slide image

Santa's Helpers in SoCal


Each year, members of the Inland Woodworkers Association craft and assemble wooden toys for their annual December Toy Drive. In 2019, woodworkers crafted over 3,000 toys for kids in need, a record achievement for the association. This year, the final count was about 2,300. 

wooden cars with IWA tags“We’re not going to make [last year’s] target because of COVID,” shared IWA President Kenneth Thomas. “People have not been getting together, but the demand is much higher.”

To meet as much of that demand as possible, the IWA found a creative way to overcome the difficulties of large-scale woodworking during a pandemic. Because in-person events were not possible, the Inland Woodworkers prepared toy-making kits that only required sanding and assembly. No special tools were needed and all parts were included to make ten toys. The toys could be assembled at home by someone with any skill level then returned to the association in time for the annual toy drive.

“It’s fun if you have children that are in their teens. Some of them like to do this stuff with their parents,” said Kenneth.

IWA tag with firetruck and star wars shipOptions for toys included helicopters, cars, and battleships. Holiday ornament templates were also available, featuring Tie Fighters and X-Wings from Star Wars. Instructions for assembly encouraged thorough sanding because the toys are for small children, and therefore could not have sharp points or edges.

On December 5th, IWA members brought 2,300 toys to JUSD’s Training & Support Services Center, where representatives from various organizations across the Inland Empire “shopped” for toys they will distribute to children for the holiday season. 

JUSD’s Parent Involvement & Community Outreach Department acted as host and participant of the event. While Director Jose Campos helped with set-up, staff member Sandra Rodriguez picked out 300 toys for PICO’s early childhood programs. The toys, suitable for children under five, are being gifted during PICO’s December home visits. 

Rows of painted wooden cars​Mike Sullivan, a seven-year member of the IWA, crafted an impressive 700 toys for the event. He and his wife, Judy, fell in love with toy-making after Mike retired in 2013. While Mike handles the woodworking, Judy paints his creations so each toy is unique. The couple donates everything they craft. 

The Inland Woodworkers Association has 200 subscribers to their mailing list and about 50 active members. They hold monthly meetings and invite woodworkers of all kinds to participate. While most members consider woodworking a hobby, there are a few professionals. Sponsors include Ganahl Lumber, 3M, Titebond, and Rockler, but the IWA is actively looking for more support to help offset the cost of toy-making materials. To accomplish this, the association plans to sell some of their toys and toy-making kits for $10 donations. 

Eager to see the association grow, Kenneth Thomas hopes that one day the Inland Woodworkers will have a community shop somewhere in the Inland Empire.

“Our goal is to always get more members, make more toys, help out in the community, and promote the craft to everybody,” he said.

For more information about the Inland Woodworkers Association, please visit their website:​