Kiwanis Club Creates a Real Life Santa’s Workshop in Longmont
There are three doors at Steve’s Automotives in Longmont. If you open the doors on either end you’ll find just what you expect — a waiting area with a coffee machine, a pile of magazines and some cars being worked on in the back. But, if you open the windowless metal door in the middle, you’d swear you were transported to Santa’s workshop.
While the room is a little dingier than Hollywood depicts Santa’s workshop in the movies, it’s all there — workers wearing Santa hats cheerfully toiling away at their machines as they fill box after box with small wooden toys to be shipped all over the world.
What makes this all the more incredible is that it’s real. These aren’t magical elves with flying reindeer to help them deliver they toys, they’re just people who volunteer whatever time they can to help brighten Christmas for underprivileged children.
Known as the Toys for Kids Project and organized by the Longmont chapter of the Kiwanis International Club , Marv Van Peursem the program coordinator estimates the club has built and delivered more than 60,000 toys since he started it eight years ago.
For many volunteers, Toys for Kids is so rewarding they’ve come to treat like a job.
“This time of year I put in more hours here than when I was working,” Van Peursem joked. “But seriously, a lot of us are retired so we have the time and it’s just a fun way to give back.”
With donated wood from local shops such as Woodley’s Fine Furniture, the Kiwanis Club hand makes 80 kinds of wooden toys ranging from small cars and farm equipment to animals and dolls.
This year it will be donating 10,000 toys to Indian reservations in New Mexico, Arizona, and South Dakota, as well as the Salvation Army in Broomfield , Longmont Kindness for Kids, Boulder Share a Gift and Children’s Hospital Colorado North Campus in Broomfield , just to name a few.
“It’s great to get out of the house and work with my hands, it’s very therapeutic,” said Chuck Everitt , a retired machinist who allowed the Kiwanis Club to operate Toys for Kids in his garage for the first two years. “But what makes it really worth it is when you see the little kids get these toys. The joy in their eyes is overwhelming. You can just tell it does a lot of good. Everywhere we send these toys they come back the next year asking for more.”
Candi Hayes doesn’t live in Longmont full time, but she makes sure she’s at Steve’s Automotives each December just so she can help out.
“This is a really special project and I just can’t leave until the toys are done,” she said. “It’s amazing to see how excited these kids are when they get their toys. Plus, I wasn’t allowed to take wood shop in high school because I was a girl, so Marv teaches me how to use all the tools. It’s great.”
While Christmas is obviously a busy time of year for the Toys for Kids Program, it doesn’t stop after the holidays. Volunteers make toys year-round for charities and nonprofits around the world.
For those interested in volunteering, the Toy for Kids Program meets at Steve’s Automotives from noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays.
“There’s something magical that happens here,” Chuck Everitt’s wife, Becky Everitt, , said. “It’s just a bunch of great people helping people all over the world.”
John Spina: 303-473-1389, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jsspina24