Building puzzles to help others

by | August 17, 2018 5:00 pm

Last Updated: August 15, 2018 at 9:57 am

Walterboro resident Noel Ison is making wood puzzles designed to help veterans in assisted living homes who have lost dexterity in their hands due to arthritis, dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other physical disabilities.
A few months ago, his daughter Misty, who works with veterans in an assisted living care center in Pennsylvania, told him about the problem they had in trying to find entertainment for their patients with varying degrees of physical disabilities. She said: “They like to do puzzles but they have a problem with dexterity that makes it difficult for them to grasp and place the puzzle pieces.”
“That stayed on my mind for a few days,” said Ison. “Finally one day, I was in my ‘bunker’ where I do woodwork, and I toyed with the idea for an hour or so. Finally I found a solution. I designed three wood puzzles: a World War II tank, a Jeep and a jet plane. My thought was these shapes would appeal to our veterans.”
Ison uses a backboard with the puzzle design cut into it, then cuts the puzzle pieces about a half-inch taller than the backboard so the pieces will be easy for patients to grasp. He also glues an outline of the puzzle inside the frame to help users find where the pieces go.
Then, he took several puzzles to Veterans Victory House for a test run. “The activity director, Stephanie, said they were wonderful,” he said.
His plan is to add to his existing woodworking shop and hire veterans to help him build the puzzles. “Working in a business that produces something made by their hands will give veterans a sense of pride and build their self-esteem,” said Ison, who is a veteran himself. “It will also give them additional income to assist them in improving their lives. We would have veterans working to help themselves and producing a product that helps other veterans. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
But the money for such a project is proving hard to find, so until funding can be found, he’s decided just to build the puzzles in his spare time and donate them to local retirement homes.
For the past several years, Ison has been building do-it-yourself wooden toy kits, which are sold in the Walterboro BiLo. To help with his new project, contact him at 843-539-1050 or nison@lowcountry.com.
When he saw local veterans using his puzzles, he said, “I was overwhelmed with joy and pride. Something I built was helping my fellow veterans find a little joy in their lives. Every time I see them, I think about how many more we can help.”

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