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The Woodpeckers Guild Gives Back at Christmas

Gavin with William Marr, a member of the Woodpeckers Guild in Maryland, with wooden toys that Marr crafted.  

The Woodpeckers Guild is a group of about 30 men who are passionate about woodworking. Founded in 1958, the guild is located in the Baltimore area in Maryland. During monthly meetings, members get together to improve their woodworking skills. They focus mainly on furniture, visiting local cabinetmakers, factories, and weavers to learn new woodworking techniques.

“We make furniture, tools, toys,” explained William Marr of Phoenix, who is a member of the guild, which includes my grandfather, Richard Gracey. “We make everything you could imagine out of wood. Some people make things that aren’t even wood. They just have those skills, whether it’s welding or other things.”

During the Christmas holidays, the guild’s efforts turn to making toys. Marr told me that each year, the group donates handmade wooden toys to charitable organizations in the area. The organizations then distribute the toys to children in need. Thanks to the efforts of all of the members, between 250 and 300 toys are made and distributed each holiday season.

The toy-making tradition began because the woodworkers realized they had a unique skill that could be of use. “We look forward to making the toys,” Marr said. “There’s a great deal of satisfaction that we get in giving them.” 


Handmade wooden cradles and other toys crafted by members of the Woodpeckers Guild are ready for distribution. 


Toys made by guild members are collected two weeks before Christmas. They are then distributed to seven local organizations, including the pediatric departments of nearby hospitals.

There are a wide variety of toys—everything from miniature race cars and wooden airplanes to doll cradles. A member who made the cradles also contributed dolls and blankets for each one.

Marr showed me some of the toys he has crafted. They include a wooden “You Are a Rockstar” yo-yo, a yellow duck puzzle, and “Mr. Acrobat,” a toy that does flips when you squeeze it.  

While the kids who receive the toys are kept anonymous, guild members do know of a few reactions of joyful recipients. One child was so happy when he received an alligator on wheels that his mom reached out to the guild to express her gratitude. “You can’t imagine how happy he is playing with the toy you made,” she wrote.

The guild’s toy-donation program makes a big difference to people who don’t have much and are struggling. Marr says that guild members, in turn, are grateful that they can give back to the community.

“If you have a skill, you should take the time to try to improve the lives of other people,” he said. “What better way than to make a toy? It makes a child smile and have joy, especially at Christmas.”


Thanks to members of the Woodpeckers Guild, many children in the Baltimore area will get a handmade wooden toy on Christmas. 

Photos courtesy of the author