In John Blume’s basement, one side of the walls is lined with shelves filled with old farm toys waiting to be refurbished. Tires of different sizes, tractor seats, screws and other accessories sit in organized drawers on another wall. In the middle of the room, toy tractors and trucks lay on a table waiting to be taken apart or put together. These toys were eventually donated to Operation Santa Claus in Manchester.
“It is more of a hobby rather than a business,” Blume, 59 of Colesburg says of his work. “My main goal is to provide to Operation Santa Claus.”
The organization helps provide winter clothing for children in low-income families in Delaware County.
“By him donating toys, that allows us to have more money to buy coats, boots and snow pants,” Pat Becker, co-chairman of the organization explains. The organization puts out forms at Operation: New View in Manchester for low-income families to fill out during the first week of October. The forms are then collected in November and the organization works to gather the items.
“We get all the boxes together for the family, and the parents come in the first Saturday of December,” Becker says. “They know that Mr. Blume donates the toys. We are trying to supplement and the parents are really appreciative of what he does.”
Five years ago, Blume approached the organization and have donated up to 1,000 toys that he refurbished last year. This year, Blume and his wife, Joyce, donated 392 toys to the organization.
“We usually go to flea markets, garage sales, toy shows, and if we find a broken toy then we buy them ourselves,” Joyce explains. The couple also receives toy donations from all over the country.
“He does a good job, it keeps him occupied and healthy,” Joyce says. “You have to have something to do after you retire. I’m glad he does something that is helpful to others.”
Blume has collected farm toys for over forty years and is passionate about the toys that he fixes. His favorite toys are the John Deere tractors. He takes photos of every toy that he fixes and can recall the stories behind the toys instantly.
“My only memories of what I do are photos that I take before and after,” he says. “A couple from St. Paul, Minn. brought in multiple toys to be refurbished. They were really concerned about one particular Tonka stepside pickup, because that’s the one that really hits home for them. I bought a display case for them. And what this couple were going to do, they were her husband’s toys when he was a child and wanted them all restored. She was going to print the photos that I sent throughout the refurbishing process to make a scrapbook and pass it down from generation to generation. I thought that was a super idea.”
This year, Operation Santa Claus was able to sent out boxes to Buchanan County due to the support from various local businesses and individuals like Blume.
“We get so many things from him and we really appreciate it,” Becker says of Blume’s effort. “That is a lot of money that we save. It certainly helps a program such as ours. I’m sure this year Buchanan County will appreciate it.”