Canes For Veterans looking for volunteers to help make canes

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 6:11 AM CDT
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COPPERAS COVE, Texas (KWTX) - Jamie Willis said when he learned how to make wooden canes a few years ago, it saved his life during a difficult time. Now, he’s continuing his work to help other veterans.

Willis and David Garza are behind the non-profit Canes for Veterans. Willis said he started out several years ago making a few canes a month. After asking for the community to donate their Christmas trees a few years ago, his work spread like wildfire, and he turned it into a nonprofit organization.

Willis and Garza spend their days making hand-made wooden canes. Willis said each cane takes about 40 hours. The wood is stripped and then sanded and shaped by hand.

After the cane is shaped, Willis and Garza attach decals to tell the story of each veterans’ service, before it is sealed.

Garza said they can use any type of wood, and each cane is different.

“I just enjoy doing it,” Garza said. “And you get a special feeling from it when you do it, something handmade. Not one cane matches another.”

Thanks to a recent donation from Dominion Energy, Willis and Garza have wood to make hundreds of canes. Olivia Chee-Martin works with Dominion Energy on Fort Hood.

Chee-Martin said she has worked with Willis in the past, so when trees needed to be trimmed, she knew she wanted to donate them to Willis. She said loves the environment and every part of it that can be re-sed or recycled, and that’s part of Willis’ work.

“Knowing that he turned this into something that instead of it being thrown to the side, dried out and maybe not even being used again, but knowing that he gives tree another purpose, that’s great to me, that’s great news,” Chee-Martin said.

While Willis and Garza have the wood to make canes, they need help to fill orders. Willis said they are about 800 orders behind right now, and they’re look for volunteers. Both men said they can teach anyone, at any age, how to make a cane.

“We had a 10, 11-year-old girl, she did it for a school project to give to a vet,” Garza said. “She built the cane, we walked her through it, she’d done it all, picked the stalk, whole nine yards. And she even wrote a letter of appreciation of her appreciation of him being in the military.”

Garza and Willis both said the feeling of giving a cane to a veteran is a special feeling, and shared stories of being moved to tears when they delivered canes to some in Central Texas.

The canes share the story of the veteran, and Willis and Garza said that means so much more than a metal cane.

“When the person sees somebody with one of our canes, it totally takes their eye off that person and they look at the cane, and they start looking at their story, and it makes that person stand just a little bit taller and prouder,” Willis said. “Because now that person doesn’t look like they’re disabled anymore. It makes them look like a person again. And you can tell the difference in that person on how they walk with one of our canes.”

If you’d like to help Willis and Garza, you can call Willis at 254-394-3150, and you can find more information on their Facebook page and website.

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