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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The Cheney Chipsters chip in at the Christmas Bureau with handcrafted wooden toys

A handful of Cheney woodworkers, who happen to be “all past 75,” meet for a few hours every Tuesday and Thursday to craft little toy trucks for children. They call themselves the Cheney Chipsters.

The Chipsters donate their handcrafted creations to several local organizations to distribute them to children, and one of them is the Christmas Bureau.

“We all do it because we like to do a little bit of woodworking,” said Chipster Chuck Kreigh.

The woodworkers made about 100 wooden toys each year at first. Now, the Cheney Chipsters average 1,000 trucks a year.

Once again, the Cheney Chipsters have donated hundreds of wooden trucks to the bureau.

“Most of the passing out of the trucks is done in the summertime, but in the last three years, we have made sure that the Christmas Bureau gets a few, anywhere from a couple hundred the first year to two, three or four hundred another year,” Kreigh said.

Kreigh calls himself a “novice” woodworker with the Chipsters.

“I’m one of the new guys with only three years of doing this,” he said. “Some of these guys have been doing it 10 to 12 years.”

A few members in their 90s are retiring as Chipsters this year.

Every truck the Cheney Chipsters make is built the same, and the design is well-thought and intentional. A truck bed, marked on both sides with the words “HAND CRAFTED BY CHENEY CHIPSTERS,” sits on a wooden base fitted with four spinning wheels and a drilled hole in the cab for a window.

The trucks are sanded down and finished to prevent slivers. The truck bed is about the size of a business card, big enough for children to haul trinkets in, but small enough to comfortably hold. The trucks are not painted or stained, meaning children can use them as a canvas.

“It’s kind of cool that they’re not stained, because if the little kids want to paint them, and the parents want to put up with them painting them, then they can,” Kreigh said.

Christmas Bureau Coordinator Heidi Meany said the trucks are always a hit at the bureau.

“They make people smile when they see the trucks,” she said. “We are super grateful for the donations.”


It is, in part, the generosity of the Pacific Northwest community that enables the Christmas Bureau to spread holiday cheer every year. Recent donations of $9,620 have brought The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund’s total to $124,354.19. Like last year, this year’s goal is $600,000.

“Merry Christmas,” an anonymous donor wrote with a donation of $5,000.

Richard and Carol Hendershot sent $1,000, writing, “This is a wonderful opportunity to share with the community.”

Don and Janet Hart donated $1,000.

Burma and Rick Williams donated $600. “Thank you to The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and all the volunteers who make the Christmas Bureau one of the finest traditions of Spokane! Because of your efforts, Christmas will be cheerier for so very many families and individuals,” they wrote.

Tim and Lindsay Bristow sent $245.

Bonnie and Lester Newell, of Chattaroy, donated $200, as did Zoe Foltz and Robert and Susan Larned.

Dennis and Lynda Sheehan, of Liberty Lake, sent $200, writing, “Merry Christmas.”

John and Charlotte Sullivan, of Honolulu, Hawaii, sent $100. Gary and Sharon Randall, of Colbert, donated $100.

Leona Dexter sent $100. “Thank you for all your hard work every year!” she wrote.

Janet Miller, Ellen Imsland, Elizabeth Struiksma, Jeffrey and Judy Koons, and Kathleen and John Olsufka each donated $100.

“Happy Holidays,” Jeanne and Judd Case wrote with their donation of $100.

Colleen Warner sent $50.

An anonymous donor sent $25. “This charity is a wonderful thing for so many, and boundless thanks are due to all the workers and volunteers,” they wrote.

Roberta Simonson's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.