Army Veteran And Honorary Elf Handcrafts Hundreds Of Wooden Christmas Toys For Kids In Need

For the past 50 years, Army veteran Jim Annis has been handcrafting wooden toys for families in need in his town of Sanford, North Carolina—and the 80-year-old hopes to keep up this tradition for the rest of his life.

“When the Salvation Army gives out the food and clothes to people in this area, I give out my toys,” said Annis. “It feels like you’re sort of forgotten about at Christmas time.”

Most days, Annis prepares for his Christmas gift extravaganza by carving, sculpting, and sanding blocks of wood into toys. He donates nearly 300 toys to the Salvation Army of Sanford.

“Between the wheels and paint, I spent about $1000,” said Annis.

As a child, Annis remembers waking up Christmas morning with no gifts to open.


“My dad, he worked, but didn’t make a lot of money. It’s hard to have a big Christmas with five kids,” he said.

Other than the wooden scraps he gets from nearby homeowners, Annis pays for everything else out of pocket. He makes small and large cars, dolls, piggy banks, tractors and firetrucks.

“I love when people ask me how much do I get paid for making these toys. I tell them my pay is when I see the smile on kids’ faces,” said Annis. “I hope to be able to do this until my toes curl up.”

Patricia Grisafi

Written by Patricia Grisafi