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MERRILLVILLE | It can be slow, painstaking work but members of the Northwest Indiana Woodworkers Association make toys at Christmas for the joy of it and for the pleasure it brings on the faces of toddlers.

The association met Thursday night at Pierce Middle School, and brought more than 1,000 wooden toys that were made by members and displayed atop tables and chairs in the school's cafeteria. Members were beginning the task of boxing up the toys.

Each year, the association makes and distributes the toys to 15 organizations throughout Northwest Indiana which, in turn, distribute the toys to needy children.

Emery "Skip" Brazil and his wife, Claudia, of Valparaiso, said the toys are generally made individually, then woodworkers come together and invite friends to help sand, paint or varnish.

Skip Brazil said most of the work is done by hand, but this year the group also bought more than 4,000 wheels. Brazil, who has a woodshop attached to his house, said they spend plenty of time using a scroll saw, sanders or a drill press to put the toys together.

He pointed to a brightly painted circus train, which he said takes hours to put together because each piece has to be cut individually.

Tables were loaded with all kinds of long-lasting, wooden toys, including airplanes, a soft pink cradle holding a baby doll with handmade blankets, a John Deere farm tractor and wagon, and a crayon tote filled with crayons and coloring books.

Claudia Brazil said the work is a "good fit" for the couple, which has been woodworking for 20 years and serve as co-chairmen of the organization's toy committee.

David and Marcie White, of Cedar Lake, who are president and vice president, respectively, said there are about five women in the association.

Marcie White, a surgical nurse at St. Margaret Mercy Healthcare Centers in Dyer, said the work also is relaxing.

Nancy Distel, of Highland, said she and her husband, Merle, worked with others; the men made the cradle and the women painted it and bought dolls for it.

Retired from Dawn Foods, Nancy Distel said she isn't a member of the association, but enjoys working with her husband and others on activities that are worthwhile and social.

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