The holidays are a time of giving, but some do not only wait until this special season to be good samaritans.

Tom Gleason, of Gleason Woodwork Inc., carries his goodwill over the entire year in his work with the Fabretto Children’s Foundation, where he was named 2007 Volunteer of the Year. The U.S.-based charitable organization was founded in 1993 to aid impoverished Nicaraguan children and families through programs promoting education, health, character development, community and job skills.

Since becoming familiar with the organization on a youth group service trip with his wife Glenda in 2001, Gleason has provided skills and management training, as well as financial assistance, to the carpentry program, Taller el Buen Samaritano, or “the good samaritan workshop,” located in Cusmapa, Nicaragua, a remote, poverty-stricken community.

Gleason says the shop’s number one revenue generators are its Christmas products. These include a woodcarved nativity scene puzzle, which uses the outside frame as a stable while the rest of the pieces become the traditional crèche members, and a woodcarved Bethlehem ornament, which is hand-cut and depicts the birth of Christ.

Gleason assists in bringing these products to the U.S. market, where a greater profit is possible. “Every dollar generated by export sales is returned to the shop as income, tools or supplies,” he says. “All shipping and overhead is donated, and profits are invested back into stabilizing the shop’s financial position.” The shop also builds products for the Nicaraguan and local market such as doors and windows, didactic games and toys, furniture and coffins.

According to Gleason, the shop itself was recently rebuilt. The catalyst for the new shop was equipment donated by Frank Pfeiffer, a retiring Chicago woodworker, such as a planer, jointer, radial arm saw, and stroke and edge sanders. Gleason Woodwork also donated a pin router, shaper, radial drill press and scroll saw. The new facility was upgraded with a concrete floor, block walls, three-phase electrical service, and an extended roof and eaves.

Gleason adds that the benefits of working with Fabretto are twofold, not only helping the carpentry program, but also providing satisfaction to him as well. “Fabretto adds balance in my life, allowing me to give time, talent and treasure to further opportunity for people yearning for that opportunity,” he says. “Giving back provides so much pleasure.”

For more information on Fabretto, to purchase products or make donations, visit

Tom Gleason, with Adrian Vallejos, woodshop leader, at the new Taller el Buen Samaritano shop in Cusmapa, Nicaragua.

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