Feature Mondays – Woodworking at Phoenix House Recovery Centre

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Phoenix House Recovery Centre is located at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire. It is run by the charity Help for Heroes and supported by the Royal British Legion. To quote from the Help for Heroes website: “The Centre aims to inspire those who have been wounded, injured or become sick while serving our country and enable them to lead active, independent and fulfilling lives.” One way in which this support is provided is through an Arts and Crafts programme, run mainly by volunteers and which includes, among its many facilities and services, a Woodworking Volunteer programme that offers opportunities for beneficiaries to gain first-hand experience of turning, carving and generally working with wood.

New woodworking workshop

The woodworking workshop that has now been provided to support the programme is the brainchild of former Warrant Officer Chris Morgan, who was instrumental in setting up the Woodworking Volunteer programme. What was originally just a 'wouldn't it be nice if we had a proper workshop' idea has, with the support of the woodworking industry and many individual benefactors, made it possible to provide wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans with workshops, tutoring and support in a dedicated and properly equipped facility.

Chris, with support from Robert Sorby Ltd, launched the appeal at the 2013 North of England Woodworking and Power Tool Show and has worked tirelessly with fellow volunteers and centre staff to generate funding, sponsorship and support for the facility through fundraising events and by inviting members of the woodworking industry to get involved by donating many of the tools and machinery with which the workshop is now equipped. It is hoped that this workshop will only be the first of many, and that in the future, with the continued generosity and support of its many benefactors, the charity will be able to provide similar facilities at some or all of its other Recovery Centres.

A 'life changing' project

The Woodworking Workshop was officially opened on 22 April, 2015. Chris began the event by giving a short history of how the workshop came about and by thanking those present and the many other individuals and organisations who have made the project a reality. Chris said: “When I had my problems some years ago, apart from family, I had my workshop and my army mates, so I understand the benefits of working with wood and having good mates. Working with wood is so therapeutic; it trains the mind to concentrate, and when concentrating on woodwork, you do not think of other things. For some of the recovering veterans, being in the workshop often reminds them of being back with their mates in the barrack room and being in a friendly environment can start a recovery/healing process. Many phrases used today have often lost their meaning but here at the Recovery Centre, I can assure you all that this workshop will be life changing – we have already seen changes in veterans. The battle cry for all of us involved with Help for Heroes is 'Inspire, Enable, Support.' Everyone who has contributed in any way to this project has been inspirational, you have enabled me to get the workshop project started and without doubt you are all supporting our wounded, injured and sick veterans. We still have a long way to go, so keep up the support.”

A veteran's view was then provided by ex-serviceman Bob Taylor who, despite suffering from PTSD following his experiences as one of the troops deployed to deal with the aftermath of the Lockerbie disaster, overcame his problems to express the gratitude of those who have benefited from the project to the volunteers and benefactors and to explain how important the project had been in improving the lives of so many.

The official opening was then performed by Col John Bridgeman, CBE TD DL, Master of the Worshipful Company of Turners and Tony Wilson, professional woodturner and volunteer tutor, following which guests were given a tour of the workshop where they were able to see for themselves the extensive range of equipment available and refreshments were accompanied by a display of some of the work produced by the beneficiaries.

The workshop is extensively equipped with a wide range of equipment including a state-of-the-art CNC woodworking machine adapted for people in wheelchairs and donated and commissioned by Utah-based firm, Legacy. Chris and his colleagues are grateful to the following companies who provided not only equipment but also support and encouragement for the project: Robert Sorby Ltd, Trend Machinery & Cutting Tools, Axminster Tools & Machinery, Fercell Engineering – dust extraction system, Felder UK, Legacy CNC (USA), Record Power, Peter Sefton, Gedore UK – Bessey Clamps, David Stanley Auctions.