By Carl Dodrill
Special to the Reporter
The Pipe Organ Foundation is a nonprofit corporation and 501(c)(3) public charity which started its work on Mercer Island in November 2000. Ever since it began, it has continued to save pipe organs which have fallen into disuse, and it has done custom rebuilds of them for public settings at very low cost. Low cost has been possible as the work is done by volunteers who have rebuilt and placed 11 pipe organs in three states. Also, they have repaired a number of other pipe organs, and they have sent organs and many organ parts to the Philippines and China.
“The work of the Foundation has only been possible because of the contributions of volunteers,” said Carl Dodrill, President of the Foundation. “Their consistent work through thick and thin has made all the difference, and the result has been the placement of organs which will be enjoyed for decades to come.”
The largest organ rebuilt and placed by the Foundation is at Mercer Island Presbyterian Church. This instrument was installed back in 2005, and it has been played every week since that time. “The voices in this organ are amazing,” said the church organist Eric Johnson. “They allow me to authentically play music from a broad range of national styles and periods.” Indeed, he will do exactly that at his next recital at the church on October 21 at 7 p.m.
Despite the very positive work of the Foundation, Carl Dodrill and his wife Halie have come to a point in their lives where they need to make some changes, and in fact they will soon be moving to Covenant Living at the Shores right here on Mercer Island. As no one has been found who could take over the Foundation, it will need to come to an end. Because of that, a celebration of the work of the volunteers was held at the Foundation shop on first hill on Saturday, June 10. More than two dozen volunteers came to the event, often accompanied by spouses.
The volunteers reconnected with each other while enjoying the food prepared by Halie and while studying the displays on each of the pipe organs on which they had worked. There was excitement in the air as they recounted the work they had done, the difficulties they had experienced, and yet the unbelievable satisfaction when they heard the final product. One of the volunteers who also became a Foundation Board of Directors member, David Locke, said that, “I didn’t fully understand the breadth of POF’s accomplishments until I saw the visual displays of each project. Imagine the thousands of people who have heard and enjoyed these organs without knowing whom to thank! It is an admirable accomplishment.”
Each one of the volunteers was allowed to take home remembrances of their work including a hand painted wooden organ pipe for hanging on the wall in proud display, and also a custom engraved key chain. Even though the work of the Foundation will cease at the end of 2023, these tokens of their work for this Mercer Island charity will help them remember that work for decades to come.