The basics: San Joaquin Valley Fine Woodworkers Association was founded in 1983 and has more than 100 members. The nonprofit provides social and educational opportunities for woodworkers.
What they do: Club members produce high quality, handmade toys throughout the year and distribute them to disadvantaged children in the Valley. The main distribution day is usually the first Saturday in December. Some of the 52 organizations that work with the association include Valley Children’s Hospital, New Hope Community Church, Fresno Rescue Mission and the Marjaree Mason Center.
Why they do it: The toy giveaways started early in the club’s history, during the 1980s, says president David Dunlap. He says it’s a way for members to gain experience in woodworking and to learn how to use power tools safely, while distributing toys to children who otherwise might go without during the holiday season.
The turning point: Dunlap says it was a small project at first, with a few hundred toys produced. Now as many as a few thousand toys are produced throughout the year.
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Details, details: Wooden toys such as cars, trucks, airplanes, cradles and strollers are a few of the toys created by club members. The planning that goes into making the toys starts at the beginning of the year, when members can decide what toy they will work on through the year. Quilting guilds from Oakhurst to Porterville work with the association to make hundreds of quilts, pillows, mattresses for the quilts and dolls to make sure each cradle and stroller is fully equipped. The toys are checked before they’re distributed to make sure they are safe for children of any age to play with. Toys that pass inspection are given a sticker on the bottom. “We want to be sure we’re giving out high quality, safe, nice-looking toys,” Dunlap says.
What others say: Club member Jon Grace says that he feels he is giving back to the community when he helps make the toys. A few things go through his mind when he is planning to make toys: “What can I make that’s different, that they’ve not had?”
How you can help: Donations to the association in any amount are encouraged. Details: www.sjfwa.com.