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Utah woodworker makes chairs for kids in need

December 19, 2020 GMT
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Jeff Hansen stands in his woodworking shop, located in a shed outside his home on Dec. 11, 2020, in South Weber, Utah, with some of the chairs he's made to donate to kids in need this holiday season. (Tim Vandenack/Standard-Examiner via AP)
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Jeff Hansen stands in his woodworking shop, located in a shed outside his home on Dec. 11, 2020, in South Weber, Utah, with some of the chairs he's made to donate to kids in need this holiday season. (Tim Vandenack/Standard-Examiner via AP)

SOUTH WEBER, Utah (AP) — Hearing stories of people losing their jobs due to the economic downturn brought on by COVID-19, Jeff Hansen figured he had to do something.

Having a soft spot for kids, the motivation was even stronger.

“It’s Christmastime. You got this COVID thing going on. I just thought if I could give something, that would help out,” he said.

As such, the South Weber woodworker has been busy of late building a bunch of small rocking chairs meant as donations to area kids. He put the word out via social media that he was taking orders for the junior-sized chairs, focused on helping families struggling economically, and the response has been strong. He’s now scrambling to finish the chairs — around 40 done, 20-plus to go — and hopes his gift this holiday season spreads at least a little cheer.

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“Just have this feeling inside that I need to have them for free. This year with COVID, I really wanted to do something,” Hansen said.

Many groups, organizations and individuals are out there lending a hand this season, hoping to aid those in need. But this is no ordinary year, and though Hansen would previously donate a chair to a child in need for every 10 or so chairs he sold, he figured he needed to step up his game on hearing stories of people adversely impacted by COVID-19. The former homebuilder retired after a serious on-the-job back injury and now does woodworking projects on the side, including the small chairs.

One woman told the story of her son who moved back to her home with his wife and kids after sustaining serious injuries in a car crash. The family worried they’d have nothing to give the children for Christmas given all the expenses they faced, and that’s when Hansen stepped in.

He hadn’t initially been planning on making so many chairs. But he left his smart phone laying around one day and his girlfriend, on reading requests for chairs that came in after he sent a public message outlining his plans, agreed, on his behalf, to each query that came in. “By the time I came home, I had 66 orders,” he said.

He’s not seeking pay, but he needs donations to help get wood to build the chairs yet to be completed and has created a Facebook page to aid in the fundraising drive. The chairs are made of pine and feature bookholders, meant to encourage reading among the users. “I hope they’re going to last. I hope a couple centuries,” Hansen said.

Meantime, he’s been selling tools in his woodshop to get the needed cash, all in the name of putting a smile on the faces of kids impacted most by the downturn. “I’m a sucker for little kids,” he said.