John Maitland Founding HCWG

Contributed Jan. 15, 2011 by Marilyn Maitland

John Maitland, by his very nature was a “doer”. He also was a gatherer of people. He was a life long educator. He loved nothing better than putting together a festive gathering of folks who were creative, interesting and could make a difference all in one fell swoop.

In the early 1980’s he moved from a Catonsville townhouse to an individual home in Columbia. In that new home he, like so many others at that time, became involved in building shelving where needed, finishing the lower level to provide more usable living space, even building furniture pieces for various needy nooks and crannies. He continually looked for neighbors who would join him in these activities. He sought their camaraderie. He was eager to teach other new home owners how to do what they so admired him doing in his home.

Slowly he became convinced that there were other individuals in the county who would want to share their travails, techniques and successes at woodworking. While chatting with his friend Don Bard, with whom he had done some small woodworking projects, he mentioned starting a woodworkers group. With Don’s encouragement, John did just that.

While connecting with the Florence Bain Senior Center Woodshop he encountered a few fellows who were interested in sharing tips and techniques. Always the organizer, Maitland starting formalizing the group and its processes. He, at last, had met like minded folks who would talk “wood” and he loved it. Hence, the formation of the Howard County Woodworkers Guild. He publicized this new venture in any venue he could find. Soon it would become more than one hundred members strong with meetings and classes, field trips and charitable accomplishments.

While all that was well on its way, John identified another need for this group. He realized that these great guys, and a few gals, were an interesting group of folks with life experiences about which they rarely chatted. They had a lot to share with one and other. Many were retired.

One morning, John, who never drank coffee, told his wife he was going to start a coffee club. “I have decided that I will invite my fellow woodworkers for coffee, here at our home every Wednesday morning”, he announced. He purchased a one hundred cup coffee maker and within a couple of weeks a band of regulars, some twenty-five or thirty strong, began showing up at John’s home every “A.M. Wednesday”. They informally organized themselves deciding who would bring donuts and bagels, which would perform clean up duties and how much money would go in the “kiddy” each week for future supplies. They rarely missed a Wednesday and if they did…they were sorely missed!

This diverse band of brothers (and a few sisters) met for more than twelve years at John’s home. They discussed the problems of the world, met with local law makers and politicians and acted as mentors for more than one high school woodshop project that needed an elder’s perspective.

It was an extraordinary bonding. One man’s desire to share his talent and time with others, to enrich his life, had shaped a formalized large group and an informal smaller group. Both groups allowed artisans and amateurs alike to share their time and talents to enrich the lives of themselves and others.

Both groups continue to thrive today more than two decades after John Carpenter Atkinson-Maitland decided they should exist.