Ron Agnor (from left), Terry Holdcraft and Ron Marks volunteer in the large wood shop at St. Leonard in Centerville crafting tiny wooden cars for children all over the world. (Not pictured: Bob Cooper.) PAMELA DILLON/CONTRIBUTED

‘We’re sending toys around the world to kids’

Group based at St. Leonard in Centerville helps Toys for God’s Kids.

The Toys for God’s Kids charity is based in Englewood, Colo., but there is a team crafting toy cars for the charitable organization at St. Leonard retirement community in Centerville.

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Since 2012 volunteers at the local community have made approximately 26,000 tiny wooden cars for underprivileged children in countries around the world.

“Fred Pestian and Peter Kostoff were the first two guys that got this program going. They started the process, designed the car, and made all the jigs that we use now,” said Terry Holdcraft, a volunteer team member and Kettering resident.

Sadly, Kostoff died on Nov. 29 last year. The 94-year-old was a St. Leonard resident. Pestian, also a St. Leonard resident, died this past Sept. 21 at the age of 90.

Ron Marks, a volunteer team member who lives in Butler Twp., said, “I miss Peter during coffee breaks. He would share his experiences, and, being over 90, he had a lot of stories to tell.”

Holdcraft joined the Pestian-Kostoff team in February 2013, about six months after it was formed. Marks has built cars with the group for the past year and a half. Ron Agnor of Kettering joined the team one year ago. In addition, St. Leonard resident Bob Cooper comes to the wood shop a few hours a week to smooth out the rough edges of the wheels.

It’s quite an operation. Pinewood blocks, donated by Unibilt Industries in Vandalia, are marked with the shape of the car and cut on the band saw. They are then smoothed on an oscillating sander. A bench drill-press is used to make two holes for the wheels and a larger hole for the window. The rough edges are again smoothed out on the router table.

Quarter-inch dowel rods, supplied by the Toys for God’s Kids organization, are cut to a specific length with the band saw. Holdcraft usually makes the wheels. They are made from oak hardwood donated by an Amish man from Indian Lake. They are cut out of the wooden block on a table saw, sanded on the Belt Sander-Grinder and smoothed on the router table.

Marks usually does the final assembly. The cars are stamped with St. Leonard information on the bottom and a “USA” on the back. Finally, they are shined to a glistening finish with a mixture of linseed oil and mineral spirits.

Agnor was asked about his main job in the wood shop: “Making children happy,” he said.

Indeed, there is a colorful world map in the community room of St. Joseph’s Hall two stories up from where the wood shop is located on the first floor. It has more than 50 pins stuck in locations where the St. Leonard cars have been shipped. They have pictures of smiling children and thank-you’s from Mexico, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Rwanda, to name a few.

Agnor and Marks have come a long way from their first 4-H Club projects. Agnor made a birdhouse and Marks made a simple stair-step for a window. Holdcraft started out big, making two cradles. His son and his brother’s son were born five days apart. Agnor and Marks work about three to four hours a week. Holdcraft visits the wood shop more often, and usually works ten to twelve hours per week.

“Just knowing that we’re sending toys around the world to kids who really have nothing. That’s the enjoyment and satisfaction that we get from this,” said Marks.

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