Every now and then Gerald Royston will get a note or cards of thanks from someone he’s never met. Gratitude shows up in many forms for the 85-year-old Charlotte resident because for more than a decade, he has given to the Charlotte community in his own way.
Royston began building small birdhouses shortly after he and wife of 65 years, Joan moved back to Charlotte from Florida in the mid-2000s. Each birdhouse he has made — totaling more than 2,000 — has been given away for free to anyone that wants one, no questions asked.
“I just had to have something to do,” Gerald explained of the reason he began his little project. “The first year, I took the time to sand them down and paint them really nice. I couldn’t give them away, not a one.”
From that point he’s put the unfinished birdhouses on his front porch with a small sign that simply reads “Free Birdhouses.” People now snatch them up as fast as he puts them out.
“Sometimes we go through 100 a day,” Gerald said. “I have to put more out there constantly.”
He crafts the birdhouses in his basement workshop, utilizing mostly donated lumber. He said several community members will drop wood off on his porch throughout the year. Having built so many over the years, he said it doesn’t take long to put them together. “Fifteen cuts and 20 nails,” he said.
Birdhouses typically make their way to his front porch at 310 Horatio when the spring weather starts to warm up. This year, though, he waited a little longer. By the time they were put out, people were eager to get their new birdhouse for the summer, taking all he’s built at this point.
“People are always very grateful,” he said.
“It’s fun to watch the little kids,” added Joan.
The couple gets a lot of enjoyment watching people pick out their favorite birdhouse.
“I like to see the young kids take them,” he explained. “It really tickles me to see how excited they get.”
This year, Gerald made miniature birdhouses as garden ornaments to give away with each birdhouse. The miniature birdhouses line his front porch.
Those interested in a free bird house can look for the sign placed on the corner of Horatio and Seminary Street. Gerald said he will be busy making more when he gets more lumber.
“They go quickly,” he said.