January 13, 2013

Snowshoe sales help veterans experience Maine outdoors

Owners of Pine Grove Lodge in Bingham create program to make snowshoes, use sales income to fund excursions

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BINGHAM -- In a tiny snow-covered cabin, Dave Giampetruzzi weaves the dark green lacings of a snowshoe between the wooden frame.

click image to enlarge

Dave Giampetruzzi, 63, of China, a 43-year veteran with the U.S. Army, fabricates a snowshoe in his cabin at Pine Grove Lodge in Bingham on Thursday. Giampetruzzi teaches snowshoe making for the Pine Grove Program, which hosts veterans and service members on select weekends for wilderness adventures. The Pine Grove Program is a nonprofit program designed to help disabled veterans and service members get outdoors for hunting, fishing and wilderness activities. The program is primarily funded through snowshoe sales.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

Dave Giampetruzzi, 63, of China, fabricates a snowshoe in his cabin at Pine Grove Lodge in Bingham on Thursday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seaman

Additional Photos Below

Giampetruzzi, 63, is a veteran who retired from the military in 2008 and returned to Maine, where he went on a hunting trip at Pine Grove Lodge that inspired him to bring the outdoors to other veterans.

"It wasn't so much about hunting as it was about re-energizing and realizing I had some needs at the time. It elevated my spirit so much that I wanted to find a focused way to bring that same feeling to others that had served," he said.

At Pine Grove, a 50-room hunting and fishing lodge, Giampetruzzi learned to make snowshoes, a Maine tradition that has been part of the Pine Grove Program, which lodge's owners Bob and Andrea Howe created to bring veterans and other service members on hunting and fishing trips as therapy.

Snowshoemaking, which is in its second year as part of the program, produces shoes that are sold for anywhere from $190 to $245 a pair and proceeds go toward bringing veterans, firefighters and victims of trauma to the outdoors. It was the creative outlet Giampetruzzi was looking for.

"It's challenging and provides an opportunity for creativity, as well as I think some peace of mind knowing we are helping other veterans in the process," said Giampetruzzi, who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1973, joined the Army Reserve in 1978 and also spent a year in Iraq.

Giampetruzzi was first introduced to Bob Howe in 2008 after returning from service in Iraq. At that time he was on the receiving end of the program, having come to the lodge for the fall hunting trip.

Now he is teaching other veterans to tie snowshoes, a traditional art that Giampetruzzi has learned at the lodge, where he has his own cabin to work in plus a workshop and store that are part of the program.

Howe, 57, started making snowshoes himself about 15 years ago and said the program has about 10 to 12 veterans that tie snowshoes either at the lodge or at their homes. They also work with the Charleston Correctional Facility in Penobscot County, where inmates make the frames.

He said it is too early to say how much money the program is making but that all the proceeds go right back to the lodge, making it possible for other veterans and victims of trauma to visit and enjoy the outdoors at no cost. Howe said an example is the fishing pond at the lodge, which he stocks with trout bought with money from the snowshoe sales.

The snowshoes at the lodge are made from local white ash that is cut into boards about 10 feet long, one inch wide and one inch tall, said Howe. The wood is taken from the edge of the tree where the grain is the strongest and is planed and sanded once it is cut, he said.

The boards are steamed so they can be bent into the round toe of the snowshoe.

The shape of the snowshoe depends on three things: what it is going to be used for, the body weight of the person wearing it and the type of snow it will be used on, said Howe.

Snowshoes are used for hunting, walking in heavy brush, collecting maple syrup or recreationally for walking cross-country, and a person who weighs less will usually wear a smaller shoe, he said.

Howe also said there are about 10 different types of snow and it varies depending on geographic location. The lacing of the shoes also has a function -- it is designed so that the wearer of the shoe is not carrying around too much snow.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Dave Giampetruzzi, 63, of China, explains the difference of the Maine Guide snowshoe compared to the traditional designs, hanging on the left, in the workshop at Pine Grove Lodge in Bingham on Thursday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans


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