Verne Goering has turned a passion for woodworking into gifts for children in need. Since 2001, he has donated about 3,700 handmade toys
to Toys for Tots.

Verne Goering is a master craftsman who spends a lot of time in his Moundridge basement. Since retiring from AGCO in 2001, Goering has been making wooden toys to donate to Toys for Tots with the Salvation Army and Union Rescue Mission out of Wichita.

He’s donated about 3,700 toys since 2001, including trucks and toy grasshoppers, which actually hop when pulled by a string. On shelves in a basement bedroom of his retirement community home, some of Goering’s best work is on display.

In addition to samples of toys he’s donated, there are larger projects made with alarming detail. One of Goering’s most tedious projects was a combine, complete with a header that can move up and down.

Goering said his toys have taken anywhere from one hour to 50 hours to complete, depending on the size and complexity of the project. He said the combine took him between 30 and 35 hours.

“He’s very exact,” Goering’s wife, Ruth, said. “But that goes with the job that he had.”

Goering had the detail-oriented position as an AGCO checker during his career that spanned 44 years. He said AGCO’s name changed four times since he started with the company in 1957.

“I worked for four different companies but never left,” he said.

Goering now works for free out of a wood shop, which joins the bedroom in his basement. The shop is complete with drill bits, sanders, table saws and plenty of storage space, including cabinets built by Goering himself.

Goering said he spends about three or four hours per day in the shop. He is hard-of-hearing and depends on a flashing light to speak for his wife when it’s time to go upstairs.

Although his dedication to wood-working has kept Goering busy since retirement, he said the hobby goes back farther than the end of his career.

“I’ve been woodworking basically my entire life,” Goering said. “When I was in grade school, we had what they called ‘craft hour’ one Friday a month. You could kind of pick what you wanted to do. Most of the boys did woodworking of some kind.”

Goering got his start making door stops and doors to go over cattle pens. He worked up to furniture before perfecting his skill at toy craftsmanship. His furniture projects were for his family.

“I made some stuff for my parents. I made some end tables, and I made some lamps,” Goering said.

For his three grown daughters, Goering said he’s made everything from coffee tables and microwave stands to bunkbeds for his two grandsons, which was a challenge.

“They wanted a bed up (above), but nothing below,” Goering said. “So, I made them two of those. When you do that, you have to make them pretty steady, because you know when teenagers get up there, what happens?”

Goering had his grandsons in mind when he began devoting more time to building toys. As his grandsons have grown older, he works to provide unique gifts for children in need.

Goering doesn’t have to worry about running out of material for his projects. He said most of his wood supply comes from the Kropf Lumber Co. in Hesston.

Goering turns the company’s scraps into works of art.

He said his grandsons still enjoy his work. In an upstairs living room, Goering points out a wooden backhoe.

“I think the grandsons will enjoy playing with that at Christmas,” Ruth Goering said. “They’re in college and high school, but still ...”

Goering joked he’ll have a challenge for his grandsons with the backhoe. He said he has a box of chocolate candy bars, and his grandsons will have to dig one out with the backhoe if they’d like to eat one.

After the holiday season, Goering said he’ll spend less time in the wood shop until next fall.

“Now since I’ve donated all my trucks, I’m kind of slowing down a little bit,” he said.