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Playing Santa

Clubs team up to make handcrafted toys for children who are underprivileged

Created date

November 23rd, 2010

If the brightly painted toys coming out of Highland Springs are any indication, this is going to be a fun-filled holiday season for a lucky group of kids. Three groups at the north Dallas community teamed up to create more than 50 handmade cradles and dolls for distribution to less fortunate children through the Hobby Crafters Foundation. Founded in 1944 by a Dallas physician, Dr. Arch McNeill, Hobby Crafters relies solely on volunteer contributions to make Christmas dreams a reality for over 10,000 children. This past summer, the organization contacted the Highland Springs Woodchucks to see if they were interested in the annual project. Hobby Crafters came out to Highland Springs and made a presentation about some of the toys they typically hand out each year, says Sam Davidson, one of the community s woodworkers. When we settled on the cradle, they delivered the wood and told us they would come back to pick up the finished product by the first of December.

Gaining momentum

As the Woodchucks set to work crafting the cradles, an occasion of neighbor helping neighbor took the project to the next level. I bought an IKEA cabinet for my apartment, says Anna Holt, who moved to Highland Springs from Salado, Tex., in 2009. I needed help assembling it and heard that Sam was handy. When he came to put the cabinet together, he noticed my sewing machine. He asked if I would be interested in making dolls to fit the cradles. Holt agreed and recruited the community s Sit & Stitch group to help her make dolls and mattresses to complete each cradle. What amazed me was the way people came out of the woodwork to help, says Holt, who worked as an executive secretary for Halliburton before she retired. Even ladies who couldn t sew helped with cutting fabric and stuffing the mattresses. Everyone was so eager to participate. That s what made this such a fun project.

Quality craftsmanship

With painstaking attention to detail, the dolls and cradles took on increasingly unique qualities. Each doll sported a red felt heart glued in the appropriate place and each mattress was lovingly covered with a tailor-made fitted sheet. But the final pi ce de r sistance was provided by the community s Visual Arts Committee. Chuck Cutler, another of the community s woodworkers, suggested putting designs on the cradles. The Woodchucks approached the Visual Arts Committee to see if the resident artists would be willing to lend their talents to the project. Everyone s work on the cradles and dolls was outstanding, says Davidson, but what really made the cradles distinctive was the artwork done by the Visual Arts group. Holt agrees. We have such fantastic artists here, and they went all out, she says. Some of the cradles had little animals painted on them. Others had flowers or stars. When the representatives from Hobby Crafters came to pick up the toys, they couldn t believe how detailed the cradles and dolls were. They said that in all the years they have been enlisting people to make toys they could share with underprivileged children, they had never seen anything so beautiful.

Teamwork gets job done

The last of the cradles were picked up in mid-October, well ahead of the December deadline. We more than met the target, says Holt. I think that says a lot about the people who worked on this project. It was a collective effort with everyone giving the best of their time and talent. Such collaborations are an important by-product of community life. With over a hundred groups and activities represented on campus, it s easy to get plugged-in. There s more than enough to do here; it doesn t matter what you like or enjoy, says Holt. The squares on my calendar aren t big enough to hold all the activities I d like to do in a day.