Corkscrew Volunteer Discovers New Outlet for Skill

Retired carpentry teacher is making a difference.

Steve Simpson has always had a soft spot for Eastern Bluebirds. As a retired carpenter and carpentry teacher from Westchester County, New York, he has built hundreds of bird houses. He installed 18 houses around his property alone and loved to see the birds moving in and raising their families—his houses created a community of birds that returned each season. Several years ago, he discovered a new opportunity to combine his love for birds with his carpentry skills at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

Starting His New Retirement Life

After spending 27 years as a Southwest Florida “snowbird” visiting annually each winter, Steve and his wife Lydia made the move from New York to Bonita Springs in 2020. Having grown up in a large family, Steve is always quick to lend a hand wherever needed.

In 2020, Lydia suggested a visit to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Steve found the ancient bald cypress forest impressive, and the boardwalk downright mesmerizing. Across an entire 2.25 miles, the wooden masterpiece takes twists and turns, weaving through the forest and even around individual trees. Upon return to the Blair Visitor Center, he went straight to the admissions desk and asked how he could help preserve and repair the boardwalk. He applied to become a Corkscrew volunteer and began to make a difference soon after.

Opportunities Abound

Joining the existing volunteer facilities team, Steve stayed busy with Sanctuary boardwalk repairs. Before long, he began to realize that the repair process regularly resulted in a number of decent sized plank scraps that were left over.  He saw a terrific opportunity to recycle them into items of value that could benefit Sanctuary operations.

He repurposed and incorporated wood scraps into projects around the campus, from garbage can receptacles to benches to entire storage sheds. Between the steady supply of plank scraps and wooden pallets left over from deliveries, Steve saw an even greater opportunity to apply his skill and passion for a worthy cause: building birdhouses to sell in the Corkscrew Nature Store with all proceeds going back to the Sanctuary.

Birdhouses Now Available in the Nature Store

Steve and fellow facilities volunteer Gary Dorrough are hand-crafting birdhouses in the facilities shop at the Sanctuary. Ideal for Eastern Bluebirds, Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmouse, and other Florida cavity nesters, the houses are complete with a natural, unpainted finish which keeps the interior air temperature lower.  They can be purchased for $34 each in the Nature Store or online.

While he waits for his first dozen houses to fly off the shelves, Steve is keeping busy building other projects around campus, including a new admissions desk for the Blair Visitor Center that is wheelchair accessible. He is also working on patterns for bat houses and other items for the store.

The Sanctuary could not meet its mission without the diverse contributions of many dedicated volunteers. Consider joining our flock today and making a difference for birds, other wildlife, and people!

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