Shared from the 12/11/2017 The Florida Times-Union eEdition



CALL BOX sandy strickland

Dear Call Box: I heard there is a Jax Woodworkers Club that does a lot of good in the community. Tell me about it.

C.B., Westside

Dear C.B.: Many members are as busy as elves in Santa’s workshop, producing a sawdust trail year-round. They make wooden toys that are virtually indestructible, not subject to recall and with no assembly required.

Mind you, this doesn’t take place at the North Pole, but yet they cause children’s faces to light up. Though not by sleigh, 4,120 handmade toys were donated to 18 social service agencies and organizations this year. In turn, the organizations distribute them to needy Northeast Florida youngsters.

The club was formed in 1989 in the garage of Woodrow Connors’ Empire Point home on the Southside by a few friends who passed the word from one to another. Gradually, membership rose and now there are 65 members, both men and women, said Bob Carona, membership chairman. Only one founding member, Bobby Clayton, is still alive.

They long ago moved their meeting to a restaurant, but still made toys in their own garages or workshops. Over the years, Carona said, members have turned out about 60,000 toys.

Many fire up their saws and drills before last year’s Christmas tree is even hauled off. Carona has already made a couple of airplanes for next Christmas.

This year’s offerings included race cars, airplanes, dump trucks, jewelry boxes, animals, wagons, boats, push toys (minus any ropes) and doll beds with miniature quilts made by the Friendship Quilters Guild of Orange Park.

To ensure safety, the toys have no sharp edges, are large enough they can’t be swallowed and are not painted to further reduce any risk. They are made from unfinished scrap wood donated by Rulon International, a St. Augustine-based company that manufactures wood ceilings and walls, and Florida Design and Custom Cabinetry. The $15 membership dues enable the club to buy wood wheels and axles.

The club also makes shoebox-sized guitars for Rulon, which donates them to orphanages worldwide.

Carona can pop out 25 toy cars in a weekend, but likes to occasionally sharpen his skills by making a more intricate toy that takes a week.

“I might get tired of making the same toy again and again, but I keep reminding myself that this is a new toy to a child and think of the enjoyment it brings,” he said.

Although the members use hand tools and machines, there are several who have excellent whittling skills, Carona said. One of them, Ed Saunders, even teaches classes.

The club has 65 members and would like to have more, Carona said.

“We are lucky enough that we are getting some younger members,” he said, adding that younger is a relative term. “Many of us are in our 70s and they are in their 40s. They’re very eager to learn.”

At one point, the club even had a member who was 101.

Members are not required to make toys and some do not. Some may turn out 10 and others hundreds.

The payoff comes when representatives from the agencies come to pick up the toys and tell what they will mean to the recipients. Through the years, the toys have comforted children whose parents were dying or gone to a child who might not have anything for Christmas.

“You hear some of the heart-wrenching things that happen,” Carona said. “There are mothers who run out of the house in the middle of the night with no belongings and go to an agency to stay.”

The club has received recognition for its philanthropic spirit. In 2010, the city presented a resolution commending members for their “outstanding charitable work” in the community.


The Jax Woodworkers Club made 4,120 handmade wooden toys this year. The club distrubted them to 18 agencies and organizations for delivery to children in need this Christmas. (Provided by Jax Woodworkers Club)

For 30 years until it closed, the club met at Piccadilly Cafeteria at Lane Avenue and Ramona Boulevard. Currently, it meets at St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church at 4758 Shelby Ave. on the third Saturday of each month. Members usually arrive around noon to share plans and socialize, and the meeting starts at 1 p.m. They talk shop, discuss safety, and have a show and tell.

For more information, visit the club’s website at



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