Published: Monday, December 12, 2011
Page: 5A
Valley Woodworkers of West Virginia delivered 827 handmade wooden toys to the Salvation Army in Charleston Sunday, a record number for the group.

The toys will be distributed to more than 4,000 children in Kanawha, Putnam, Roane and Clay counties.

That’s 14 airplanes, 410 toy cars and trucks, 159 doll-sized cradles, 35 alphabet block sets and wagons, 12 pull toys and 23 puzzle rocking chairs, all of which were handmade by club members. Each cradle also comes with bedding.

The Dunbar-based club has been involved with the Salvation Army for 21 years, said Andy Sheetz, vice president of the club’s toy committee.

“We do it to give back to the community,” he said. “We have the skill and ability.”

Sheetz estimated 15 of the group’s 75 members spent about 2,000 hours working on the toys this year.

The club is made up of members of all skill levels, from novice to expert. Some members even have their work shown at Tamarack.

Dan Pleska, who was in charge of making the cradles this year, said each one took about 2 hours and 15 minutes to make.

Bruce Bannerman was in charge of alphabet blocks. Bannerman used a computer-guided machine to cut the letters into the blocks. The group then rounded and sanded the blocks down.

Bob Shingleton created 23 rocking chairs that are a little different from the everyday rocker. In the back of each brightly colored chair is a key. Once removed, the chair can be taken apart and put back together.

“It’s a little puzzle for the kids,” Shingleton said. “Each piece is reversible. It doesn’t matter which way you turn them, they’ll fit.”

Evans Lumber donated supplies and Coastal Lumber donated more than 4,000 board feet of lumber. The group also received a $4,000 grant from the Oakland Foundation and a $2,930 grant from the Toyota plant in Buffalo.

“We can’t get everything we need donated, but the lion’s share comes from donations,” Sheetz said. “We couldn’t do this without the support of the community.”

The toys, he said, have a value of well over $10,000.

“It feels wonderful,” Sheetz said Sunday. “There’s no doubt about that.

“It’s from the heart. We know we’re making a difference.”

Salvation Army Capt. Aaron Goldfarb was elated with all the toys brought Sunday.

“This is pretty impressive,” he said. “I didn’t expect the puzzle chairs. They’re certainly interesting.”

Goldfarb said the wooden toys will be added to the bags of gifts where they are needed. The Salvation Army is supplying gifts for 2,000 Kanawha County children this year. He said they had about 2,000 children combined in Clay, Roane and Putnam counties.

“The most interesting thing about all of this is that there are people willing to give 1,500 to 2,000 hours of their time to help children,” Goldfarb said.

Kanawha County families involved with the program can pick up their toys Friday at the warehouse.

Each county has a designated distribution center, Goldfarb said. Roane County families can pick up their gifts Tuesday. Putnam County families can pick up their gifts Wednesday and Clay County families on Thursday.

Salvation Army Capt. Aaron Goldfarb, area commander for Charleston, said the organization will serve about 4,000 children this year in Kanawha, Putnam, Clay and Roane counties.

Maureen Helvey, 67, at left, and Bill Smith, 71, members of Valley Woodworkers of West Virginia, unload handcrafted wooden doll cradles Sunday afternoon at the Salvation Army�s toy shop on Smith Street in Charleston. The club donated 827 handcrafted toys to the organization.

Valley Woodworkers put in over 2,000 hours this year to build the toys. The Dunbar-based group has been donating toys to the Salvation Army for 21 years.

Smith shows off a wooden bi-plane he crafted for the children. It takes him about one day to make a plane. This year, he made 14 that will go to local children for Christmas.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.craig@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.