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Suburban Chicago woodworkers make toys by hand for hundreds of kids

Ahead of holidays, west suburban woodworkers make toys by hand for kids
Ahead of holidays, west suburban woodworkers make toys by hand for kids 02:47

CAROL STREAM, Ill. (CBS) -- Area nonprofits are busy putting together toy baskets for kids who need them this holiday season.

In DuPage County, one group has spent the past 20 years making that happen. They invited CBS 2's Sara Machi into one of their workshops to see some of the thousands of toys they make from hand.

Despite what the overnight lows and wind chill factors might sometimes lead one to believe, the Chicago area is not anywhere near the North Pole. But peek inside a home in west suburban Glen Ellyn, and you'll find all the makings of a holiday workshop.

 "I mean, it's fun to make toys," said Mark Wieting.

Wieting is part of the DuPage Woodworkers – a group with a couple hundred members invested in a hobby that comes with its nicknames.

"Geppetto," said George Rogers, president and toy chairman of the DuPage Woodworkers. "I have been called Geppetto by some of my friends."

Though this time of year, they're all looking more like Santa's elves – packing up their first delivery after collecting thousands of handmade toys from their members.

They came together just before Thanksgiving – with about 50 helpers laying out their contributions, and setting a new record.

'We have over 3,000 toys this year," said Rogers. "That is probably our highest ever."

As they gather up the items for delivery, Wieting and Rogers head to Rogers' pickup – a stand-in for Santa's sleigh. It's a tight squeeze with so many boxes.

This first round of toys is headed for a longtime partner, nearby Humanitarian Service Project in Carol Stream. It is one of seven nonprofits they're partnering with this year.

"Well every year that I see them it's like, you know, seeing old friends, right?" said Kristin Senne, executive director of the Humanitarian Service Project. "I can't believe that a year has passed by, and they put tremendous work into making these toys by hand for so many children – and it's fantastic."

The nonprofit's using the woodworkers' wares to fill their holiday gift requests. Each of the 385 boxes they assembled represents a family – with toys going to the ones with young kids.

"This would never happen without our partners," said Floyd Kettering, cofounder of the Humanitarian Service Project. "We could not do this on our own."

When the woodworkers push in their last basket, it's a pat on the back and a quick goodbye – at least until next year.

The boxes will go out for distribution on Dec. 9 – representing only half of the number of families the DuPage Woodworkers will be serving this year. Some of those handmade toys will be saved for boxes in round two. 

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