MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Christmas has come and gone, but for one Minnesota man the giving doesn’t stop.
Some people worry about what they’ll do when the time comes to retire, but Phil Lagarde has — quite literally — carved out his own past-time.
“I used to work five days a week and scroll saw two,” he said. “Now I’m working seven days a week.”
The scroll saw, the drill press, the sander, and the planer have all become Phil’s best friends.
But this isn’t just a 70-year-old woodworker toying around with pieces of maple, oak and cherry.
“This year, we should do over 30,000 toys,” he said. “Nobody does it by themselves. Everybody is trying to help out everybody else.”
Phil is a volunteer with TLC Toys, an organization that makes wooden toys for needy families.
For his part, Phil makes close to 1,500 trinkets and knickknacks a year. Decades ago, he started doing this after giving up ice carving.
“That’s my first love, ice carving. Because you don’t have to worry about the saw dust,” he said. “But it’s a young man’s game.”
He got tired of moving 400 pound ice blocks everywhere. So he keeps his mind sharp and his scroll saw even sharper.
He does it because he wants future generations to pay it forward. When Phil has enough toys, he loads up his vehicle and drives them to jail.
It’s a place he actually looks forward to visiting.
The elephants and dinosaurs he makes, end up in the hands of kids whose families are going through a troubled time.
“It’s a scary place. It’s brick and mortar. There are bars and everything else,” said Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry. “It’s a great distraction for them and something they get to take with them as well.”
That’s all Phil can ask for. He’s a year-round Santa Claus who’s never met the kids who get his toys.
But that won’t stop him from continuing his labor of love.
“Society thinks that these people are bad people and that’s why they are in jail,” Phil said. “But to their kids, they are still mom and dad.”
The toys Phil makes also go to first responders, shelters, hospitals and churches.
One of his biggest deliveries every year happens right before Christmas.