What started with just five people a decade ago has ballooned into an enormous giving machine. The ToyMakers of East Lake has grown quite a bit since September 9, 2007.

“This is surprised me in so many ways that we’re so large this way so I’m sure I’ll be surprised and excited ten years from now,” said one of the original five, Gene Watson. “I’ve been around a while. Let’s say that.”

That original group of volunteers handmade just a few hundred wooden toys that first year. Ten Christmases later, nearly 400 annual volunteers working 19,000+ hours, four days per week will churn out nearly 15,000 toys this year alone. The total number of toys made by the dedicated group of men and women sits at 72,000 (not counting 2017) with no end in sight.

“It impacts you to see how one moment can change that child,” said Pam Pearch as she painted balloons on a pink racecar.

Watson retired in 2001 and “didn’t know” what he was going to do to pass the time. Pearch has been volunteering for the group for three years.

Down at the end of a table full of toys waiting to be sanded, Barry Silverstein feverishly worked sandpaper over a wooded car cutout. Today was his first time volunteering in the shop.

“My wife said to get out of the house,” he joked.

The toys are given to hospitals to be handed out to children during holidays. This Christmas will be the ToyMakers’ tenth. On their current pace, they could eclipse 100,000 total toys by 2019. The group originally began as an outreach project by members of the local East Lake United Methodist Church.

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