Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Feb. 7, 2023

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Vancouver toymakers bring joy to kids at Children’s Center

Affinity residents’ wooden creations benefit Clark County children

By , Columbian staff reporter
Published:
6 Photos
Dan Ratermann talks about the work that went into building toys at Affinity at Vancouver. Members of the retirement community built and painted the wooden toys and are donating them to the Children's Center.
Dan Ratermann talks about the work that went into building toys at Affinity at Vancouver. Members of the retirement community built and painted the wooden toys and are donating them to the Children's Center. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Some of Santa’s elves were hard at work this year, building toys for children in Clark County. The toymaker elves at Affinity at Vancouver, a local senior living community, built 46 wooden toys to donate to the Children’s Center.

“The fact that it’s going to kids is the best part,” said Gloria Harrell, a resident at Affinity who painted all the toys. “I do the best I can and take my time. And I always keep (the kids) in mind.”

On Monday morning, residents gathered in the wood shop to view the toys before they were brought to the Children’s Center.

The colorful wooden toys the residents made included cars, trucks, airplanes, dragons, baby doll cradles, boats and more. Along with the cradles, resident Marlene Elder helped collect dolls and handmade clothing. She sewed quilts and mattresses to include with each cradle.

This is the second year residents at Affinity have worked together to create toys for the community. The project began in 2021 with an idea from Dan Ratermann and Gary Shank. Last year, 26 toys were handcrafted and this year that number nearly doubled.

Between five woodworkers, a toy painter and a doll coordinator, residents put in nearly 2,500 “elf hours,” according to Ratermann.

Each toy was made from scratch. The wood came from donations, dumpster-diving trips and secondhand furniture, according to Ratermann.

The toymaking took place in the wood shop at Affinity that was created by Ratermann and other woodworkers on the project, including Shank. What was once home to a barbecue was converted into a wood shop to build toys after Ratermann, Shank and others donated some of their tools.

“We built it up to where we can pretty much build just about anything,” Ratermann said.

While some of the woodworkers had used power tools in the past, for others the experience of building was new.

Julie Grove, one of the five woodworkers, was a dentist for years before retirement.

“I did not use tools like this,” Grove said, explaining that the tools she used while working as a dentist were much smaller. “Dan said don’t be afraid and he showed me what to do.”

Last year, the toys created and donated from residents at Affinity went to children through the Children’s Center Toy Drive.

“Your generosity not only brightened the holidays for the children we see but also for their parents,” stated a letter to the “Woodshop Elves” signed by Matthew Butte, executive director of the Children’s Center, and Jennie Hoheisel, development coordinator at the Children’s Center. “There is enormous relief and gratitude in the eyes of parents at the sight of your gifts, as it means their child, or children, will actually have something to open on Christmas morning.”

Following a break of a few weeks to enjoy the holidays and rebuild their wood supply, the wood shop elves at Affinity will be back at it again, preparing for next year’s Christmas.

For those interested in donating wood, contact Dan Ratermann at 360-600-6046.

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