COLUMBUS — Ray Aerni has been known to spend many hours in his backyard workshop crafting wood projects.
He used those skills to complete a recent fundraiser he undertook more than a year ago.
Aerni raised $6,000 by selling handmade birdhouses. The money is going to the organization Building Homes and Hope in Haiti. He got the idea after reading a magazine article about the plight some in Haiti are still suffering after a 2010 earthquake.
Instead of just sending in a check that could help pay for basic necessities like water filters, Aerni thought he could do more.
The 79-year-old set out to collect enough dollars to construct a new 600-square-foot home complete with a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen for a displaced family in Haiti. The cost of such a project is $6,000.
The best way Aerni could think of to earn that amount was by making and selling wooden birdhouses.
He started the project in April 2011. Using recycled lumber from old fence posts and a torn down homestead, Aerni, with the help of two of his sons, made more than 400 birdhouses during the next 13 months.
He sold the wren houses to friends, family and church members. Word spread and soon he was getting requests for the houses from people all across the country. Aerni sold them to people as far away as Alaska and New York.
In May, Aerni reached his fundraising goal.
“I couldn’t believe it when I hit it. Everybody who donated, I have their names. It just kept growing,” Aerni said.
Achieving the goal has inspired Aerni to continue to give. He said he is going to start making and selling birdhouses again, this time with the money going to Lutheran missions across the world.
It is just his way of giving back and he hopes he inspires others to do the same.
“It doesn’t matter what age you are. Everyone has some talent, time and treasures, so let’s use them and help others out,” Aerni said.