Eric's Heroes: Retirement community group spreads cheer with toys at Seattle Children's
Timber Ridge in Issaquah is a lovely retirement community full of old friends who've earned the right to relax a little.
But there is a secret here
Through the lobby and down the elevator into the depths of the parking garage there is an unassuming door on an unassuming wall. And behind that door is the secret a beautiful, spotless workshop.
They are the ones who never stopped wanting to create with their hands. This place is for the builders, bless the builders.
Five aging elves work there year-round.
Bill Weertman, who is 91-year-old, is the leader of the bunch.
When Weertman cuts the boards down to size, he draws on them using a template. It's handed off to youngster Don Williams, who is just 83-years-old. Williams has carved out his place with his mastery of the band saw.
Up next is the kid of the bunch, 80-year old John Keizur, working the drill press.
The masterpiece begins to take shape.
On it goes to Darrell Lowe, who at 83, has had most of his rough edges worn off. The same can be said of the creation.
Back to John, because he's a smooth operator on a belt sander and then it's Bill Loken – he’s 88 and the glue that holds the whole team together.
And one by one, little wooden race cars, trucks, tractors and baby buggies line up – a whole beautiful fleet of handmade toys created from sheer goodness.
"I would describe them as a wonderful group of guys who like to work in the shop,” Loken said.
"It's a very satisfying feeling to be able to create something from a block of wood,” Keizur said.
They call themselves the "sawdusters,” and it seems like they are on a mission.
"Well, you just can't take from life,” Don said.
"At our age, it gives us a good chance to share,” Darrell said.
One by one they pack away the delights they have created, and then they wait.
It's the morning of December 12 and Christmas is in the air. All the boys are gathered in front of Seattle Children's Hospital.
The sawdusters roll in with a bunch of big boxes and they pull out examples of their work.
The sawdusters are giddy like children.
"It's a joyous occasion for us,” Loken said.
Seattle Children's asks that the toys not be painted. Janelle from Seattle Children's says they let the kids handle that part.
"Sometimes they'll paint them, they'll decorate them... they'll get quite creative,” Janelle said.
The boxes, full of homemade, old time decency are then carted away.
And the fellas head home to Timber Ridge because they've earned the right to relax a little.
And then for the rest of the year, little kids, some of them scared, all of them sick, will be handed a tractor, or a race car, or a baby buggy.
And for a little while, anyway, the hospital won't seem like such a frightening place.
Bless the builders.
Editor's Note: "Eric's Heroes" is a weekly series airing every Wednesday on KOMO News in the 6 p.m. newscast. If you have a good story about a good person doing good things for the right reasons, share it with Eric by sending an email to email@example.com.