Gavilan's head baseball coach builds birdhouses to help studentsby Jan Janes on May 8, 2020
With the Ram’s bats temporarily silenced by COVID-19, Neal Andrade fills his evenings with a different type of wood.
Neal Andrade builds one-of-a-kind, weathered birdhouses during shelter in place.
“This is one-inch redwood, rustic and old,” said Andrade. “It’s got nail holes and knots, history and an art vibe to it.”
The wood came from an old dairy barn out on Cohansey Road, torn down by George Chiala Farms after purchasing the property. Andrade has stacks of various sizes outside his shop.
The outside has the patina of weathered paint. “It’s true one by twelve,” he said. “Once cut, the inside grain looks like you bought it yesterday.” Artsy kind of stuff for projects, but scrap for farm projects.
Busy in spring with the team and his own three children, Andrade said he doesn’t usually get many opportunities to work on hobbies. Now he can work on the bird houses in the evenings and on weekends.
Working with the salvaged lumber, Andrade said no two birdhouses are the same. “I don’t do much measuring, and they turn out on their own.”
Andrade works around flaws in the wood to create shapes for the birdhouses.
What started as one grew to 25, and he realized he needed to do something with them. After giving a few to family and friends, Andrade decided to turn it into a fund raising project for Gavilan students.
Right now he is offering them to Gavilan College staff and faculty in return for a donation to the COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund. Email Neal Andrade if you are interested in having one.
Gavilan has disbursed nearly $40,000 to students from the emergency fund, sending $100 VISA cards or $100 checks to students who applied.
After receiving aid, one student wrote, "Thank you. Blessings! I really appreciate it, nobody in my house is working because of COVID-19. It will help a lot. I was unable to pay my rent, and I am trying to negotiate the other utility bills."
As a Gavilan alum, former student athlete and now a coach, Andrade worked with Susan Dodd before she retired.
“We got a housewarming gift from Susan,” said Andrade. “Two birdhouses that hang in our yard today. So Susan was an inspiration for what I’m doing now.”
Visit the COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund page to make a direct donation.