What feels better during the holidays—getting the most expensive present on your list, or giving something made with love to someone in need? Since it’s Christmas Eve eve, we’re reposting this story of Eskaton’s woodworkers to celebrate the giving spirit of California’s Assisted Living residents. We think it answers the question pretty definitively: to give is infinitely better than to get. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
You may not know this, but Eskaton Village Carmichael is a branch office of Santa’s workshop. Throughout the year, a trio of residents works in the onsite woodshop to make toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program. Jim Jackson, Doug Darmsted, and Sterling Parrish work together intuitively, like a well-oiled machine, constructing one hundred handmade toys each year for deserving children.
Jim says, “It’s nice to know the toys are made for a good cause. Last year, we made a hundred toys. We sold some at our craft fair and the proceeds we made went to materials for this year. The rest went in Christmas boxes to needy families.”
Sterling says, “In December, we bring the toys to the Sacramento Area Woodworkers’ meeting at the senior center. We watch the toys get loaded onto the Salvation Army truck. We follow the toy all the way from its creation to the truck.”
“I like to wonder about the destiny of the toys,” Jim says. “Maybe they become someone’s life souvenir. You know your efforts are appreciated. It’s the spirit of giving.”
Sterling says he’s not sure where the original plans for the toys came from. “I just joined in and said I’d like to help. They showed me the parts which are all cut out on a scroll saw or hand saw, then glued, sanded, and painted. We put the wheels on them and then box them up.”
As a team of three, Sterling says, they work well together. “Without it being spoken, we just sort of divide the tasks up. After the parts are laid out, Jim will cut the shape out, and then Doug will glue the pieces, making the basic body. Any one of us can do the sanding and drilling. Before the wheels are attached, I do the painting.” He adds with a laugh, “It all works out because no one else liked to paint but me.”
Jim says that all three enjoy the creative process of working with wood. “I call it ‘making sawdust.’ It’s about doing something with your hands. I have friends that can play bridge for hours, but at the end the only thing you can point to is your score. With woodworking, you have something for your efforts, something to show. It’s a feeling of satisfaction and a challenge.”