GRAND ISLAND — The annual Toys for Tots event last week at Fonner Park, via Heartland United Way, provided some holiday joy for less-fortunate children in the Grand Island area.
Among the store-bought toys and games were handmade wood cradles provided by teacher Dave Wamburg.
Wamburg has been industrial arts teacher at Central City’s Nebraska Christian since 1999, and was a teacher for 28 years in Fullerton.
“I didn’t get out of teaching, I just keep going,” he said. “I retired for 45 minutes, is what I did.”
The cradles are made as part of a production class. Every year, Wamburg and his students craft about 30 cradles to donate for the yearly event.
Wamburg has been making these cradles for nearly 20 years.
“The first two years I didn’t do cradles, but then I started doing them, and I kind of got away from it, but the cradles were such a big hit and they were high-demand and everybody wanted them again,” he said. “We’ve been doing cradles exclusively for the last 15 or 16 years.”
Wamburg donates the money himself to buy the pine used for the cradles, about $300 every year for materials.
Dolls are provided by Terry Holcomb, Grand Island Walmart general manager, and small blankets are made by various local crafters.
Each cradle has the bedtime prayer printed on the side: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”
On the other side is an image of a praying baby angel.
“We have a laser-engraved, so we design it on the computer, press print and it lasers out the nice designs and words on there to make them really professionally done,” he said.
Wamburg’s students learn about manufacturing from the class.
“We’re actually mass producing them,” he said. “I’ve got some kids who are cutting them out, some kids sanding, some doing laser, some kids putting them together. We just kind of have a little factory going on.”
There are two classes who work on the cradles, two days each week per Wamburg’s part-time schedule.
It is also an opportunity for the students to learn about charity and community.
“I’m trying to get the kids aware of their surroundings and that people just need a helping hand sometimes,” he said.
Those students become a part of a legacy.
“I put together a PowerPoint, and every year to get them into it I show them all pictures of the past, and it gives them a good idea,” he said. “Later on, I’ll have pictures of this year added to my PowerPoint. We just keep it growing.”
Wamburg brought six students from Nebraska Christian to Fonner Park to help set up for the yearly event.
Wamburg has been working with Heartland United Way and President Karen Rathke since 2000 to provide cradles for Toys for Tots, he said.
He enjoys contributing to the day and brightening the holidays for others.
“It gets in your blood,” he said. “Even if I wasn’t at the school I’d be building all of these in my garage. I’d still end up doing it as long as I could. I’ll be in the nursing home cutting out cradles someday.”
He added, “It’s very rewarding. With charity work, it just happens.”
Rathke applauded Wamburg and Nebraska Christian’s students for their efforts.
“We are very grateful that Dave has done these cradles, just made such a precious gift for little children to have a handmade cradle,” she said. “The really cool part is that these cradles are made by students for younger children to enjoy."
--BRANDON SUMMERS Grand Island Independent