"A toy is born," declares Bert Flee-nor, pushing a strangely articulated wooden lizard along the dining room table.
"That's why I call him trouble," says Chanel Krossenger, joining the rest of the men's group, which bursts out laughing at the antics of Fleenor, who clearly is enjoying himself.
Bert is a member of the men's group at Cascade Lodge. They meet once a month. They like to crack jokes-and non-alcoholic beers-and they revel in each other's company.
The large table in the dining room is transformed into an assembly line of sorts. Wooden toy parts, supplied by the B.C. Wooden Toy Makers Society, need to be put together. It's the final stage for this, the third batch of toys the men's group has put together this year.
Bert's fingers, not so nimble anymore, struggle to string beads and complete the assembly of a wooden toy he hopes will bring a smile to the face of a needy child. It may seem a simple task, but for the men gathered, it takes concentration. Hands that have seen a lifetime of work don't bend quite as easily as they once did. But, with a little encouragement from Cascade Lodge staff, they take to the task ahead and lovingly produce a wobbly wooden lizard that even they can't help but be amused by.
"It gives them a sense of purpose," says Krossenger, the recreation manager at Cascade Lodge. "As soon as you tell them it's for kids they are all in."
During the summer months the men did a lot of sanding and inserting dowels for the articulated legs of the lizard. The task helps maintain their manual dexterity. And, as always, it never fails to bring about hoots of laughter.
"We laugh as much as our residents do," says Sarah Laffin, a recreation assistant at Cascade Lodge.
The men's group has produced more than 50 toys for the society (in total, the Society made 1,800 toys last year), something president and founder Robert Prinse says goes a long way towards completing their annual campaign. Prinse credits a Cascade nurse, whose husband was a former "wood elf" with the Toy Society, with seeing the potential for a mutually beneficial partnership.
"She recognized that the gentlemen at Cascade wanted a wood project," he says.
The Toy Society distributes the handcrafted toys throughout B.C. in co-operation with various Lions Clubs. This year Lordco has generously donated delivery services to those towns selected to receive wooden toys.
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