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Crafting for a cause

In the eyes of many retirees at the Ahwatukee Retirement Village in Phoenix, woodworking is more than just a way to pass the time.

Members of the Sunshine Club spend their Thursdays making projects for local charities.

The village has about 1,600 homes with about 3,000 residents. As part of its recreational programming, it offers a woodworking club that currently has about 100 regular members. Many of these individuals are part of the group’s Sunshine Club, which focuses on creating projects for numerous charitable organizations throughout the city’s metropolitan area.

Program coordinator Tom Rosenthal makes sure that one day per week is dedicated to charitable efforts.

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“A lot of the people here enjoy woodworking. We have a woodshop to die for. We’re open during the regular year and guys come in and build all kinds of projects, from turnings to furniture. It’s quite a diverse group that we have. But on Thursday mornings you can’t work on your own projects. You can only work on what we call our Sunshine Projects and we do projects for local charities,” says Rosenthal.

Sunshine Projects include toys, bookcases, keepsake frames and more for churches, schools, hospitals and other entities and groups. Each year, for example, his group makes hundreds of frames for the water safety program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital that awards certificates to its participants. The members also spend lots of time making toys for children at the hospital and it’s one of their favorite projects.

“Right now I think the biggest charity that we’re working for would be the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. What we do is we make all kinds of toys from cribs for girls to planes for boys to puzzles for whoever wants them. You name it, we make it. We sand them, but we don’t paint them. As part of their recuperation, these kids get to paint the toys and then take them home.”

Rosenthal networks with charitable organizations throughout the week to make sure participants have enough work when members walk in on Thursdays. He says if there is not enough work, the enthusiastic volunteers get discouraged.

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“Thursday morning is when we really get the largest group of members coming out. It’s the busiest morning of the week. It’s almost like a production factory with every band saw, scroll saw and table saw in use. Some guys get going on projects and they work all week long on them. I’ve got one guy here who gets going on projects and doesn’t stop. He comes in every day and continues to make the toys.”

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue.

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