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Making spirits bright

Woodworkers handcraft toys for children

Created date

November 23rd, 2009

 Jimmy Mullis and nine of his neighbors are helping to make this a holiday to remember for local youth. For the last four months, the Charlestown volunteers have been hard at work sawing, sanding, assembling, and painting wooden toys they will donate to Toys for Tots, a program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve that offers toys to children in need at Christmastime. We ve made puzzles shaped like frogs, cows, giraffes, and other animals; dog and duck pull toys; peg games; and wooden reindeer ornaments, says Mullis. All the toys are handcrafted from scratch and then painted by hand. The toys are made in the on-site wood shop and produced using scrap lumber, donated supplies, and funds from wood shop members.

Getting organized

The partnership came about after Mullis began researching area children s charities online. He contacted the representative from his local chapter of Toys for Tots, retired Marine Sergeant Peter Pervi. Pervi, who has been coordinating the Anne Arundel-Howard County Toys for Tots program since 2007, was already familiar with Charlestown. Some of the wood shop members had worked individually making toys in the past, says Mullis. [But] I thought if we combined our efforts, we could really make a significant contribution. Pervi welcomed the idea, and Mullis began recruiting volunteers for the toy drive at Charlestown back in May. We had a sign-up list for any wood shop member who wanted to participate, and then we formed teams of two, says Mullis. Each team presented ideas of what they would like to make and brought their own templates and patterns. As the holidays arrive, the woodworkers aim to donate 50 original toys to the organization. There is something very special about the volunteers at Charlestown, says Pervi. The fact that they are using their skills to create these toys for children who would otherwise have a bleak Christmas is just wonderful. Knowing that there are going to be several thousand smiling faces on Christmas morning and those parents do not have to choose between food on the table and a Christmas gift for their child is a great feeling.

Year-round Santas

Charlestown woodworkers might argue that their wood shop rivals Santa s workshop. For $2 in annual dues, they gain access to a multiroom setup that features professional-grade saws, sanders, and hand tools; a finishing room for painting and staining, equipped with an exhaust system; and a separate assembly room. When they re not busy contributing to projects like Toys for Tots, many of the 81 wood shop members repair broken furniture for Charlestown residents and build other items on request throughout the year. But what might seem tedious and time-consuming to some is a labor of love for these retired handymen. I like to do things for other people, says Mullis. I ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of making these toys, and I know how happy they re going to make the children who receive them. So in the end, everybody wins. Mullis says he plans to continue the Toys for Tots program at Charlestown and hopes to be able to donate even more time and toys next Christmas. Want to get involved? For more information about how you can volunteer with Toys for Tots, contact Peter Pervi at For businesses or organizations wishing to serve as toy drop-off locations, visit anne-arundel-md.toysfortots. org/local-coordinatorsites/ lco-sites.