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The Helping Hands Of The Homeless

Elves Aren't The Only Ones Who Make Toys For Children

From The Hands Of The Homeless

(Seattle) Seattle's Pike Place Market is a good place to find a smile. You can find things here you didn't know you were looking for, like wooden toys, beautiful toys, hand-crafted, homemade. What most customers don't realize is the toys are made by men who, until recently, didn't have a home.

They work in a place called The Giving Tree, in rooms filled with the buzz and hum of creativity. It's a construction site where toys are built and lives are reassembled. Eighty-year-old Roy Fuller was a trumpet payer. He's a painter now.

Mr. Roy Fuller: Kids love these toys, I know they do, because I've raised kids, and I know what they like.

Smith: With jazz on the radio, the paint and varnish flow from Fuller's brush.

Mr. Fuller: I'm the worst critic in the world about my own work. I'm never satisfied.

Smith: Fuller shuffles to work every day from the West Lake residence next door. A place to live and a place to work have been a godsend.

Mr. Fuller: A guy gets homeless, that's awful.

Smith: This is a good safe place for you.

Mr. Fuller: Oh, sure, yeah.

Smith: Yeah.

Mr. Fuller: Keeps me out of mischief.

Smith: The men who build the toys are old enough and wise enough to realize they can no longer survive on the street. And the work gives them something many have not had in a long time; that is a purpose. Eddie Nelson has been here for two and a half years.

Smith: What are you making here?

Mr. Eddie Nelson: Well, I'm making a box.

Smith: His shop work earns him a modest income, enough to pay for room and board at the residence hall.

Mr. Nelson: It's nice, it's nice. It's better than sleeping out in the rain.

Smith: John Pearson has bounced from job to job — driving cab to picking apples. He loves working in the shop, and he's on the waiting list for a room next door.

Mr. John Pearson: There's so much to be thankful for. You don't have to worry about tomorrow.

Mr. Nelson: Well, this has got to go down a little bit more anyway. See?

Mr. Wally Wise: Yeah. Yeah.

Smith: Each man says the best thing about making toys has been learning that skill from Wally Wise. Wise is legally blind, but has 50 years of memory stored in his fingers.

You can't see me sitting right here?

Mr. Wise: No, I see a silhouette, that's it.

Smith: Wow. What about when you're working close in with this stuff?

Mr. Wise: Fingertips. You feel.

Smith: Wally Wise is a retired banker who volunteers his time. He, too, has found a purpose in the toy shop.

Mr. Wise: If you can help make life easier for anybody, I think it's worthwhile.

Smith: It's extra busy in the shop this time of year, but the men never forget the needs of their neighbors. Many of the toys will go to homeless children. It's true, you know, those with the least give the most. Harry Smith, CBS News, Seattle.

First aired on the CBS Evening News

December 19, 1997

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