Sun City Woodworkers Do Good
These days, it’s hard to find an heirloom-quality, handmade, wooden toy for a child. And if you do, you can expect to pay a pretty penny for it. Even so, many children in Central Texas can call themselves proud owners of such toys, thanks to the Sun City Texas Woodworkers Club.
For more than 15 years, members of the Woodworkers Club have volunteered to create wooden toys that are distributed to children during the holidays by organizations such as Shriners, Wounded Warrior Project, The Caring Place, Blue Santa, and Marines Toys for Tots.
Jane Bonk, president of the club, explains that the mission of the club’s Toys for Tots (TFT) program is “to make heirloom-quality toys for kids in need, to help people increase their woodworking skills, and to have fun.” The 34 current members involved in the TFT program are led by volunteer coordinator Janie Bartz, who says, “Our members want to help children who do not get many gifts at Christmas. Making the toys allows us to do that and gives us woodworking experience and training on nine different machines.”
The toy projects begin with wood donated by Pulte Homes. “We use fir, which is a very good wood for this purpose,” says Bonk. Club members who are interested sign up, attend an orientation, and are instructed how to make the toys. They choose from dozens of patterns for toy cars, helicopters, dolls, dinosaurs, animals, and more; then they get to work. The finished toys are anywhere from four to ten inches tall and are on wheels. “We don’t put pull-cords on them due to the risk of choking,” says Bonk.
“Completed toys receive a quality inspection,” Bonk explains. “The wood is burned with details, such as eyes, whiskers, or other features, and then the toys are finished with a child-safe finish supplied by the club. Then they get their wheels and are ready to give a child joy at Christmas!” Club members also donate their time to sort, box, and prepare the toys for pick-up.
Bartz says that the club is on track to complete more than a thousand toys this year. The time spent on each toy varies. She explains that she can cut out about 10 toys in an hour or two. “The sanding takes the longest amount of time; I usually spend about nine hours sanding,” she says. “Then, it takes roughly three days for the finish because we let it dry and sand it between coats.”
Once the work is complete, “we present the toys to the charities at a ceremony at the woodshop in November,” Bonk says. This allows the organizations to distribute the toys through their programs in time for the holidays.
The lingering question is whether, in today’s age of technology, children are even interested in wooden toys on wheels. The answer: a resounding yes! Bonk says, “These toys are practically indestructible and are built to last forever. Children see them as unique and special; they love them and keep them for life.” Bartz adds, “When the children see these unique toys, their mouths drop open. They don’t believe their eyes; they are in toy heaven!”