Toy Shop Falls On Hard Times

By: Brian Johnson Email
By: Brian Johnson Email

Larry Koster is one of Santa's elves. He's been helping the R.J. Scheffel Memorial Toy Project for 15 years.

"When you keep on getting a lot of requests every year, you know there must be satisfaction out there," said Koster, the Workshop Leader.

He and many others make handcrafted wooden toys and games for local children who are disadvantaged or in crisis. They go to kids like 2 year old David.

"My Christmas!" said David, a two-year old with a sucker in his mouth. He's excited.

His parents have decided to sign up for the help they need from the Salvation Army to keep the holidays bright. Some of his toys will be the one's made by Scheffel volunteers.

About a third of the toys the Scheffel Memorial Toy Project makes go to the Salvation Army. Volunteers make about 25 different items, airplanes, police cars, semis, fire trucks, even your grandfather's old wooden tool box.

In total, Scheffels makes more than 9,000 each year, but this year the charity had its own hard times.

In July a fire damaged about 900 toys, and destroyed about 1,300. Whatever toys that could be salvaged were.

"These were smoke damaged, so they repainted at least the tops," said Koster as he points to some brightly colored stools.

What's worse, the workshop itself was destroyed so volunteers had no place to build the toys.

Then Friday morning more misfortune, one of the workshop's storage pods was broken into and some tools were stolen.

"It's sad. It's sad to see that," said Koster.

Still the group does the best it can and despite the challenges they'll give away about 6,000 toys.

"Our group of seniors, we all have a lot of satisfaction for what we do. We satisfy a need for the area," said Koster.

"They put a lot of love in each toy," said Major Alan Hellstrom, who works for the Salvation Army. "They are people who are concerned citizens, that just want to reach out and help."

The folks at the Salvation Army are grateful for their efforts.

"We can see it in the eyes of parents--that reflects the children's joy as they open those packages," said Hellstrom.

Hellstrom says wooden toys are timeless and the kids love them.

Friday the Salvation Army was busy signing up the last few families--it will help about 3,000 this holiday, including David's.

"Are you going to get toys this year?" I asked David. Yes, nodded David.

Some hard working volunteers, making sure kid's needs are met each holiday season, one at a time.

The Scheffel Memorial Toy Project also helps Ele's place, the Ronald McDonald House, and dozens of other charities.

The Scheffel volunteers will move into their new workshop before the year is over. They are excited to get back to doing what they love, and helping kids even more next year.

The charity will need to by buy wood, paint, nails, lumber. paint brushes, sanding belts, band saws, and other equipment. If you'd like to make a donation, and help get the workshop back on its feet, we've put a link on our website, just click on the link above.


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