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Made from wood, given from the heart

Glenwood couple starts non-profit to help veterans

By Faith Anderson


Mark and Susan Schuler, co-founders of Wood-n-Hearts, show an example of the furniture they give to veterans in need. Photo by Faith Anderson

Mark and Susan Schuler of Glenwood have a heart for veterans and a passion to help them. The Schulers have given wings to that passion by creating a charitable organization they call Wood-n-Hearts. The mission of this non-profit is to give furniture to veterans who have been displaced and need assistance. Last year, they gave 70 three-piece bedroom sets to veterans all over the state of Minnesota. Each set includes a dresser, a nightstand and a bed with a headboard, frame, box spring and mattress, a sheet set, a comforter set, and a pillow.

  The Schulers have always felt a calling to help others and have participated in various fundraisers for the homeless and others facing hardships. As time went on, they decided to focus on helping veterans. They had seen first-hand the difficulties that Mark’s brother, Butch, faced when he returned from Vietnam and transitioned into civilian life again.


“We saw Butch’s struggles and knew we needed to recognize those difficulties and honor his service,” said Mark.


Mark and Susan moved to Pope County in the spring of 2019 after living in California and Nevada for most of 36 years. They bought land southeast of Glenwood and began the process of setting up a home for their charitable organization.


“This is where we wanted to build our dream of helping veterans,” said Mark.


As their plan came together, Mark and Susan told Butch about their idea.

“He thought we were crazy,” said Susan. “He told us that he didn’t see this working out.”


But the plan did work and Butch, a carpenter by trade, drew up the plans for their very first bedroom set.


The Schulers worked with the county to understand local regulations and obtain the necessary permits. Mark used what he had learned from being in various businesses in California to help set up this new venture in Minnesota. His humble beginnings saw him working for a grocery store chain as a bagger, janitor, clerk and in maintenance. As time went on and he gained experience, he became part of many businesses and industries in Northern California, including real estate and rentals. He is still involved in many of those same businesses today.


On Dec. 30, 2019, Wood-n-Hearts obtained 501 (c) (3) status and was on its way to being an organization that helped Minnesota veterans. The name, Wood-n-Hearts, was Susan’s idea.


“Our products were made of wood and are given from our hearts,” she said. “So that became our name.”


Brandon Schuler holds a wide belt used in the sanding machine to smooth large surfaces before finishing them. His business builds the furniture that the charity gives to veterans. Photo by Faith Anderson

A 44x60-foot pole building was constructed on the land as a production facility. That structure now holds the wood shop of Brandon Schuler, Mark and Susan’s son. His business contracts with Wood-n-Hearts to build and finish the maple furniture given to veterans through the nonprofit. Brandon learned many of his woodworking skills from his uncle Butch.


“He was a carpenter before I was born,” said 35-year-old Brandon. “I learned a lot from him.”


Along the way, Brandon’s company has expanded and added tools that make the production of these bedroom sets more efficient.


“We use hard maple for the set because it’s very durable,” he said, “and it looks good with any flooring and furnishings.”


Brandon and his wife, Kelly, live near the wood shop with their two young girls. He enjoys his work and supports the mission of Wood-n-Hearts.


“If you’ve ever been without a bed of your own,” said Brandon, “then you understand why this work is so important and meaningful to us. These gifts are something personal.”


Occasionally, Brandon joins his dad for the delivery of the furniture.


In addition to providing furniture to individual veterans, they’ve delivered bedroom sets to organizations like the Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Centre, a veterans facility in Albert Lea and the Bravo Zulu House in Winnebago, which is specifically designed for the recovery of veterans suffering with both PTSD and addiction. Another group they’ve worked with is the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV), which is a veteran-focused nonprofit that works to end veteran homelessness in Minnesota. When veterans leave these organizations, they take their bedroom sets with them.


Mark is highly involved in the day-to-day business of the charity and prioritizes transparency in record-keeping and accounting. Some days, he checks in with Brandon to see if he needs any help in the wood shop.


“I like to keep busy,” said Mark. “And I enjoy seeing things come together to help veterans.”


Susan has mostly retired but continues to work on specific events and meetings for the nonprofit. The organization is managed by a three-member board of directors including co-founders Mark and Susan, and Butch Schuler, Mark’s brother. Also working directly with Wood-n-Hearts is a seven-member executive committee with diverse backgrounds and talents.


Funding for Wood-n-Hearts comes through donations from individuals and corporations. The organization also holds raffles and fundraisers throughout the year in order to be able to give this furniture to veterans at no cost.


In 1968, Butch Schuler was drafted into the US Army and went through basic training in Ft. Lewis, Washington and AIT in Ft. Ord, California. In January of 1969 he was deployed overseas to serve our country in Vietnam and completed his service after serving two years. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Wood-n-Hearts and is the designer of their furniture.

To be eligible for this furniture, an individual needs to send a letter through a veteran’s organization like the VFW, American legion, the Veterans Administration, or a Veterans Service Officer serving in Minnesota. That letter must include the veteran’s background and current situation.


One of the recent deliveries that Mark and Brandon made was to a veteran in Randall. When they unloaded the trailer into his home, they realized that he had been sleeping on an air mattress on the floor.


“This furniture represents a comfort zone for these veterans,” said Mark. “A good bed for a good night’s sleep and a place to put your clothes are small things that give you comfort.”


Another veteran who received the furniture from Wood-n-Hearts was so thrilled with the gift that he said he felt like singing. Mark encouraged him and he sat right up and sang, “I’m proud to be an American…”


This year, as the organization celebrates its fifth birthday, they’ve planned a special event on August 24. The event will include a full afternoon of free activities and games for families. Children will have the opportunity to meet and shake hands with a veteran. The evening program will highlight the lives of three veterans and honor their service. Many prizes are being offered in the raffle with the grand prize being $20,000. Details can be found on their website at www.woodnhearts.com.


Wood-n-Hearts is about helping the veterans who served our country and protected our freedom.


“It’s not about us,” said Mark as he reminisced about the history of Wood-n-Hearts. “I figure if you can help a bunch of people, that’s a real good thing. We are doing what we can, and I encourage others to get involved too. This is way bigger than us!”

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