MERRILLVILLE | Members of the Northwest Indiana Woodworkers Association share another common interest in addition to their craft.
They enjoy helping the less fortunate.
Each year, the group makes toys which are provided to needy children for Christmas.
During a recent meeting, the group transformed the social center at Hidden Lake Park into Santa's workshop.
Tables in the facility were filled with more than 1,000 toys the group created.
The toys included tool boxes, puzzles, small cribs with dolls inside, trucks and cars. Some of the cars created were made to look like the Batmobile.
The toys were provided to 12 local organizations, which will give them to children.
This Portage Township trustee's office was among the organizations selected to distribute toys.
"These are truly a work of art," said Nina Rivas, chief of staff at the Portage Township trustee's office.
Terrace Park Church of God is another organization that will provide the toys to families.
"We appreciate this because it helps so much," said Belita Sandefur, a member of the church.
Sandefur told members about families the toys have helped.
She explained a single mother of eight children received toys made by the woodworkers several years ago.
Now that the toys have been distributed to the organizations, the woodworkers association will start making new toys for next year, said Marcia Lichnerowicz, the president of the group.
"It's who we are and what we do," Lichnerowicz said.
Members will look through a pattern box to get ideas of what to make, she said.
Work to create the toys is dispersed among group members. Some will cut pieces and others will assemble the toys.
Nonmembers often help to make the toys, Lichnerowicz said.
Safety is a priority when making toys, she said. Members ensure quality paints are used and there are no small parts.
The Northwest Indiana Woodworkers Association has made toys for needy children for more than 10 years, Lichnerowicz said.
"It's wonderful," she said, "We're Santa's helpers."