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Spirit of giving

The San Fernando Valley Woodworkers Club brings smiles to the faces of needy children through its annual Holiday Toy Production charitable program. The program is the main focus of the club's year and was started by woodworker Bob Rennie in 1980. It is now jointly run by him and Arron Latt.

A collection of toys completed by the San Francisco Valley Woodworkers Club for the 2009 holiday season.

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The club has grown from 25 to 60 members. More than half of the members attend meetings in the Balboa Park Sports Complex in Encino, Calif., on the third Thursday of every month. Its toy program recently received such an increased recognition that industry-related companies are stepping in with much-needed funding to help expand the program and produce more toys.

The initial goal of the club was to put woodworking novices together with experienced woodworkers so they could interact and learn in a friendly atmosphere, and also to help the community.

"We immediately thought that one of our goals would be to design and make wooden toys for indigent children that got nothing for Christmas," says Latt.

Latt says the local need for the toys is great and that thousands of children are without toys for the holidays. The organizations the club helps includes a children's hospital, an out-of-state Indian reservation, and various social and religious organizations as well as orphanages.

Through the years, toy production has increased. Latt says he and other members have been purchasing and donating their own materials for many years. Commercial companies that have recently started donating products to assist with the toy production include Anderson Plywood in Culver City, Calif., Eurotech Construction in Venice, Calif., and Miller Woodworking in Harbor City, Calif.

"We can't thank these companies enough. This means we are able to build more toys because we have more wood. We are now starting our program earlier this year and can now produce between 400 and 500 toys a year. It used to be 100."

Toy production begins in October and takes place in Latt's fully equipped 1,000-sq.-ft. shop, as well as the woodworking shop at El Camino High School in Los Angeles on weekends. The toys are wrapped by members and distributed. The toys include trucks, bulldozers, dump trucks, tractor trailers, airplanes, helicopters - all with moving parts.

"We would like to keep increasing the membership and building the program. The more people that know about us, the more toys we can produce," says Latt.

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This article originally appeared in the June 2010 issue.

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