From left, Everett Ufford, Howard Mills and monitor John Cunningham discuss the proper way to use the router on a piece at the wood shop room at Ahwatukee Recreation Center on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

It’s that time of year again.

The Sunshine Club at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center will begin its charity woodworking projects for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Shriners Hospitals for Children this October.

Seeking scrap wood and tool donations, the woodworking group makes toys and other keepsakes for children at hospitals, schools, and churches among several other organizations.

The woodworking club started in 1979 at the recreation center, and moved to its current site, a building tucked just behind the main center, in 1987.

Nearly 100 members strong, the club has worked on projects as small as toy cars to as big as a 20-foot-long, 8-foot-tall cage for a condor at Liberty Wildlife in Scottsdale.

But for each project going to a good cause, the members are happy to help.

“It’s amazing, and everyone has their own niche,” said Theresa Goldstein, a Child Life Program assistant at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

On a regular Thursday morning, a few of the woodworking members trickle in to begin work on their projects. Everything from table saws to small tools can be found in the shop that holds several heavy-duty machines and two workrooms.

Sawdust covers the floor, and most of the members.

“I enjoy the camaraderie,” said Roman Ertelt, who has been volunteering at the club for more than 10 years.

For the kids at the hospitals receiving the trinkets and toys, the result is usually comforting.

The Child Life Program helps patients and their families with learning how to cope with fears and anxieties of leaving home or school.

“(The woodworkings) are keepsakes because they are so substantial,” said Goldstein. “When we bring a wood piece into the kids’ rooms, rather than a piece of paper or paint, it’s a big difference.”

For the Child Life Program, the woodworking club members make the toys or keepsakes ranging from star-shaped jewelry holders, prayer boxes, Mancala game sets, cars, and birdhouses and sends them with an unfinished surface.

The kids then can decorate the toys how they want, provided with paint, glue, glitter and other things.

“It’s more personal,” said Sandi Hutson, wife of the El Zaribah Shriner’s president, J. “Hut” Hutson.

The Shriners hospitals, which have treated about 1 million children throughout 22 states, have received donated woodworkings from the club for two years.

“Not only are (the kids) getting treatment, but they get something special to take home with them,” Sandi added.

On the local scale, the same effort is constantly in demand.

“This will always be needed,” Goldstein said.

The Sunshine Club meets at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center, 5001 E. Cheyenne Drive. For more information about the club, or how to donate scrap wood, call (480) 275-6631.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or

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