Noise from whirring saws and the scent of wood wafting from Room 94 at Lake Zurich Middle School South were part of an effort by some students to brighten the holidays for less fortunate children.
About 20 students in the after-school woodworking club made about 100 toy cars presented Wednesday to the nonprofit Caring Women's Connection of Hawthorn Woods. The 58-year-old group serves women and children in need through donations, fundraisers and other means.
Caring Women's Connection board President Laurie Wilhoit said the handcrafted toys will be donated next week on behalf of the woodworking club to A Safe Place, which provides domestic violence assistance to women and children in Lake County.
"It's from one child to another child. And that's a great gift," Wilhoit said before she and Caring Women's Connection board members Susan Passaglia and Chris Geimer left Middle School South with the boxed-up toy cars.
Seventh-grader Connor Miltz was among the club members who produced the wooden toys.
He said he enjoys helping others and that there was greater meaning in making the toys instead of buying them to donate.
"I know not every family has enough to give $300 minibikes or stuff like that, so it's nice being able to make stuff for them," he said.
Club members received assembly-line tasks to produce the cars during four meetings in Room 94. Some students operated band saws, while others sanded, finished, drilled, assembled the wheels and served as quality control for the toys.
Finishing touches were put on the final 21 cars Wednesday. Eighth-grader Katie Glazbrook said she was excited to complete the project.
"I'm just this eighth-grade, 13-year-old kid in a school joining a club that I thought was going to be awesome and, here we are, creating a hundred-maybe-plus cars to donate to charity," Katie said.
A tag attached to each toy read: "Greetings. This toy car was handmade by students from Lake Zurich Middle School South. We hope that you enjoy our gift and we wish you happy holidays. -- LZMSS Woodworking Club."
On the other side of the tag, recipients are informed the cars were left bare on purpose so they could use markers, stickers, glitter or other art supplies to decorate them as desired.
The club's sponsors, Middle School South applied technology teacher Eric Prostka and mathematics instructor Aaron Chopra, said they were impressed with how much care the students put into making the toy cars.
"This is way more than we ever expected," Chopra said.
Prostka, who joined Lake Zurich Unit District 95 in 2011, said he started a similar toy-building program when he taught at Zion-Benton Township High School. He brought back a small-scale, toy-making project for one of his applied technology classes when he shifted to Middle School South last year.
He said he doesn't remember how he came up with the idea several years ago, but he plans to continue it.
"It's special to everybody involved, I think," Prostka said.