VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Joe Reed,83, said his passion and talent for building wooden toys kickstarted his program called the Hacienda Toymakers. Reed said his group consists of four other men, who all live in the same neighborhood and dedicate their time and money to hand-making wooden Christmas toys for boys and girls.
“My program for the last 15 years is making toys for underprivileged children,” Joe Reed said.
The group does everything from building to painting and staining different size trucks, boats, cradles, and this year, trains. The Toymakers said they’ve already donated 170 toys to various charities including Operation Christmas Cheer that’s sponsored by the New Smyrna Beach Police Department. They’ve also donated toys to Edgewater Red Hat Society for them to give to Edgewater Fire and Rescue.
“I could not do this without the help of my elves,” said Reed.
Douglas Garner,79, joined the program two years ago and explained some of their rules.
“You can come and go as you please here. No cursing. No drinking while you’re working,” said Garner.
He also explained his role in making the toys and assigning nicknames for the group. He calls Reed “Papa Bear” and himself, “Cutter.”
“I started out just painting the black wheels on the truck. I was called the artist but then I graduated, and I do all the cutting out for the cradles, the boats, and some of the cars,” said Garner. “I nicknamed everybody else because they were lost. They didn’t know where they were or what they were doing, so I named them. Especially “Mother Hen. She’s the overseer.”
Gard Andrews,79 is “Mother Hen.” He joined two years ago and said he specializes in woodworking.
“I do a little of everything plus I designed the trains. I do some of the engineering stuff and things that need to be done,” said Andrews.
Seventy-three-year-old Jim Stoll said his job is to finish the large trucks and build all the smaller trucks. He said he was the second person to join the group.
“I’ve been here for a while and I enjoy myself immensely with these guys even though he named me “Pretty Boy,” said Stoll.
The last member of the Toymakers is 71-year-old Mike Emlaw who they said specializes in sanding.
“Sandy.” He just sits and sands,” said Garner.
The Toymakers are a well-oiled machine and make toys from June until October. They’re already working on a new batch for next year. The men said the program is a win-win for everyone because not only do they enjoy the comradery but do so while achieving the same goal.
“Each one of these men in here have the same thing on their mind, we’re making kids happy,” said Reed.
If you’d like to donate gift cards to the Toymakers so they can continue to buy wood and other supplies, please email Joe Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org