Giving toys a new lease on life
Terry Cook is the president of Peninsula Senior Citizens Toy Repair Group, an Ingleside-based volunteer organisation that takes old toys, puzzles and games and gives them a new life, saving them from landfill in the process.
The organisation has been operating for more than 45 years and is still going strong.
They accept donations of well-loved items ranging from old bikes and scooters to clothing and Barbie dolls.
Donations are sorted by category, given a good wash and repaired to as-new condition. From there, they are collected by representatives from various charity groups, organisations working with people with a disability, and international humanitarian operations.
“I’m proud to be a member of this group,” Terry begins.
“I’ve been involved with the Peninsula Senior Citizens Toy Repair Group for around 20 years, and I still get lots of joy and satisfaction from being actively involved on a day-to-day basis.”
After a fire claimed their old building in the late 1990s, organising funding for a new home proved to be a challenge.
Terry, who had been working in the construction industry for some time, graciously donated his time and labour to construct the Ingleside site where they still reside today.
“I had some construction experience, so I thought I would pitch in and help with the new building,” Terry says.
Over the years volunteers have come and gone. Today, a small but dedicated group gives up a few hours of their time per week to wash and repair everything from Stormtrooper helmets and Elsa dolls, to model fire trucks and troop carriers.
“Our repaired toys have gone all over the world,” Terry tells North Shore Living.
“Everywhere from community organisations right here in Sydney, to churches in Zimbabwe and schools in Cambodia.
“Here at home, there are places like domestic violence shelters, where it might be a mother with her kids in a bad situation just needing some toys for the children.
“We’ve also had a guy come from the Asylum Seekers Centre who was looking after a family with two kids.
“The father wanted an adult bike for himself, a kids bike for his ten-year-old son and one with training wheels for the young daughter.”
Terry often receives glowing feedback from people who are extremely grateful to have received re-worked toys.
The messages flood in from all over the world, especially countries in Africa where the people lead quite different lives to what we are accustomed to here in Australia.
“I was once on a Facetime call with a very jovial pastor from Zimbabwe, who we had shipped some toys and clothes to. ‘Thank you, Terry, these gifts are amazing. Thank you so much,’ he was saying.
“He was overjoyed. It’s a great feeling receiving calls like that and seeing the impact the work our volunteers do is having on those who might not have as much and might need a helping hand.”
Recently a local company that works with people living with disabilities, Fighting Chance, paid the Toy Repair Group a visit.
Some of their clients have difficulty with sensory overstimulation and suffer from conditions like autism.
“We had one girl who was just sitting in the kitchen with her head down. She was so shy,” Terry says.
“But I gave her one of the dolls to play with and she and the carer were braiding the doll’s hair together.
“When it was time for them to leave, the little girl was clinging to the doll and absolutely refused to let go. We eventually got her to release the doll by telling her it needed to be with its friends, and it would be there the next time she came,” Terry says with a laugh.
To enquire about volunteering with Peninsula Senior Citizens Toy Repair Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org.