Woodturning helps Veterans in Recovery

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - As veterans work to adjust to civilian life, the VA in Lincoln said it's important men and women go through new experiences that are outside of their comfort zone.

Some are overcoming behavioral health problems related to their service.

Now a new program at Nebraska Innovation Campus is serving as a stepping stone to help veterans on their road to recovery.

Thomas Jara is a Navy Veteran, who served from 1990 to 2010. Four months ago, he had no idea how to use a lathe.

"The first attempt was not a success, the second was not a success, but the third time was a success that pride that I felt when I accomplished making a pen was remarkable," said Jara.

Now, he said he's in his own world when he stands in front of the equipment turning pens.

"You really have to use a lot of patience, and that's what I enjoy the most about it, even though there's a lot of noise around you. You just have to focus on the project at hand and you're using your hands."

Jara learned about Veterans in Recovery at Nebraska Innovation Studio through his recovery.

"I have a lot of free time in the afternoon and idle time is not good for me," he said.

Two principles he's taken from his recovery group and is now incorporating into wood turning: service and giving back.

"I've helped a few people as well on the lathe and help them put some pens together and that felt great."

Jim Young is also a veteran and helped bring the Veterans in Recovery program to Lincoln. Young did a demo for the VA late last year and with the help of the NIC staff, veterans officially got behind the lathe for the program in January.

"It may give them that break, where they just have to concentrate on just one thing. Not think about everything else, because when they concentrate on one thing it helps relieve some of that pressure they feel."

Young, a former middle school wood shop teacher, was a part of a larger similar program called Turn Around for Vets in San Diego. When he and his wife moved here to Lincoln two years ago, he wanted to help veterans here.

"This gives them a positive rewarding experience where they can do something and have a tangible product from start to finish in like 30 to 40 minutes," Young said.

Young and his wife, volunteer their time creating the pen kits and doing all the prep work for the men and women who come each Thursday afternoon.

"Every wood blank here has been touched by me 13 times. It is a lot of work to do, but I enjoy doing the work."

Veterans in Recovery meets every Thursday from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at Nebraska Innovation Studio. Thanks to a generous donation, it's free for any veteran who wants to take part.

If anyone would like to make a charitable donation to the veterans program, they can call Nebraska Innovation Studio at (402) 472-5114 or email them at innovationstudio@unl.edu.

Any veteran interested in joining should contact Marlene Sorenson at marlene.sorenson@va.gov.

You can also make a monetary donation to the program at Nebraska Innovation Studio by clicking here.

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