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‘Wood Samaritans’ lend their talents to community projects

by on April 15, 2011

GRANVILLE, Ohio — What do you call a group of men who volunteer their time and their woodworking talents to make needed items for their church and other worthwhile organizations?

The Wood Samaritans, of course.

“This is a great group of guys who are really enthused about doing these kinds of projects for community groups,” said John Mainieri, an original member of the Wood Samaritans, who retired from AEP at the end of 2010 after a 27-year career with the company.

“We have roughly a dozen members, with varying levels of skill in woodworking, but it’s something we all enjoy,” said Mainieri, who was a senior protective coatings specialist with AEP. “Woodworking can be pretty time consuming, but most of us are older and retired, so we have the time that’s needed to work on the various requests we receive.”

AEP retiree John Mainieri not only makes needed items for community groups as a member of the Wood Samaritans, he also frequently donates the lumber from trees on his 45-acre Maple Spring Farm.

Affiliated with the Centenary United Methodist Church in Granville, the Wood Samaritans began their work in 2007. “When we get a request for our services, assuming that the request is approved, we choose a project manager who leads that project until it is completed,” he said.

Examples of the projects that the Wood Samaritans have completed in their four-year history include:

  • Molding for two Habitat of Humanity houses that were built in the neighboring city of Newark. Mainieri donated the lumber for the molding from trees on his 45-acre Maple Spring Farm north of Granville.
  • Support chairs for students at the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ Starlight School. “Some of the students there have spinal or muscular difficulties and need these chairs in order to sit up,” Mainieri explained.
  • Six tea tables for a local senior citizens’ center so that residents of the center can enjoy afternoon tea. The cherry wood for these tables came from Mainieri’s farm.
  • A set of bookcases for the Centenary United Methodist Church in Granville.


 “I’ve had a table saw for 30 years, and I’ve been dabbling in woodworking for all that time, but the work we do as Wood Samaritans is at a much higher level than I was doing before,” Mainieri said with a laugh.

“Our group got its start because Wib Mock, who was the founder of Mock Woodworking in Zanesville, Ohio, retired and moved to Granville and became a member of our church,” he recalled. “Some of the church leaders were talking with Mr. Mock one day and they came up with the idea of starting a woodworking club.

“Mr. Mock is in his early 80s now, but he’s still in good health and he’s our mentor and technical advisor,” Mainieri said. “And we’ve been blessed with a wonderful facility because Dave Linscott, who is a member of our church, has a fully equipped woodworking shop at his home just south of Granville, and he was willing to make it available to us.

“We are a very laid-back group,” said the 64-year-old Mainieri, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Vermont. “We do things at our own pace. But the work seems to come in spurts. I remember I spent 40 hours or more in the period of a month getting the lumber ready for the Habitat for Humanity houses.”

Presently, the Wood Samaritans are branching out, so to speak. Instead of fulfilling a request from a local group, they are currently creating handsome clocks that will be sold at auction, with the proceeds benefiting the mission activity of the church.

“I feel so blessed to have worked for AEP and to be able to do this in my retirement,” Mainieri said. “We’ve been able to do some good work for organizations in our area that needed some assistance, and that’s very fulfilling and rewarding.

“But our little group has become pretty close in the three or four years that we’ve been doing this — we’ve developed some great friendships — and that’s been an added bonus I didn’t really foresee when I first got started with it.

“We’re fulfilling a need in the community and we’re having a good time with it, and it doesn’t get any better than that,” Mainieri concluded. “This is something that — knock on wood — we hope we can keep on doing for quite a few more years.”

There are green acres at Mainieri’s Maple Spring Farm

by Steve Hiles

John Mainieri sounds a little like Oliver Wendell Douglas, the patriarch of Green Acres, when he exclaims, “I knew I wanted to go into agriculture when I retired from AEP.”

But while any avid TV viewer knows Green Acres suffered misfortune after misfortunate, Mainieri’s 45-acre Maple Spring Farm north of Granville, Ohio, is blossoming.

A 27-year AEP veteran who retired at the end of 2010, Mainieri has 50 apple trees, as well as six peach trees, four cherry trees, two apricot trees and 127 blueberry bushes, many of which were planted earlier this year. Eventually, he would like to have 30 peach trees and double the number of cherry trees.

“The 50 apple trees represent five different species, all of which have been genetically engineered so that they can grow and thrive with a minimal amount of pesticides,” said Mainieri, who worked as a protective coatings specialist with AEP.

John Mainieri stands next to a recently planted apple tree on his 45-acre Maple Spring Farm north of Granville, Ohio. Mainieris young orchard includes 50 apple trees, representing five different species.

“Ideally, I would like to grow my apples organically, but it’s just too difficult to do that in Ohio because there are so many pests — insects and blights and fungi,” he explained. “So my approach is to use the least amount of pesticides that’s possible.”

Mainieri has enrolled at The Ohio State University as a “Program 60” student during the winter and spring quarters, taking horticulture and plant biology classes so that he can become licensed to apply pesticides to his budding orchard.

“Program 60 is one of the best-kept secrets in Ohio,” he said. “This program allows Ohio residents, age 60 and over, to attend any OSU class free of charge. It has worked out especially well because my wife, Mary Whetstone, works at Riverside Methodist Hospital and we drive into Columbus together on the days when I have class.

“The orchard and fields cover 15 acres of the farm,” he said. “The remaining 30 acres are woods, and we have so many maple trees that we make our own maple syrup. We’re not a major producer by any stretch of the imagination, but this year we produced 16 gallons of syrup from our own trees. We also sell logs and lumber.”

Mainieri is also a veteran beekeeper, with three beehives on the hillside overlooking his home and plans to add two more. “We’ve been relatively successful in warding off colony collapse syndrome, which has affected so many beekeepers and resulted in a major decline in the honeybee population,” he said. “A lot of our success, I believe, comes from the fact that we feed our bees a sugar solution in the winter to help get them through.”

What’s ahead for Maple Spring Farm? “I’m 64 years old, and I don’t want to expand this farm to the point where I can’t take care of it, but I’m very interested in the concept of community-supported agriculture,” he noted.

“Community-based agriculture is where the farmer makes a commitment to supply high-quality fruit or sweet corn or produce, and sometimes also products like honey or maple syrup. In return, members of the community ‘subscribe’ to this service and agree to buy a certain amount of what he produces at a specified price,” Mainieri said. “Someday, when all these fruit trees are producing, that’s what I’d like to be involved with.”

So this AEP retiree has created some pleasingly green acres without all the trials and tribulations of Green Acres. And there’s not a pig to be found in the neighborhood.

From → Retiree Profiles

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