Hobby Meets Humanitarianism

By Michelle Da Roza

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Take one retired realtor, add a love of woodworking plus a passion for helping the community and that equals Wayne Helfrich. Although not a volunteer in the traditional sense, Wayne takes third-party fundraising to the next level. In his spare time, he creates beautifully intricate wooden puzzles that are sold by donation with all proceeds going towards Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver. Why Habitat? Because they are “doers,” says Wayne, just like him. Creating these puzzles is a labour of love, he says, and he cannot justify selling them for his own benefit.

The idea of creating puzzles came to him after he picked up a few wooden puzzles at a garage sale a couple of years ago. These small pieces of wood piqued his interest, inspiring him to make his own. He was fondly dubbed “The Puzzle Man” shortly after, however, his creations are not limited to just wooden mind mysteries. Cutting boards and washer games are some of the other woodcrafts that can be purchased by donation.

For several years, Wayne has made it his mission to spread the good word of Habitat for Humanity and the work they do by appearing on the organization’s behalf at community events, in addition to marketing his woodworking. He even began to “charge” friends and family by donation for his assistance with home repairs and renovations. If a neighbour calls Wayne to install shelves, for example, Wayne asks for a donation to Habitat for Humanity in lieu of payment for his helping hands.

After an overwhelmingly positive response to his message and one-of-a-kind wooden pieces, Wayne issued a challenge to himself in early 2009: Raise $10,000 for Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver by 2010, which is twice the required amount for corporate-build teams. This may seem like a lofty goal, but after seven months into his campaign, Wayne had raised over $9,000! A huge component of his success is his puzzle website and online fundraising option (www.woodenpuzzlesarefun.ca).

As of September 1, 2009, Wayne officially met and exceeded his fundraising goal. The Puzzle Man’s next project is a run of wooden piggy banks for children with sections for saving, spending, investing and, of course, donating with the intention of inspiring another generation of Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver fundraisers.





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