By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Real tools can sometimes help rebuild lives.
Hammers, saws and sanding blocks are being used by a group of young men working to get their lives back on track. There’s an added bonus: the results of their labor will benefit area children.
American Pride Woodworking has teamed up with Granite State-based Charitable Woodworking to create book bins for children in need in the Concord area.
American Pride owner Frank LeBlanc creates the handcrafted wooden bins as a way to give back to those needing it most.
He is enlisting help from residents at the nearby Granite House transitional living facility. Those young men also are reaping the rewards of creating something meaningful for others.
LeBlanc’s small woodworking shop on West Broadway offers more than just construction lessons on how to build a box from wood.
Participants also learn life skills with the pound of a hammer and a desire to create something that will benefit others.
LeBlanc is candid about his history with drugs and alcohol.
Working in wood became his haven.
Bringing the Granite House crew on board is his way of giving back to the residents of the West Broadway sober living facility, who working hard to be successful.
The carpentry work often mirrors a person’s journey through tough times.
“They’re taking rough pieces and turning them into useful projects,” LeBlanc said.
Granite House owner Eric Spofford has known LeBlanc for many years. He, too, is candid about his own battles as a younger man. He said the woodworking program is a lifeline for Granite House residents who need opportunities for success.
Spofford said he respects and commends LeBlanc for his work and willingness to help others.
“He’s working really hard and doing an amazing job with it,” Spofford said.
Braden Nees, 20, said he loves working with LeBlanc in his shop. The Granite House resident said he’s proud of his work.
“It’s cool to have an opportunity presented to you, to be able to help people out,” he said.
Steve Woodworth, 20, said he spent so much time causing others pain while he worked through his issues that it was time to give something back.
“Instead of being selfish, I am being selfless,” he said. “I want to do more, and I’m not asking for something in return.”
The young men visit LeBlanc’s workshop several times a week to work on the bins. The team will make 20 bins to deliver by the end of the month.
LeBlanc hopes to grow his business and continue helping those who are working to take a different path in life. That includes possible connections with Community Alliance for Teen Safety and The Upper Room. Talks with those organizations are still in the planning phase.
“I would love to start a diversion program for teens,” he said.
Sue Centner, CATS executive director, said what LeBlanc is doing is positive and meaningful. She said it was a pleasure meeting LeBlanc and hearing about what he had planned.
“CATS supports efforts in the community that provide resources for those who may be struggling with issues that pose challenges to their leading productive, safe and healthy lives,” Centner said.”
Spofford said the Granite House residents are learning a lot from LeBlanc, more than sanding and building wooden boxes.
“They love it,” he said. “They are learning a trade. While in recovery, they learn to be selfless. It’s a great thing what Frank is doing.”
For LeBlanc, woodworking is a blessing.
“There’s a certain sense of accomplishment and pride that keeps us going,” he said.