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84-year-old retiree crafts wooden chairs, toys for children in need

December 21, 2018

Giving back has been a lifelong passion for Paul Smith.

The 84-year-old Parkway Place member spent more than 30 years as a missionary in the Middle East, and he now dedicates his time making wooden chairs and toys for children in need.

Smith spends his time in the workshop at the senior living community perfecting a craft he finds extremely gratifying.

So far, he has made nearly 30 chairs and dozens of toys that he has donated to children.

The chairs require no nails or screws and fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. They were originally called “puzzle chairs,” but Smith renamed them “gospel chairs” because a cross pin holds each one together.

A lot of hard work and dedication goes into each chair, which takes Smith about 12 hours to make. He then donates the chairs to local organizations.

Toy donations

As for the toys, they are mostly wooden cars, and he donates them to the hospitality house at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville so young children have something to play with when visiting family members.

“When I was overseas, I did a little woodworking if I could get my hands on the materials,” said Smith. “When we returned to the U.S. and moved to Oklahoma, I decided to build a home on Lake Eufaula. It took me three years to build it, but I did it on my own and it was our dream home. That’s when I really started getting into woodworking.

“After moving to Texas and seeing the chair I made my granddaughter almost 20 years ago, I was inspired to start making the chairs again. It’s my passion to give back, and that is why I will never sell a chair or a toy. I enjoy knowing the chair goes to a child in need. I’ve donated to orphanages and other local organizations, and I hope to grow the list of organizations in the future. The toys entertain children during a difficult time in their lives. It’s never easy going to a prison, so if I can put a smile on the face of a child, the hours spent making the toy are well worth it.”

The workshop gives members like Smith a creative outlet for their skills and allows them to work on what they love or learn a new hobby while giving back to the surrounding community. Smith says woodworking is also therapeutic, and he plans to continue going to the shop as often as he can.

The senior living community encourages members to discover their interests and engage in all the activities the community has to offer.

“Paul is a wonderful man who has given so much to other people and never expects anything in return,” said Susan Phelps, executive director at Parkway Place. “We are blessed he calls Parkway Place home, and his beautiful chairs and toys will make any child jump for joy when they see them.

“Knowing the process he goes through to make these items is truly amazing. His attention to detail is impeccable, and the time and effort he puts into this craft is inspiring. He has really outdone himself, but we know he’s far from done. We cannot wait to see what else he has in store.”

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