ONE OF 25,000 TOYS HANDMADE FOR UNDERSERVED CHILDREN. PHOTO PROVIDED BY Apple Country Woodcrafters.
“A number of the kids who receive gifts are in foster care. I just really hate to think of a child who doesn’t have a nice toy or two.” — Judy Nicholson, Apple Country Woodcrafters
“I dabble in a lot of things,” said Gary, a retired attorney-turned-auctioneer. “I am a ‘general purpose’ kind of woodworker.”
This versatility makes him an asset to the Apple Country Woodcrafters, a group of more than 230 professional and hobbyist woodworkers based in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
Every week, the guild meets in a fully equipped, 3,750-square-foot workshop to create low-tech toys like grasshopper pull-alongs and baby doll cradles. Come December, these handmade keepsakes are distributed to local social-service agencies during a much-anticipated Toy Party. The gifts are then presented to disadvantaged youth in the community.
Last year, members donated gifts to more than 2,500 kids. However, Gary estimates the group has cranked out at least 25,000 playthings since its inception in 1985.
That’s a whole lot of smiles. But also a whole lot of work. Luckily, the Apple Country Woodcrafters workshop is a well-oiled machine.
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When members begin a new project, they have the option of designing something from scratch or visiting the organization’s extensive craft library, which is stocked with wood samples, toy patterns, and even how-to guides and videos. If a member ever gets stumped, they can also holler for help. “
One great resource of the club is the expertise,” said Gary. “Whenever you get an idea for a project, there is always a more experienced member around who is happy to share his or her knowledge and skill.”
Once a toy is assembled, it moves down the line to the Embellishment Committee, a subgroup responsible for adding finishing touches.
According to Judy Nicholson, a retired mechanical engineer who heads up this team of a dozen elves, the committee meets every Monday morning and spends several hours tackling tasks like sanding wooden blocks and gluing manes on to hobby horses. “
I just finished painting stars on the tails of several airplanes,” said Judy. “It’s the little touches that really brighten the toys.”
Of course, adorning 100-some wooden jets with flame decals can be quite tedious. But whenever Judy’s hands grow tired or her eyes weary, she remembers the children.
THE ANNUAL TOY PARTY. PHOTO PROVIDED BY APPLE COUNTRY WOODCRAFTERS.
“A number of the kids who receive gifts are in foster care,” she said. “I just really hate to think of a child who doesn’t have a nice toy or two.”
Gary is also driven by the cause. During last year’s Toy Party, for instance, a representative from a local prison ministry shared a story about how an incarcerated man was able to give his child a Christmas present because of the Apple Country Woodcrafters.
“It was a very touching moment for many in the room. Even with those limits, they had the chance for a holiday memory,” Gary said. “That’s why we do it. For just that minute, Santa is real.”