Charles Sheppard’s garage has a lot in common with a North Pole workshop — sans the elves, reindeer and Mr. and Mrs. Claus. For more than 30 years, it has been a hub of Christmas toy-making for boys and girls in need throughout San Jose, Calif.
In that time, Sheppard has handcrafted nearly 15,000 toys, mostly wooden cars with support from members of John N. Neumann Council 6965. This past year alone, he constructed approximately 500 that were delivered to children at Parents Helping Parents (an organization that supports children and adults with special needs), Help One Child (an organization assisting at-risk children) and St. Julie Billiart Parish’s food pantry.
Sheppard’s brother Knights assist with this annual undertaking. After starting the woodwork in the summer, council members meet with Sheppard to add the finishing touches, sanding and affix wheels on the toys. They also help deliver the toys once they are completed.
“We do this out of love of our neighbor, love of God and for keeping the spirit of Christmas alive and Christ in Christmas,” said Ernest Gargas, grand knight of Council 6965.
Woodworking has been a lifelong passion for Sheppard, who helped start the initiative in the late 1980s at the suggestion of a brother Knight named Bernie Hoss. Only a few years into the effort, Hoss passed away, but Sheppard keeps the tradition alive and honors its founder by calling it Bernie Hoss Memorial Toys. Today, Sheppard builds 16 different kinds of toys, including Volkswagen vans, pickup trucks, sedans and even dinosaurs and ducks.
“I enjoy doing it, and I know the kids are going to benefit from it,” Sheppard said. “It's satisfying that there's a lot of children that will have a toy that maybe never would have otherwise.”
For Gargas, the act of handcrafting and delivering toys to children in need at Christmas particularly resonates. Growing up in similar circumstances, simply receiving one gift as a kid brought a sense of dignity. Giving children that dignity is the gift he hopes the council’s toys impart.
“We make a child’s Christmas that much nicer, that much happier,” Gargas said. “Even though it’s small, it still means something.”
Each year, Knights of Columbus make it a priority to Keep Christ in Christmas, promoting the true meaning of the holiday in their homes, schools, parishes and local communities. Councils are encouraged to organize events such as Journey to the Inn celebrations and engage in charitable activities for their neighbors in need.
To learn more about the Knights of Columbus, click here.
Share your story of your council’s latest charitable activity with email@example.com.