By Emma Castleberry
Apple Country Woodcrafters is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit club with a membership of more than 230 woodworking enthusiasts. The group was founded 37 years ago by a small group of woodworkers who simply wanted to make good, old-fashioned wooden toys for children—a mission that remains central to the group’s function with their annual Toy Drive during the holidays. “We have continued this tradition since our founding and now produce approximately 2,500 toys each year,” says Gary Mach, marketing director. “Over time we estimate we have made and delivered nearly 30,000 toys to our community.”
The Toy Drive starts in January and members work all year long in the Apple Country Woodcrafters workshop, located in Hendersonville. “Many members make toys at their home workshop and bring them to the club when finished,” says Mach. “Our ‘Embellishment Team’ takes the basic wooden toy and adds decorations and other special touches to bring the toys to life. Each year we invite up to 14 local social service agencies to assist us with the toy distribution to their client families. This all takes place in early December when everyone gets together in the same room with all 2,500 toys and officially launches the Christmas Season with cookies and hot chocolate.” This year’s Toy Party takes place on Saturday, December 9.
The group makes toys for all ages, from rattles for babies to blocks for elementary-aged children, and even gifts for teenagers like jewelry boxes and turned pens. Some of the agencies that distribute the toys made by Apple Country Woodcrafters include the Salvation Army, Hendersonville Rescue Mission, Edneyville Lions Club, Calvary Food Pantry and The Storehouse.
In addition to the Toy Making and Embellishment Group, Apple Country Woodcrafters hosts a Lathe Group, a Carver Group and a CNC Group. Membership dues are $100 a year, and membership includes woodworkers of all skill levels and experience. Benefits of membership include access to the group’s well-equipped, 3,750-square-foot woodworking facility; a library with more than 500 books and magazines; the Club Lumber store with reduced pricing; discounts at local woodworking stores; workshops and mentoring programs; and an annual picnic and Christmas Party. Past workshop topics have included safe operation of woodworking tools, joinery and cabinet making, and field trips have toured sawmills, tool manufacturers, chair makers and wood craft suppliers.
Recently, the Apple Country Woodcrafters provided several installments for The City of Hendersonville’s Laura E. Corn Mini Golf Course at Edwards Park. Each hole was themed around tourism, and the Apple Country Woodcrafters designed four exhibits: two flat, framed pieces representing the downtown city skyline and Biltmore Estate; a 3-dimensional, 4-foot tall apple as a tribute to the county’s apple orchards; and a miniature replica of the Historic Train Depot. “We were most excited to be offered the chance to contribute to the important and fun part of our town,” says Mach. “Hendersonville is a great town in which to live.” About a dozen Apple Country Woodcrafters worked on the projects over six months, investing about 80 hours of time.
“Woodworking is an old-fashioned ‘hands-on’ activity not at all related to cell phones, social media or many of the other distractions of modern society,” says Mach. “There is nothing quite like the scent of fresh cut wood and seeing your vision or design arise out of a rough log into a thing of beauty and utility.”
Learn more at AppleCountryWoodcrafters.org.