If you think Santa’s workshop is a mythical place that exists only in the minds of children, there’s somewhere in Mount Waverley you need to visit.
Waverley Woodworkers makes around 300 handcrafted toys each year and donates them to children who might otherwise go without at Christmas.
This year, those toys will be made using new tools and equipment funded by Ryman Healthcare.
The not-for-profit community club is a gathering place for more than 100 woodwork enthusiasts, most of whom are retirees. When they’re not beavering away on their own personal projects, they’re cutting and chiselling out Christmas creations for kinders, community support groups and Ronald McDonald House.
Waverly Woodworkers relies heavily on community support, and president Ray Ffrench was “blown away” when Ryman Healthcare provided $1000 in sponsorship at the recent Pinewood Community Bank Pitch Night.
The night saw a range of community organisations make their case for funding from a group of local businesses, including Ryman.
The work Waverly Woodworkers does for kids in need instantly resonated with Ryman’s Group Sales and Community Relations Manager Debbie McClure, and Community Relations Team Leader Denise Thompson.
“On pitch night it was an easy decision for Denise and I to choose Waverley Woodworkers as our first and largest financial recipient of the night,” Debbie said.
“We loved not only how passionate they are about what they do, but also that their handiwork brings joy to so many children.”
But Debbie says the sponsorship isn’t simply about handing Waverley Woodworkers a cheque, “it is about creating an ongoing relationship which our village residents will also enjoy”.
Ray said he was “surprised and delighted” when Debbie and Denise stumped up $1000 – the biggest share of the $3250 the club received on the night.
“When you guys came forward [with the donation] we just couldn’t believe it.
“It meant we could replace all the old no-name brand turning chisels with top-of-line Robert Sorby Chisels.”
Ray said there was even enough money left over to put into a safety project, which will see members equipped with new safety glasses, face masks and ear muffs.
But while Ray is thrilled with Ryman’s support, the biggest winners are local kids at risk of waking up to an empty Santa sack on Christmas morning.
The Waverley Benevolent Society, which provides an emergency support service, was the recipient of the woodworkers’ generosity for the first time last year.
Society volunteer Chris Kay said the toys donated by Waverley Woodworkers were “lovely” and made the world of difference to families in need.
“They were old fashioned – not the plastic stuff they usually get so it was great to give the kids something different.
“[Our clients] are all struggling to make ends meet so anything we can do to assist them is a good thing.”
Chris said Waverly Woodworkers is helping make a stressful time for some families that much easier to face.
“I think it’s wonderful for everyone – it’s a win-win really.”