We love the summertime holidays: Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Christmas…
Wait, what? Christmas?
Yes, it’s like Christmas in July at Folkestone in Wayzata, MN. While most of our holiday preparations are still months away, Christmas is already in the hearts, minds and hands of talented and dedicated Folkestone residents. They have been hard at work crafting gifts to be given to children through an international charitable organization during the coming winter holidays.
Toy trucks ready to roll
When Gene Anonsen moved from Waverly Gardens in North Oaks, MN to Folkestone, he was delighted to learn about its vibrant woodworking group. “I brought a model of the toy we made at Waverly Gardens and the woodworkers picked it up and improved the design,” he said. He described the new design as a small pine pickup truck that can carry two toy passengers. “It’s very simple but it has wheels and rolls,” explained Gene.
With Gene’s organizational leadership, the woodworkers came together with a shared purpose: to create these toy trucks and give them to children. A member of the team negotiated with a local lumber store to donate its scrap wood. It takes a pair of woodworkers to build one toy; one person drawing the pattern onto the wood and the other person cutting and assembling. The whole team meets monthly to share their progress. “The people on the team have such a variety of talents,” said Gene. “They’re enthused by what they are doing and everyone pitches in,” he said.
Within three months the Folkestone woodworkers had crafted over 100 pine pickup trucks. Some 60 toys will be placed in Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Gene said, “It amazed me because they took it on so well and have really enjoyed working together on the toys. It’s a great group of people.”
Dolls, bears and rabbits waiting for hugs
When Folkestone resident woodworker Marilyn Zastrow started making toy trucks, she was inspired to organize a group of crafters who might sew, knit and crochet even more toys. She called on two of her crafty friends to brainstorm ideas and hunt for good patterns. They placed an announcement in the “Folkestone Feature” newsletter and 12 residents attended their first meeting this past January. “People who enjoy crafts tend to seek out each other,” Marilyn said.
The whole group of crafters has only met twice since then, but each member worked diligently on their own with materials donated by Folkestone residents, staff and families. They started by making the “Fancy Nancy” doll that featured long striped legs and cornrow hair. With all her pieces and parts, the group found “Fancy Nancy” to be very labor intensive, so they added simpler fabric and knit dolls as well as stuffed rabbits, bears and small purses to the project. “One of our crafters is a master seamstress,” Marilyn explains. “She cuts the patterns and sews many of the pieces. We stuff them and resident artists paint faces on the dolls, bears and rabbits.”
An abundance of gifts wrapped in blessings
The crafters aimed for 60 toys to place in Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes but by the end of March, they had created 220. “That’s enough for three years!” admits Marilyn, “but we like to do this. We have fun and don’t want to quit.”
After the shoeboxes are filled in November, the two groups will hold a sale of their remaining creations at Folkestone to raise funds for shop equipment and craft supplies for future projects. They also look to residents and neighbors to donate materials of wood or fabric, including cloth napkins and bed linens, instead of discarding them. The groups are also reaching out to new and prospective residents who are downsizing to consider donating materials as they clean out their homes. “We crafters know our kind—we save every useable scrap,” she laughed.
When the crafters have finished their projects, they don’t leave empty handed. Gene describes the intangible but real benefits. “Friendships grow out of this effort. We get back camaraderie, common purpose and a good social experience,” he said.
Marilyn adds, “We all have a soft spot in our hearts for children, especially children who might not have access to a doll or truck. But the biggest reason we do this is out of God’s love to give anywhere we can. We’ve all had wonderful lives and feel like it’s our turn to give back,” she said.
In a few months, when the holiday season arrives, the crafters will, no doubt, feel and extra measure of blessing knowing the joy they give to a child who opens a gift made by their hands with love and care added in. “We just want to bring a smile to a child’s face,” said Marilyn.
If you would like to donate materials to the crafters’ groups, contact Folkestone at 952-249-2400.