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These elves work year-round

Highland Springs Woodchucks donated 2,000 handcrafted toys in 2015

Created date

November 24th, 2015
Jim Kirby works on toy cradles in the woodshop at Highland Springs
Jim Kirby works on toy cradles in the woodshop

Jake Jacobsen has always enjoyed woodworking, but his home woodshop was limited to a few power tools and a workbench.

When Jake moved to Highland Springs, the Erickson Living community in North Dallas, in 2006, he quickly found his way to the community’s woodshop.

“I never had the opportunity to have the kind of equipment we have here [at Highland Springs] or the space to have a nice workshop like this,” says Jake, who currently serves as the president of the Highland Springs Woodchucks.

Woodshop expansion

As one of the founding members of the Woodchucks, Jake has seen the woodshop grow in size and membership over the years. 

“We started out in one room in 2006,” says Jake. “It had a good variety of power equipment that was supplied by Erickson. We’ve added machines over the years, so the woodshop now spans three rooms, and we’ve got an assortment of equipment, including a lathe and a computer-driven router.”

Shortly after the Woodchucks formed, they set out to make toys for children in area hospitals. Fire trucks, helicopters, airplanes, cradles—the woodworkers design and build quality-crafted toys to inspire imaginative play.

“Since 2007, we’ve donated close to 20,000 toys to local hospitals,” says Jake. “Currently we donate to the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, and Children’s Medical Center Plano.”

Busier than Santa’s helpers

Earlier this year, the Woodchucks set a goal to make 2,000 toys in 2015. The club designated seven individuals as toy managers, each one overseeing the construction of a particular toy.

“We’ve become more organized over the years,” says Jake. “Now we make six deliveries a year, two to each of the three hospitals.”

Club members set their own schedules to work in the woodshop, but they come together for designated assembly days. 

“We’ll meet for two hours on an assembly day to put wheels on the cars and trucks or fasten propellers on the airplanes and helicopters,” says Jake. “That’s usually the final push before we deliver the toys.”

The Woodchucks delivered the last of this year’s toys in early November, well ahead of the holidays.

“The hospitals use some of the toys in their activity areas and distribute the rest to patients,” says Jake. 

Working together

Jim Kirby is in his third year as a Woodchuck. The retired professor from the School of Theology at Southern Methodist University says he heads to the woodshop because he likes working with his hands and enjoys the camaraderie with other Woodchucks.

“It’s good recreation,” says Jim. “You get to know the other guys and work on a meaningful project together.”

This year, Jim focused his attention making fire trucks and cradles. He appreciates the expertise that other Woodchucks lend to the toy-making projects.

“These guys know what they’re doing,” he says. “I like working alongside them.”

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