by Tim Snyder
Homes for Our Troops (HFOT; https://www.hfotusa.org/) is a nonprofit organization that builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes for severely injured Veterans post- 9/11, to enable them to rebuild their lives. Since 2004, HFOT has built 213 specially adapted homes across the country. Many companies and organizations donate to HFOT, but Lois Barber devised a fund-raising idea that should be especially appealing to woodworkers.
A resident of Sandy Hook, CT, Lois is no stranger to tragic events. She took an active role in the recovery of her community in the aftermath of the school shooting, then turned her attention to the plight of veterans who return to civilian life with severe battle injuries. “I really believe in the mission of Homes for our Troops,” Lois says, “so I started to think about ways that local organizations could contribute.”
Lois came up with the idea of a beautiful baby contest for veterans’ families that takes place in a very hands-on way. A photo of each baby contestant is displayed on a portable “Baby Contest Voting Booth” that allows people to vote by slipping a dollar bill into a compartment behind the photo. When the voting period ends, the baby with the most dollar votes is the winner. All votes are donated to HFOT.
The contest works because it’s simple, portable and focused on veterans who are known in their communities. But its success also has a great deal to do with the special display stand/voting booth that Lois developed with Randy Muller, a woodworking neighbor. As shown in the photos, the stand has room for 56 photos and includes hinged legs that allow for easy transport and storage. Once unlocked, the display board swings up to provide access to compartments behind each photo.
When I met with Lois to learn about this special project, she was just getting ready to put it to work at the annual Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department Lobster Bake. My friend David Heim has completed full set of plans for the booth, and we’re making them available for free; just click on the link below.
In addition, Lois can provide tips for running your own beautiful baby contest to benefit wounded veterans (Just email firstname.lastname@example.org). There’s also an informative video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtERdhvLcnc If you want to get together with some fellow woodworkers and create a gift that keeps on giving, this is a great project.