I Believe that Trees Have Stories

Friends’ Development Director, Tori, sat down (virtually) with Benjamin and Lisa of Benjamin Scheid Custom Building Concepts to dig into why their company donates to Friends.

In our latest newsletter we shared an abbreviated version of our conversation with Benjamin and Lisa. Here’s the full interview!


What inspired you to partner with Friends to plant trees and make a local investment in your community?

It is this deep respect for my material and my responsibility as a user of it to help replace what I’ve used. As with many businesses getting off the ground is difficult and, although this was a hopeful concept from the beginning of this endeavor, we are now able to make this a priority. Lisa has taken the lead in finding the best way to make this happen. 

That’s how we found Friends. Giving to Friends is a wonderful opportunity to enhance our city. This I hope is simply our first step in this business giving back to our community. We all have a responsibility – especially if your use of the “commons” is more frequent in your business activities. 

What are your favorite outdoor activities?

My family has always enjoyed being in nature from our backyard to Lake Michigan.  A few years ago, our daughter Sadie went to Blandford Nature School; our outdoor life has been much more diverse since then.  We love hiking and maybe more than that, stopping on the hike to explore. Camping at Wilderness State Park two years ago, we found some big tide pools where we could find each stage of tadpoles to frog. 

Throughout the COVID-19 situation, our walks and hikes are more vital than ever.  We have found several new places for us. Most regular is the trail along plaster creek at Ken-O-Sha Park.  Many times this last year, hikes started with tears in someone’s eyes and usually ended feeling better.  I think nature always works for bringing up your spirits. Maybe it’s the payoff for entertaining the trees with our foolishness. I’ve thought before that if karma transcends one lifetime, an impatient person may come back as a tree.

As a child, I spent what would amount to years at Garfield Park. Every part of it too. I learned how to swim in what seemed like a lake, the pool was so huge.  Also being large for my age playing basketball with the “big boys”. Unable to dunk our shoot or do anything noteworthy, I learned how to scrap for rebounds. It was a simple but complex situation of success and failure that stuck with me. Hard work and patience might garner success.


Tell us about Benjamin Scheid Custom Building Concepts and how you to got into woodworking

I’ve been interested in woodworking my entire life.  I started working at 19 at a well-paying job unrelated to woodworking. This allowed me to buy tools and materials.  From that moment on, I have been pretty wrapped up in some kind of design or construction of sorts.

I bought a house in the Mulick Park Neighborhood in 2003 and with the assistance of every episode of This Old House on PBS, our home has been (for better or worse) my training ground. The ability to imagine something and bring it to life with visible results after each work session is intoxicating. In 2006 my oldest child Sadie was born and I was able to make all of the bedroom furniture for them.  Although this was one of the happiest times in our lives, hobbies aren’t easy to maintain with babies, and that was one of the few projects I completed for years to come. Claire our second child was born in early 2011. Times were good, I was 30 have a wonderful wife and two amazing children, well employed. Super, right!? 

Anyone who has experienced this before can relate. Once that fire is lit it won’t go away easily. I was realizing that what I do to make money does matter to me.  I felt like I was professionally in the mud and was so caught up in “normal” that mud felt like quicksand. The next summer I set out to paint my house knowing it was long overdue.  It turned out to be rotten in so many places I ended up opening much of our house to the studs. After a full day of removal, I stood back and thought “I probably shouldn’t have done this”. I’m quite sure my wife agreed but with a trailer full of rotten boards it’s too late!  With some helpful advice, I was able to get things secure and dried in. So naturally, we decided to make it the Cape Cod that it should be and hand nailed cedar shakes for months on my days off.  I found myself excited to work for 12 hours on my days off. I wasn’t frustrated with taking my time making something just right.

That same summer in the midst of this project, my nephew experienced a “bad birth” that has since resulted in cerebral palsy.  This event shook my family.  Sitting in the pediatric ICU at Helen Devos children’s hospital will set you straight on what really matters!  I’d never felt so lucky to have my family. From that time on I realized my employer was not my problem, they have always been the same and I shouldn’t have any reason to think that would change. I changed and it was now up to me to figure out how and where I fit.  Tricky thing was, I’ve got this great family who had a different take on “normal”.  I knew in the summer of 2012 I was not going to complete my work life at AT&T but it was going to be a long road out. 

