Holland couple is making toys, making smiles

John and Mary Jager are determined to change the fact that not every child owns a toy.

Not every child has the luxury of owning a toy. However, John and Mary Jager are determined to change that.

This energetic, retired couple lives in Holland, Michigan, and over the last three years they have built more than 25,000 wooden toy cars in their garage. Along with 280 other volunteers around the country, John and Mary use their free time to create small wooden cars for an organization called Smile Makers, organized in 2000 in Colorado.

Some days the couple spends six to eight hours working on cars, building them one step at a time toward the final product. 

“We never knew retirement could be so much fun!” Mary exclaims.

Both John and Mary treat this work as a full-time job, and every winter they follow the same process: “We draw the cars on the wood and then we drill the holes for the axles and then drill holes for windows. Then we cut them out. The cars go on a router, and John routes the edges out,” Mary says.

The wheels are cut out next. More than 100,000 have been carved throughout the course of the three years John and Mary have been involved in the ministry. Once the cars have all the pieces needed, each one is dipped in a material that preserves the wood and creates a smooth surface. “The material we dip them in is food safe so if the kids suck on them they’re not going to get hurt,” John points out.

They explain that these toy cars go all over the world. John and Mary might be behind the scenes doing the assembly work, but they are certainly making an impact in a lot of countries. John recalls how some children react when given the cars.

“Our pastor said he went to Cambodia and would hand kids a Christmas box and they’d take something out of it and hand the box back because they didn’t know how to accept a gift. You have to tell them, ‘It’s okay, this is yours; you can keep it.’”

After hearing this story from their pastor, Mary began to draw and trace animals as well as cars. The couple said it would make it easier for some kids to relate to. Many children around the world have never ridden in an automobile, but they do know dogs, cats and birds.

The organization has grown during the last 16 years, dispersing by last year a total of one million toy cars.

“I don’t know, you would think you would get bored with it, but we don’t. It’s very gratifying,” John insists.

Their selfless attitude has brought joy to boys and girls all over the world. The Jagers’ time and commitment to this hobby and ministry are what offer less fortunate children something they never forget.

“We’ve put a smile on a child’s face,” Mary affirms. “What joy that is for us.”

Although it costs them money to make the cars, they consider it a donation to the kids. 

Anybody can get involved in Smile Makers; find out more at toysforgodskids.org.


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