The Willamalane Adult Activity Center woodworking studio has been a community space for people to hone their woodworking and furniture-making skills since 1979, but there are plans to cut the spot’s hours drastically as early as mid-January.
The woodworking studio’s schedule, which currently stands at Mondays through Thursdays 9-11:30 am and 12:30-3 pm, will be cut from four to two days a week, according to Willamalane Superintendent Michael Wargo.
Wargo says Willamalane conducted a patron survey asking which days people were interested in using the shop, and according to those results, he says, “We will be eliminating Monday and Wednesday operating hours and the new hours of operation will be Tuesday and Thursday 9 am to 3 pm.”
Willamalane is planning on the hours reduction to begin Jan. 14.
Wargo cites a lessening participation in the wood shop as the reason for its dwindling hours. He says that currently, the wood shop has 22 pass holders.
“For the past several years, the wood shop participation has continued to decline,” he says. “To ensure that program and staffing resources are maximized to the fullest for our programs, we have decided to reduce the operating hours down to two days a week.”
Wargo says the wood shop is funded by property taxes allocated to Willamalane, along with program fees and charitable donations.
Mitch Hutchinson, who has been on staff at the woodworking studio for about two years, says he wishes Willamalane would put more resources into supporting the space, not less.
“The wood shop isn’t self-supporting, so the money that comes in the door doesn’t pay for the operation of the shop,” Hutchinson says. “The powers that be decided that if it’s a clunker, they don’t want to support it anymore.”
He adds: “You don’t save something by reducing the hours. If you wanted to save it you’d throw hours and money into it.”
Hutchinson says that, due to the shop’s already limited hours, the only people who can use it are retired, for the most part.
“For two years I’ve been going around talking to suppliers and other woodworkers and they all want to come and play in our shop, but they can’t make the time because they have to make a living first,” he says.
Hutchinson says the shop does have regulars, though.
One retired patron has been coming in every day the studio is open since 2009 to work on projects, he says.
Another, Hutchinson says, is “a lady in there now building six dining room chairs. This lady is older than I am and she’s in there cutting out an entire dining room set.”
Hutchinson says he’s not particularly torn up about losing his job at the studio since he’s retired himself, but he is unhappy about losing the community.
“What I am losing is a great deal of social interaction I’ve had in my life because of the people I see every day,” he says. “It’s something that cheers up their day and gives them a sense of accomplishment and value.”
Wargo notes that 2019 is the Willamalane Adult Activity Center’s 40th year.
“Although we change with the times, the center continues to reach a growing number of people through the hundreds of recreation, fitness and general instruction classes, events and social services we offer,” he says.
Wargo says Willamalane does not have any additional plans to further reduce hours or close the woodworking studio completely.
“I’d like to see it never close, but keeping it open as long as we can is good in my book,” Hutchinson says.