From Tennessee to S. Korea - a woodworker's selfless act of love
1/6/2013 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- When Ed Wares heard about Airmen from the Air Force Technical Applications Center who were sponsoring an orphanage in South Korea, he knew he had to reach out and offer his support.
That support, however, didn't come in the way of clothes, food, or even money. Instead, his donation came from his heart and through his skill as a woodworker.
Wares, father of Sabrina Miller, AFTAC's Scientific & Technical Information Program Manager, carved more than 100 wooden toy cars to distribute to orphans at the Chechon Children's Home, a facility located approximately 75 miles southeast of Seoul.
Since 1966, Airmen from AFTAC's Detachment 452, located in Wonju, Republic of Korea, have sponsored the local orphanage that has been in operation for nearly 50 years. It was founded by Jane White, an American missionary who moved to Chechon Village in 1962 to care for Korea's smallest citizens.
When the facility first started, it relied solely on donations from local sponsors, other missionaries and American G.I.s stationed in Korea. Nowadays, the facility receives government funding, but also welcomes outside donations to improve the quality of life for the children and help offset costs for things like life skills seminars for young adults when they transition from the orphanage into Korean society.
Wares spent several days and evenings in his 23'x30' workshop in Smyrna, Tenn., carving the little toys with their separate axles and moveable wheels. He used Douglas fir that he purchased from a local lumberyard for the chassis, and dark walnut for the wheels.
"My whole life I have been around lumber," said Wares. "My father and mother owned a saw mill in Massachusetts and I pretty much grew up in that mill. Actually, I can't ever remember not being around wood!"
It's understandable, then, to learn that Wares currently lives in a log cabin nestled between Nashville and Chattanooga, where 80 percent of that cabin he built himself.
But it's not just the Korean children who are the recipients of his craftwork. According to Wares, he always keeps one or two of them in his pocket in case he needs one.
"One day I was sitting in the waiting room at my doctor's office, and there was a little boy who was just inconsolable. His mom was trying really hard to calm the little fellow down, but she was not having any luck. As soon as I pulled out a car from my pocket and handed it to his mom to give to him, his face just lit up and the tears stopped rolling down his face. I can't put into words how that makes me feel, knowing my work can make others smile - especially children."
Over the years, Wares has worked on countless woodworking projects, but by far his favorite is making the toys for the children. By his unofficial count, he estimates he's made more than a thousand cars.
When asked what keeps him motivated, he said, "It's knowing that the boys and girls are having so much fun playing with them. That's why I do it - it's my way to say thank you to God and to take care of his children."
The care package of cars was shipped to Korea just in time to be delivered to the children Dec. 22 by Airmen from Detachment 452. Senior Master Sgt. Wesley Schuler spearheaded the visit and worked with the orphanage staff to coordinate the distribution of the wooden cars and other items that had been collected for the children.
"When we get to do outreach like this, especially for children, it really brings things into a greater perspective for me personally," said Schuler. "It also makes me realize how incredibly generous Airmen and my fellow American citizens are to take the time and effort to donate to this great cause. It's very moving to see the faces of these children just light up when they're each given a personal gift."
At the festivities on Dec. 22, the orphanage founder took the time to thank all those who visited, and also extended her appreciation for the numerous donations.
"It never ceases to amaze me that perfect strangers are so willing open up their hearts to improve the life of a child," said White. "I have been at this for more than four decades, and I can't begin to express my appreciation, especially to the members of the U.S. military, for their continued support of my little ones here. Their warmhearted generosity is felt for a lifetime by many of the children."
Schuler and other detachment members plan to make several more visits throughout 2013.