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VANCOUVER, Wash. The Director of a unique non-profit woodworking ministry is retiring. Reverend Duane Sich started Friends of the Carpenter 15 years ago in his garage. Now it occupies a large building near downtown Vancouver called The Friendship Center.

With the help of volunteers and staff, it has helped thousands of homeless people or others who need support, by building relationships in the woodshop.

Everyone s accepted. Everyone loves being here, whether you come from a comfortable setting in a car or a nice home or you were outside last night, once you re in this building, everybody belongs, said Sich.

Sam Abron has been coming to The Friendship Center for about seven months, learning woodworking skills and getting support.

All these things are learned as you have hands on. It s one of the great things about being at the center, because it gives us a safe place, said Abron.

Sich retires at the end of the month. Tom Iberle, a longtime ministry leader, will take over the Director position. And Sich hopes in retirement he will have more time to return as a volunteer, and do wood work in the shop.

I ve always loved ministry, I ve never felt like I had to go to work. It s been a joy and a privilege to serve, but here it has just been fun. It s been fun to come to work every day in this humble, modest place, said Sich.

Friends of the Carpenter sells its wood products to the public, but mainly relies on donations and volunteers to run its operations. The Friendship Center is located at 1600 West 20th Street in Vancouver.

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