By Sandy Barry, Employee Communications

Santa has a new toyshop.  It’s in an old Indiana Bell central office.

That’s where AT&T Pioneers stored and distributed thousands of handmade toys this holiday season to needy children in the community.

81-year-old Don Melloy helped make the toys and organize the massive effort. He retired after a 36-year career with Indiana Bell and AT&T Long Lines.

He’s one of about 90 Indianapolis elves who have been making toys for kids they’ll never meet for more than two decades.

Don invites 5 other wood workers to his shop every Tuesday. This year, the little group made 2,400 tiny wooden race cars, trains, tractors, airplanes, doll cribs and cradles in the converted garage behind his house. 

It takes him about an hour and a half to build a simple truck. That toy will bring hours of joy to the youngster who plays with it.

Other volunteers – all members of Central Indiana Wood Workers – gather each week, all year long, to build toys in 4 similar shops across town.  This year they made more than 11,000 toys.

They give away most of the toys unpainted so the children and their parents can decorate them.

The Pioneers helped deliver the toys to about 30 social service agencies in early December. The agencies distributed them to families in need.

Pioneers bring Santa’s toyshop back to life

Margaret Trammell is a manager in the Entertainment Group’s Office of the President.  She’s also Indiana’s Pioneer president. When she learned last year that a company retiree was instrumental in organizing the toy project, she tracked down Don to ask how the Pioneers could help.

Don told her they needed a place to store hundreds of cartons of finished toys throughout the year.

Margaret knew there was an old central office garage nearby. The space had a history as a makeshift Santa’s toyshop. When Margaret first joined the company 37 years ago, employees would gather there to repair and donate broken toys to local charities. 

“I was sad to see that project end in the 1970’s,” she said. She arranged for the Pioneers to clean and refurbish the garage so the toymakers could use it. She also helped them apply for a Pioneer grant to help cover the cost of supplies.

“These little wooden toys are beautiful, and they’re made with such love,” Margaret said. “I feel blessed that we can help get them to kids who will enjoy them.”

Watch local TV coverage of the story here

This story originally appeared on AT&T Insider 12/15/16.