Toys hand-made in Mount Evelyn are bringing joy to disadvantaged kids in East Timor.
Morrison Men’s Shed member Jim Brown has been spearheading the project in recent years.
Rotary Club of Lilydale president Ron Haines said it started with Croydon man Brian Frost.
He made the wooden toys for 10 years but then fell ill, and asked the Rotarians to help him to find someone to continue his good work.
“He made many, many thousands of toys,” Mr Haines said.
Mr Haines approached the Mount Evelyn shed and Mr Brown jumped at the project.
Mr Brown said his doctor advised him to go a join a men’s shed to get him out of the house.
He has a “bung hand” but was confident he could lead this project, and he’s enjoyed it.
He even takes the toy parts home over the Christmas period so he can keep them coming while the shed is shut.
“I enjoyed it. I plod along,” he said.
Mr Brown makes carts filled with building blocks, cars, trains and more.
“I’m always trying to come up with new ideas,” he said.
And his fellow shed-goers lend him a hand for any tasks he can’t manage with one hand.
Morrison Men’s Shed president Gary Paget said the shed was happy to be involved.
He said Mr Brown worked on the project pretty much full-time, and that many of the materials would otherwise be discarded as offcuts.
Lilydale Rotary recently donated $500 and timber to the Men’s Shed to support the toy program, and also pays to transport the toys to East Timor.
There they are distributed to disadvantaged children in orphanages and schools.
“We’re very grateful because it’s an important project,” Mr Haines said.
“In East Timor, children don’t get toys like they do in Australia.
“These might be the only toys they get all year.”
The Morrison Men’s Shed is open on Tuesdays and Fridays and has about 35 members.
Three former chippies are among them, and each new member receives training and goes through an induction.
“Safety is important,” Mr Paget said.
They help kinders, primary schools and childcare centres with woodworking projects, from toys to huts, chook pens and shelving units.