Woodworking shop helps the homeless build furniture and lives

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By Russ McQuaid

INDIANAPOLIS - There's always an open Bible on the floor of Purposeful Design, a former east side church turned into a woodworking shop for homeless men.

"There's nothing in there about making coffee tables," said Tony Trotter, "but you get a lot out of the Bible, just like Philipians 2:14, 'Do everything without grumbling or arguing.'"

Trotter said he was "down on (his) luck" and using drugs when his name was picked from a list of Wheeler Mission residents to participate in a new program to teach carpentry skills to the homeless that paid $11 an hour and dividends in devotion.

"We're friends and we like working with each other," said Trotter, one of seven men hammering and finishing furniture three days a week. "It's as simple as that."

Purposeful Design will hold an open house Thursday to introduce its product line to the public, take orders and prove that formerly idle hands can build more than tables and chairs.

"We picked people who have already proven themselves to be ready for work, to be reliable, to be receptive to training, to show up on time, to do what they're asked to do," said David Palmer. "So at the end of the day, when the men can look back and say, 'I made that,' it's really a satisfying feeling."

What's not lost on the furniture builders is that Jesus was a carpenter and they're working in wood on the floor of a former sanctuary at 4201 E. 16th St.

"We are the church. You're the church. I'm the church. All of us coming together, we are the church," said Nathan Carroll. "I think that is the beauty of God and how He operates. I think that is the perfect example of what He is all about...taking something that doesn't appear to be anything at all and making it into something great."

The open house is from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Thursday.

To view the furniture built by Purposeful Design, visit their website.

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