “The veterans will take an old school trade and combine it with new school ideas. The engraver even includes a rotary attachment that will allow for engraving curved surfaces.”
The engraver can be used for a variety of projects—from plaques to mugs.
“Really there is no limit to what it can do, “says Bob Dietzel, a volunteer staff member at the Woodshop, “But what may be even more important is that the engraver will help us connect with the veterans. If you have a mentor, it can make a difference in your life.”
The Veterans Program has been helping participants since its inception over 3 years ago. It is open to veterans with physical disabilities as well as to those who are coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Some of our vets have served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Desert Storm, and during the insurrection of Panama. Others have served during peacetime,” says Higgins, who enlisted in the military directly out of high school and was severely injured when both his main and back-up parachutes failed to open after jumping out of a plane. “To me, the program is a way of giving back. I know how I felt when I returned home. I didn’t know who to talk to about what I went through.”
The need for such help is so great that the woodshop even has veterans traveling from the Philadelphia area to participate.
Cam Koons, KWPA board member and son of Donald Koons, a World War II veteran, appreciates the program. “The program has impacted our veterans in a positive way. At almost 100 years of age, my father enjoys coming here to work on projects,” says Koons who initiated the donation after learning of the woodshop’s desire to add a laser engraver to the CNC room.
“KWPA is always looking for ways to educate others and expand workforce development efforts,” says Koons. “The donation does that and so much more. KWPA is thankful for the opportunity to serve our veterans.”
Higgins is taken back by the generosity of KWPA.
“We would have been saving up forever,” he says. “We are very thankful for KWPA. Their donation has opened a whole new aspect to the woodshop and provided a chance to learn more. That is invaluable.”
Photo: L to R:
Cam Koons, KWPA; Tim Higgins, Veterans Program; Paul Derr, Williamsport Wood Shop; Betsy Kimberling, Williamsport Woodshop; Nicholas Bisaccia, KWPA