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Nicole J. Phillips, Published December 13 2013

Kindness is Contagious: Santa’s elves spreading kindness from Hawley

I imagine the elves are working feverishly to put the finishing touches on all of the toys that will find their way under trees by Christmas morning.

I never imagined I’d get to talk to one of them myself.

Perhaps Ken Pederson isn’t an actual elf, but he is certainly one of Santa’s special helpers. The Hawley, Minn., man has been making wooden toys for kids for the past six years. With the help of some dedicated volunteers, 6,600 toys have come out of Ken’s little workshop.

Ken’s sister, LaVonne, has a lilt to her voice that I would expect to hear from Mrs. Claus herself. Here is the story of Kars4Kids she shared with me.

“This story of kindness began by my brother, Ken, gathering leftover wood from home builders. He used the odds and ends to make wooden cars and trucks. Eventually, he started making helicopters and other toys for children, too. Ken would assemble them all in his workshop.

“In the spring of 2010, Ken spoke to a men’s group at his church, Hawley Alliance, to see if anyone would be interested in helping out. Now, every Tuesday evening, you can find anywhere from two to 10 men, women and even children working on the make-shift assembly line.

“The children who receive the toys have been so blessed by this ministry.”

Ken says the project has been a tremendous blessing to everyone who gets to make the toys, too.

The Kars4Kids project is continuing to grow and evolve with the help of the community. Several lumber yards now donate culled lumber to the group, which calls itself the “Cruise-Aiders,” so the only thing not made out of wood are the axles.

Ken started with three but now uses an assortment of 28 different patterns. Each week the group turns out about 75 toys. A year and half ago, the Cruise-Aiders got a branding iron so they could stamp the bottom of each car with a message from John 14:6, “Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life.”

Ken says they pray over all of the toys in hopes that the children who receive them will also receive Jesus Christ.

Certainly, some of the kids who get those cars will need a translator to read the message because the toys have found their way around the world in places like Burma, Costa Rica, Haiti, Bali, Uganda and Honduras, just to name a few. In Reynosa, Mexico, toys were given away at a women’s prison where children have to stay if there is no one to care for them.

Closer to home, the deliveries started at Churches United for the Homeless, but have also been given to the Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army and Toys for Tots.

This year alone, Ken says more than 200 wooden toys were packed in boxes for Operation Christmas Child. He has also donated cars to be given to inner-city kids in Detroit and Minneapolis.

Ken’s simple wish to use his hobby to spread kindness has grown wings, perhaps more than he could have ever imagined.

As he says, “I never anticipated anything like this. Never.”

It just goes to prove that we never know when or how God will take what little we have and turn it into a lot, or just how contagious our acts of kindness will be.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.