Hodgdon Yachts handcrafts Christmas keepsakes for Lincoln County children
Hodgdon Yachts is announcing three limited-edition designs just in time for the holiday season. These special models may not match Transatlantic speed records, but they will surely make the holidays brighter for families who might not otherwise be able to afford presents this Christmas.
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the 200-year-old, family-owned company and its employees are taking time out of every work week to build 150 handmade wooden toys.
A team of staff led by Human Resource Manager Diane Hammond is organizing the program. Hammond recruited Hodgdon Yacht Services woodworkers Jim Jones and Dave Radtke and painting specialist John LaCharite to help plan the weekly work sessions.
Hammond said the staff may participate in any or all of the Wednesday afternoon sessions. If they participate, the company pays them for the first hour which falls during the regular work day and they donate their time after the work day ends. Hodgdon Yachts also provides pizza and other refreshments for the elves as they work. Nearly 90 percent of the company’s employees in Southport and Damariscotta are participating.
The idea isn’t new: Owner Tim Hodgdon recalled making the toys for three or four years in the late 1990s. "Every year I’d mention the idea of doing the toys again, but we were always right in the middle of projects and couldn’t seem to find the time. It wasn’t until Diane joined our company that she really latched onto the program and made it happen.”
Hammond said she has always spent time volunteering and loves giving back to the community. Bringing back the Toys for Tots program was a goal of hers from the moment Hodgdon first mentioned it. She was able to locate samples of the two original toys made in the 1990s – a pull-behind tugboat on wheels and a puffin push toy with flopping rubber feet. Jones and Radtke made new patterns and templates for the two classics and a new toy – a set of blocks packaged in a bait bag.
Hammond and Hodgdon also enlisted the help of other businesses and suppliers. Grover’s Hardware, Hammond Lumber, Hamilton Marine and Ames True Value Supply have donated. Casey’s Wood Products and Southport General Store provided other items at a discount to support the effort.
While the project is all about warming the hearts of others this holiday season, it also does that for the company and its employees. Hammond explained, “Generally, we are all working in different buildings and offices throughout the company. We have enjoyed the opportunity to gather together each week in one place. It’s gratifying, and it helps us build a stronger team. Most importantly, our team feels good about giving something back to the community.”
The 150 toys, 50 each of the three designs, are expected to be completed by the end of November, in time for delivery to Toys for Tots in early December. The toys from Hodgdon Yachts have been earmarked to support the organization’s efforts in Lincoln County.
Toys for Tots is a nationwide program a Marine Corps reserve officer launched in 1947. The Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation helps provide gifts to families who might not be able to afford them otherwise. Today, Toys for Tots distributes an average of 18 million toys to seven million children a year. For information about how to request a gift or donate toys, visit toysfortots.org