SUN CITY CENTER – The Sun City Center Sawdust Engineers aren’t just a bunch of guys and gals pursuing a hobby. Much of what they make in their woodworking shop directly benefits kids and their teachers.
The 260-member group creates and paints all kinds of educational aids for classroom use, and then gives them away to teachers who provide letters proving current employment from their school’s principal. They can come to the shop once annually and pick out one large toy – a fully furnished doll house, barn, folding puppet theatre, sack of building blocks or a numbered train – and five smaller toys, including things like bean bag games, lacing trainers, dry erase easels and puzzles.
“We also have toys for sight-impaired or special needs kids,” said Annette Smith, who is in charge of the Sawdust Engineers sales and paint rooms. “Everything is free as long as teachers have that letter verifying employment. They can be from anywhere in the state, anywhere in the nation. But they have to come in person to select and receive the toys,” she said.
Toys and other items made by members are also sold to the public. The group also does repairs on request for a donation. All proceeds are used to replenish wood and purchase other supplies.
In addition to making the toys and educational aids, the Sawdust Engineers also design, construct and distribute wheelchair ramps and furniture requested by schools, clinics, hospitals and other charitable groups – and for themselves, said Ed Klein, club president.
“I’ve been a builder all my life, I enjoy working with wood,” he said. “And I enjoy the people in the club. It’s a very good group.”
Currently 41 of the club’s members are women. Since March the group has offered ladies-only classes three nights a week to introduce women who are Community Association members to the Sawdust Engineers. The cost is $20, and participants receive instruction on the use of tools, safety training and start out making two bread boards, one to take home and one to donate back to the club. The classes are taught by men.
Annual membership in the group is initially $40, which entitles members to use the woodworking shop, tools and equipment from 8 a.m. to around 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. After the first year the annual dues drop to $30.
For additional information on the toy program, call Smith at (813) 731-6502. For information on the Sawdust Engineers, call (813) 642-2038 or stop by 919 North Course Lane.