By STEFANI SCHMIDT, Winona Daily News
WINONA, Minn. (AP) -- Small wooden cars, bulldozers, trucks and tractors line a table in Jim Frankard's brightly lit shop.
The pine toys are just a few examples of the 450 others the Winona man began making this spring to donate to the Toys for Tots program. Local Toys for Tots organizers say the donation is the largest they've ever received of the kind.
It's just the latest of many records Frankard has broken, the Winona Daily News reported.
When the 25-year engineer at Peerless Chain retired, he discovered a love for woodworking -- after an unusual first project.
Frankard, who served 11 years in the U.S. Air Force, decided to build a plane in his shop.
"I built the high ceilings in the shop because I wanted to get a boat, but I ended up making a plane here instead," Frankard said.
After 2 1/2 years of work, Frankard flew the completed two-person, 300-horsepower plane from Winona to Kitty Hawk, N.C., where the Wright brothers first flew.
He didn't stop there -- he broke nine distance records with the plane by flying around the country, including from Winona to Seattle.
Frankard soon wanted to make something else with wood. Not another plane, but nothing on a small scale, either.
He decided on wood toys.
He didn't plan on donating them at first, not until he realized that instead of responding to Toys for Tots letters by sending money, he could donate another way.
Frankard started creating toys, one by one, and didn't stop until he had 450. He recently donated all of the old-fashioned toys to the Winona Toys for Tots organization, where they are sure to be a big hit with younger children -- Frankard has found that kids between the ages of 3 and 6 are most drawn to them, he said.
Jim Eddy of the Hiawatha Valley Marines, the leader of the Toys for Tots program in Winona, praised Frankard's donation and said he's planning to ensure that the toys reach the maximum number of children.
"He is very quietly personable, very organized and very artistic," Eddy said of Frankard. "He's really driven on a project to finish whatever he's going to do, and he's very talented."
Frankard has built other projects out of wood, mostly for family and friends, including a bed frame, a bar and a replica of a desk that Thomas Jefferson had.
"Someone once told me to go into business, but no one would be able to afford all the hours I put into these projects," he said.