Local teen gives back to his community through Gracie’s Promise

Grady Shields

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TORRINGTON – The bids have ceased for the Christmas wreaths and decorations of Gracie’s Promise this year. However, bidding continues this week for the 14th Annual Festival of Trees.

This year there were serval different styles of trees and other Christmas decorations to bid on throughout Goshen County. 

Grady Shields, a junior at Torrington High School turned his hobby of “spinning wood” into a way to support his community.

Grady, the son of Dan and Georgene Shields, has spent many years in the wood shop. “I started making cutting boards with him,” Grady said while pointing to his father, Dan.

“It’s been a long time ago. We used to make cutting boards and checker boards,” Dan explained. 

Dan manages the local lumber store, Century Lumber. “Then I started making fishing lures and I saw youtube videos encouraging me to turn stuff on the lathe,” Grady explained. “It’s just kind of picked up from there.”

Wood turning lathes are normally used to shape wood into cylindrical profiles. Many different products in our homes today have been constructed with the use of a wood lathe. Some of these items may include furniture legs, bowls, baseball bats and staircase railings. 

A traditional wood lathe tool consists of a moveable tool rest, a fixturing and securing device for the piece of wood, hand-held cutting tools in the form of long handled gouges, skews, scrapers, and parting tools.

A working piece can be one solid piece of wood, or it can be a combination of many pieces of wood, glued together. The working piece is placed on the lathe using proper measurements and configurations. Once the piece is properly secured and the machine is on, the lathe spins the working piece of wood allowing the carpenter to begin shaping the piece with tools. The lathe rotates the working wood anywhere from 200rpm to over 3000rpm. 

For the last two years, Grady has volunteered his time to build the Christmas ornaments on the tree in Century Lumber to benefit Gracie’s Promise. 

“I felt like my hobby could go to a good cause,” Grady explained. “I’ve been woodturning for, off and on, about three years.” 

“As far as Gracie’s Promise, when he did that (made ornaments) last year, he got a good response,” Dan explained. “He received a very nice thank you letter from Mary Houser and Bud Watson, the founder. Bud received one of the ornaments as well. It was pretty cool,” Dan said. “I think something like that kind of puts things in perspective.” 

“The first year, I asked him, ‘hey, we do a Gracie’s Promise tree, do you think you could do the ornaments’ and he agreed,” Dan explained. “This year, he just volunteered for it.”

“Century Lumber has been doing Gracie’s Promise for a few years and boy, his ornaments made a big difference in the bidding of that tree,” Dan said. 

Grady developed his own protégé using 62 individual pieces of cherry, walnut, and maple wood. Each handcrafted ornament takes about one board foot of lumber and takes him about an hour to construct, minus drying time. 

The tree had 12 beautiful ornaments on display this year. 

“The person that won the tree last year ended up splitting the ornaments up and Mary Houser received one, Bud Watson received one and then I believe she gave the rest of them as gifts,” Dan explained. “It was pretty neat because those got dispersed. It was a meaningful thing for everybody that received one.” 

“I am blown away by the talent and generosity of that young man [Grady],” Meg Garrett, Board Member for Gracie’s Promise, told the Telegram.  “Leaves me speechless. He has such a gift,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what he does with his talent as he continues to grow and learn more.”

Grady is active in baseball and he is considering a career in dentistry.  

“We are so grateful to Grady and all of our tree donors who donate their time, energy and money on supplies/ products,” Garrett said. “This is our biggest fundraiser of the year and wouldn’t be possible without any of them.”