Tag Archives: woodshop

Allison Woolbert’s Woodworks for the Blind


What had once been a typical basement comprised  of concrete flooring,  cinder block walls, and a sump pump in the corner, was now transformed into a power wood shop that would knock the socks off of any builder. Complete with incandescent lighting, tongue and groove flooring and a sawdust collection system, gleaming saws, jigs, lathes, etc. lined the walls and were piled high on benches and shelves to be handled by the Master Carpenter, Allison Woolbert.

Only a couple months into her projects, Allison had secured the help of two blind apprentices who were eager to learn from her. They appeared to love the environment and had no trouble dedicating large portions of their weekends to assisting with sanding, varnishing and cleaning up tasks. It probably should have come to no surprise to wife Suzanne, the strange sounds she awoke to one Saturday morning at about 7:02 a.m. Two floors above, snuggled down under the blankets, she thought she was dreaming the sounds of saws and hammers, sanders and polishers, and what else?  They were laughing and singing at the top of their lungs. In fact, they were laughing uproariously at some slightly off color jokes that no one should be thinking about anytime before noon if you would ask Suzanne.

After waking up with a cup of coffee, Suzanne dragged herself down the two flights of stairs to investigate the raucous. They seemed not to hear or see her arrival, now singing along to a blaring radio. Suzanne backed out slowly, trying diligently not to trip over or knock anything over in her path, and edge back up the stairs. On the first stair, she was suddenly hit by a blast of cold air. “What was that,” she wondered. “There weren’t any windows in this part of the basement.

She quickly ran upstairs to fix some breakfast, check on the kids and get started with her day. A couple hours later her young son snuck down the stairs and raced back up shouting, “Mommy, mommy, there’s a big hole in our house!” Gasping, Suzanne ran down behind her son, and realized he was telling the truth. The cold blast of air from before had not lightened up and was coming through a gaping hole in the back of their half million dollar home. Running down the stairs she screamed, “Woolbert, what have you done?” “Oh, I was going to tell you about that,” she said. “I’m making a new door to get the large planks of wood through easier.” “It’s going to be a beautiful door.”

Trying to rebound from her shock, Suzanne tried to grasp why Allison Woolbert had just sawed a huge hole in their house and what a door could possibly be needed for. Then, she remembered the current project they were working on, and how important it was to her as well. Over at a place called the John D. Young Lions Blind Center, Allison Woolbert had been teaching beginner computer lessons to a group of blind adults. The problem in the center was that there were not nearly enough computers for the group or terminals for them to work in. For no fee at all, Allison had agreed to build individual terminals and place gently used laptops in each one, so that every student could work on their own and begin to enjoy a whole new world of technology. The back of Suzanne’s beautiful home would never quite look the same, but groups of blind adults would benefit from Allison Woolbert’s work for years to come.