Of course, you can leave any job whenever you want but money is one of those things. You don’t want to love it or hate it but you need it. Changes were going to need to happen on many fronts. First, I had to prove to myself and my wife I had enough potential to keep this dream going. My woodworking went from being a hobby I sometimes do to my way to something else. I learned differently.  Growing up with ADD sometimes getting through school was just that, getting through school. This was the first time I took it seriously, with the mindset of, if I can’t be critical with myself and my process I probably can’t be self-employed.  This was my mindset for everything the next few years. If it’s not getting me closer to my goal it’s wrong. You may imagine how much fun this was (not)for my family.  Writing this now makes me appreciate the fact that my wife still likes me.  My youngest Claire helped me build my shed at 3. She only knew me as a “hard-working daddy”. She always wanted to work with me. I loved it and still do but that’s not the best way to hang with your kids. I’m sure my oldest was thrilled to be in the 6th grade with the knowledge we would be canceling TV services and other such amenities while dad tries his hand at self-employment. I guess this is why they are called family businesses. 

With the help and support of family and friends In late 2016, the scales of quality of and future life outweighed the steady paycheck. On Claire’s birthday January 13, 2017, I retired from AT&T with 16 years of service at the age of 36. 

Benjamin Scheid Custom Building Concepts is me and my wife designing, building, and installing custom carpentry needs. We’ve done work ranging from built-ins, kitchen pantries, mudrooms, fireplace mantles to executive workspaces, rooftop kitchen, and even a hobbit house.

Wood has become a major part of my life. I build and heat with it. My family is sustained with it.

Each tree has its own story. Actually, each scar of each tree has its own story. A single gust of wind or arrant footstep can ripple through that tree for 200 years. That moment that could have ended its life provided the most beautiful part of it after it dies. An infection creating the ugliest mass becomes the most sought-after slabs for opulent tables.   

Years ago my wife found a “great deal” on some wood from a woman cleaning out her father’s barn. He got it as 2 “great deal” when his church was renovated in the 1950s. It was the seats and backs of old church pews. After some research, we found out my grandmother probably sat on these pews as a young woman. It was her first church after leaving her childhood home. The renovation was years after she had been there and she confirmed it was true. I know artists and dreamers have a pension to connect the desired dots but I couldn’t help to think of how many lives this tree had. The original church pews were installed in the 1870s. This is old-growth white oak that I’m sure was in the ground for some time. I felt in a way it connected me to something of the past that I was preserving.

A few hundred years ago a sapling started growing. Consider the things it saw and the times it lived through.  After that long chapter, it’s crafted into church pews where it will spend the next 70 years or so.  From there it sits in a barn, some I’m sure made wedding gifts and necessary shoe racks, for the next 60 years, where the last of it sits as a backdrop to our house plants. If it stays dry and cared for it could last well past my time. This is one of the many experiences that have molded my respect for this product. Finding the special boards of each wood order to place carefully in its most visible and celebrated way is one of my favorite parts of each job.



what is your favorite park?

My favorite park is the one closest to me. I think that’s how it should be. That’s the idea of community parks. Mulick Park is where our babies played. It’s where we still go to play. We sled in the winter and most of our walks go through it. It’s the first place my kids went to without me(to my knowledge). The same friend who handed me the buy-out papers at AT&T once stuck his tongue on the pole at the bottom of the sledding hill as a teenager. Yes, in 1999 being 18 and having seen the movie several times, he did it. I’m sure that my children will have similar memories of spending their childhoods there and may have entirely different reasons to love it.

You may be able to tell from this that I am passionate about the things that I do. I am. My family and I are committed to this community. Supporting your organization directly impacts our lives and helps to ensure the same for those after us. Sewing good seeds with love matters. Thank you for letting us play!

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