The Wooden Toys for Charity, a group of 14 Emerald Heights residents created in 2014, use saws, sanders, and other hand tools to create wooden doll cribs, airplanes, dinosaurs, cars, blocks and tug boats. Additionally, a crafts group at the retirement community has been supporting the toymakers by creating cloth drawstring bags for each set of wooden blocks.
Dale Thompson, a resident at Emerald Heights leads the Wooden Toys for Charity group, along with Mary Miele of Canyon Creek Cabinet Company. Canyon Creek Cabinet Company generously donates five pallets of wood to make these toys each year.
“We enjoy seeing our wood cut-offs repurposed into toys for children, and look forward to donating additional wood materials to ‘Wooden Toys for Charity’ in the future,” says John Earl, environmental manager at Canyon Creek.
In the age of electronics, the group enjoys giving the children handmade toys that allow their imagination to flourish. Powered only by imagination, children can actively enhance their cognitive development with wooden toys as opposed to electronic.
“I am a great fan of wooden blocks because they require imagination to see them as spaceships, cows or books,” Thompson said. “What’s even better is their batteries never go dead.” The Wooden Toys for Charity group also love being able to handcraft toys that are free of toxic chemicals, eco-friendly and durable.
With the help of each volunteer, this annual program produces increasing results year after year. Together, the Wooden Toys for Charity group made more than 700 toys for children and charity organizations in the area, including:
- Seattle Children’s Hospital
- Seattle Union Gospel Mission
- Mary’s Place
- Ronald McDonald House
- Forgotten Children Fund
Among the charities selected, Mary’s Place, an organization dedicated to empowering homeless women, children and families to reclaim their lives has seen the powerful effect these toys can bring to a child.
“When families experience homelessness, they give up many things… their home, cars, safety, ability to choose where to eat, when to eat and where to sleep. During the holidays their loss deepens, but the Toymakers gifts bring back the joy that was once lost,” said Marty Hartman, Executive Director of Mary’s Place. “Those toys are a reminder to our children and families that they are somebody…Santa knows their address.”
Since the group began four years ago, the Wooden Toys for Charity group of Emerald Heights have donated more than 2,300 toys to children through various charities. When asked about why the group decides to do this each year, Thompson said, “The children receive something that they can enjoy, play with and share. We want to donate toys to charities that put these toys into the hands of children who may not get any toys this year. It is rewarding to be able to give them a present.”