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ToyMakers of East Lake spread joy all year by making toys for kids in hospitals and abuse shelters

"They don't have anything to play with"
Year-round Santas make toys for kids in need
Posted at 4:03 AM, Nov 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-03 06:33:42-04

Two years shy of his 100th birthday, Bob Rath is making little wooden race cars.

“They don’t have anything to play with,” says Rath. “So a little simple toy like we make? They think that’s just great.”

The 98-year-old volunteers at the ToyMakers of East Lake. He and others of all ages and all walks of life come together to volunteer for one common cause: making toys for children in abuse and homeless shelters, the Ronald McDonald House and local children’s hospitals. 

Head ToyMaker Bob Helms had nothing but a few helpers and a leaky roof ten years ago. The tiny toy operation a humble outreach mission of East Lake United Methodist Church.

A decade later, this amazing group is responsible for creating over 72,000 toys for kids all over the Tampa Bay area. All materials are donated from the community.

On Saturday, they will celebrate their ten-year anniversary with a celebration open to the public.

Information on Saturday's Open House and Fundraiser:

There are thirty-six steps to making each toy, from woodworking to sanding to painting. The toys are simple, beautiful creations. Anyone is welcome to become a ToyMaker and help build them.

“A lot of them go to very needy children,” says Helms. “Their parents can’t afford batteries. They struggle to afford food.”

The joy here spreads both ways, however. The workshop is a supportive family, from shy teens to the learning disabled to retirees happy to stay active and contribute. The workshop keeps cranking and so do they.

For more information on the ToyMakers of East Lake, visit