ANSONIA — The holiday season has some folks asking, ‘What makes a good Christmas present?’
Several local crafts people have an idea, as they entered Ansonia Lumber Company’s annual Operation Christmas Cheer Wooden Toy Contest, Saturday. Those carpenters include: Harry Niswonger, First Place; John Burnett, Second Place; Kenneth Pence, Third Place; Harold Alley, Fourth Place; Jim Hampshire, Fifth Place; Byron Brehm; Gerald Brehm; Mitch McCabe; Ron Myers; Donald Pearson and Neal Pleiman. First-Place winner Harry Niswonger made a fire truck. He said he has three rooms full of toys that he has made.
”I have messed around with woodworking all my life,” he said. “Once you start something like that, you can’t leave it alone; you have to want to do it to start with. Then you can build anything.”
Neal Pleiman, of Osgood, has been making a toy for the contest for the past 15 years. This year he made a rocking chair, a jewelry box and a duck that rolls on wheels.
“This is for the kids, and I love woodworking,” he said. “It is relaxing, keeps me from getting old and it makes me happy. That is the whole thing about it-all of these are wonderful toys, so it’s a challenge. It challenges me to try to do better.”
Manager of Ansonia Lumber Mitch McCabe said the toy competition started with an idea to try to showcase some of the local crafts people, and a chance for them to donate toys for kids in need.
“The number of entries are down a little, but the quality of the toys is still over the top,” he said. “In 24 years, we have donated hundreds of toys through that time, and we appreciate that. We also appreciate Scott Phillips. Not only is he a great judge, but an awesome entertainer.”
Phillips, of Piqua, and host of WBGU Public Television’s “The American Woodshop with Scott and Suzy Phillips” was the judge, and has been donating his time since the first competition. The judging criteria, included: style, originality and quality, but Phillips placed the emphasis on something else. What qualifies me to judge is that I am the biggest kid, he said.
“The only way I look at it is through the eyes of a child,” Phillips said. “I’m just trying to figure out what toy is the first a child would go to. The hours and hours of work and the beautiful selection of wood in each piece, makes everyone deserving of an award. You can’t go out and buy these-they are heirlooms and will be around for centuries, ending up in museums. The bad news is, we only have five winners. I hope God richly blesses each and every one of you for your kindness and your sharing with everybody in the community, because that is what it is all about.”
McCabe also extended his thanks to Trisha Hill of Operation Christmas Cheer-Darke County, where the toys will be donated.
According to Hill, the charity has been around about eight years, started by President Alishia Funk helping a handful of kids.
“It has grown every year and more people are interested in being involved,” Hill said. “It is a very rewarding program and it is nice to see people smile. A lot of these families are falling on very rough times, and it is nice to help them out, because everybody falls on rough times at one point or another. These are beautiful pieces you have made, and you don’t know how happy you are going to make the kids that may not have gotten anything for Christmas this year. We really appreciate you donating your time and work to us.”
The Wooden Toy Contest prizes included: Grand Prize-an engraved Case Knife and gift box, and a $50 Ansonia Lumber Gift Certificate; Second-a $100 Ansonia Lumber gift certificate; Third-a Worksharp Knife Sharpener and extra belts; Fourth-an oscillating tool and Fifth-a shop organizer. The Frank Miller Hardwood Lumber Outlet Store donated the hardwood to all contestants, according to McCabe.
“They have been doing that since the beginning, and we really appreciate that,” he said.
“We kind of lose the whole idea of Christmas, that it’s about giving,” Phillips said.”God bless you all, and I mean that from every cell in my body, because there is nothing more important than this.”
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