Since 1991, The Valley Woodworkers of West Virginia (VWWV) have built and donated 11,500 traditional wooden toys valued at $900,000 throughout the years to support the Charleston Salvation Army program covering Putnam, Kanawha, Clay and Roane Counties for indigent children and families, especially at Christmastime. Like an extension of Santa’s North Pole workshop these guys hit the woodshop during the summer months making wooden cradles, alphabet carts, hobby horses, cars, planes, trains and much more.
The VWWV consists of woodworking professionals and teachers. They are, Allan McNeel, President; Jerry Phelps, 1st. Vice President; Maureen Helvey, Vice Pres./Membership; Andy Sheetz, Vice Pres./Toy Committee; Dan Pleska, Secretary/Newsletter Editor; Peter Howell, Treasurer, and Jerill Vance, Librarian. There are over 80 current members and they are always looking for additional woodworker wannabe’s, from hobbyists to professionals to join the organization. The club officers have a safety and training program in place to start new members off in the right woodworking direction. Come join this great group of woodworkers on the 2nd Thursday of each month from 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. at 302 12th street, Dunbar, WV.
Executive director of West Virginia’s Forestry Association, Dick Waybright sets up the organization with about 5000 board feet of donated ash and maple lumber through the West Virginia Hardwood Alliance Zone. The Toyota Motor Manufacturing of West Virginia, Buffalo Plant donates $2000 per year to supplement supplies like hardware, wheels, sandpaper, glue and finishes. In these photos, Waybright and Barry Persinger of Toyota are presented a shop-made wooden maple framed plaque from Andy Sheetz, VP of the VWWV toy committee in thanks for their service, dedication and donations to the organization throughout the years. Additionally, the Parkersburg Oakland Foundation also donates $2000 per year to help this cause.
Many of the VWWV members are patrons of the Parkersburg Woodcraft store, which also donates woodworking supplies to this effort. Woodworking Adventures attended a recent meeting and convened this interview:
These wooden toys are quality crafted and last for years if not generations to come. Salvation Army officials often comment how pleased they are to receive these types of handcrafted toys. It is also noted that the Salvation Army keeps track of which Valley Woodworker’s toys are highly desired to ensure the children receive what they like the most. We commend this fine club for taking the time to care about others on a consistent basis providing happy hearts to the children and families of West Virginia, thanks guys!