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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Youth Development

Mission: Wood-to-Wonderful was founded by Louise and Doug Brown in 1987 in the Washington, DC, suburbs and relocated to Reading, PA, in 1997. Wood-to-Wonderful’s original grass roots mission was to make wooden toys for less fortunate children. To this end, over 150,000 wooden toys have been made and distributed to needy children over the years. Since moving to Reading, however, Wood-to-Wonderful’s mission has evolved into helping to improve the quality of life for deserving children and now, in addition to wooden toymaking, includes diverse community outreach programs such as “Reading is Toyrific,” working with adults with disabilities, Re-Bike-Cycle, CAN IT litter abatement program, and neighborhood support. Wood-to-Wonderful is truly a grass roots organization

Results: 90,000 books and related toys given to "Reading is Toyrific" participants, 10,000 toys per year made by volunteers including adults with disabilities, 2,500 bicycles repaired and donated to needy residents of Reading, PA, 800 litter receptacles made and placed throughout the City of Reading

Target demographics: children-in-need, adults with disabilities, bicycles and litter cans for needy city residents

Direct beneficiaries per year: 3,000 children and adults

Geographic areas served: the Berks County, PA, area

Programs: "Reading is Toyrific," wooden toy making, yoyo and game board making by adults with disabilities, Re-Bike-Cycle, CAN IT litter abatement

Community Stories

21 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Frank73

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to volunteer with the Wood to Wonderful organization. The founders, Louise and Doug Brown, have a deep rooted love for the improvement of the lives of deserving children in our community. This sense of purpose has been a strong motivating factor for myself and many other volunteers to give our time to assist with its many programs. On a shoestring budget, Wood to Wonderful provides literacy programs, beautification initiatives and wood making skills to name a few. I believe this organization is very worthy of support for volunteering time and financial resources.

Joy_39

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have had the pleasure of working with the wonderful people of Wood to Wonderful on two separate occasions. As a 4th grade teacher and the facilitator of student council at the elementary school I work at, we teamed up with Wood to Wonderful to help clean up and beautify our city. Over the course of 12 weeks, we helped paint, distribute and find care takers for trash receptacles around the city. This helped our students realize the importance of community service and that they can make a difference. Wood to Wonderful helped them with these life lessons. A few years later I found myself running summer school for the Northeast quadrant of our city school system. I remembered that Wood to Wonderful refurbished bicycles, so I called on them for help. I wanted a way to reward our students for perfect attendance at summer school. Students earned tickets everyday they attended and could redeem their tickets every Friday for prizes. Those students who attended everyday of summer school, were entered into a raffle. Wood to Wonderful not only supplied me with one bike, but five bikes, so that we could give one student from each grade level the chance to win a bike. The morning of the raffle, the students were so excited and when the 5 students won, they were very grateful. Wood to Wonderful has rewarded the students not only of my school, but for many schools, and are without a doubt an organization that provides for our community in many ways. I am very fortunate to have been able to work with them and look forward to working with them again!

Doris13

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a long time volunteer at Wood to Wonderful, I have been very fortunate to witness the evolution of this terrific organization. I first became acquainted with Wood to Wonderful over 20 years ago. At that time the focus of the operation was primarily toy making, but even then, Doug and Louise were busy forming bonds with the children in their community. The children would drop in anytime they felt like it. Louise and Doug were never too busy to lend a hand with homework, listen to their concerns and provide a healthy snack. As the operation expanded deeper into the community, more and more children began to benefit from the many services provided by Wood to Wonderful. I can't imagine how many of the children in the schools they have adopted would ever have had the opportunity to receive 10 brand new books throughout the school year if it hadn't been for Wood to Wonderful! This simple act has had the potential to inspire these children to love reading for the rest of their lives and opened the door to opportunities they could never have imagined. To this day, neighborhood children drop in at the shop....and Louise and Doug open their hearts to them.

Perhaps the most endearing program offered at Wood to Wonderful is the team of special needs helpers who visit the shop weekly to assist in toy making. These charming men and women joyfully participate in the toy making process and have the opportunity to experience the pride that comes from a job well done. Louise and Doug have the greatest affection for their special helpers! They plan special activities for them throughout the year and encourage them to try new tasks and develop skills. What a delight it is to watch them work and see the joy on their faces.

I could share so much more about this organization, but will sum up my thoughts by saying that I have never seen an organization with such a strong commitment to the community in which it is located. The children of Reading, the community of Reading and the very special helpers have been forever blessed by this organization. My husband and I are feel very fortunate to be a part of Wood to Wonderful.








Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer since 2005 with the reading program which Doug and Louise started many years ago to serve adults with special needs. It has mushroomed not only in PA in their workshop and the surrounding community, but across all avenues of sharing and offerings to children in MD. Toys handcrafted by volunteers in their PA workshop are sent to many different organizations such as public schools of which I am associated. The children and teachers are amazed at the intricate makings of the wooden toys. The expressions of the children's faces says it all. How thrilled the students are to receive handmade toys just for them. This is only one example of the caring and devotion to others that the Browns give every day to help others in need. The vision of the Browns continues to grow year after year, and I am so proud to be involved in their organization. It truly is an inspiration to witness the Browns and their willingness to help others. bcl

Donor

Rating: 5

INSPIRING is the word which comes to mind when Wood to Wonderful is considered. Having known the Browns who run the charity for many years, it has been my pleasure to visit their incredible workshop and to see the amazing work that their mentally challenged adults do there. In addition to making toys for underprivileged children, the mentally challenged adults have the opportunity to feel self esteem for their help on the projects.
The charity also has a reading program , Reading Is Toyrific, which provides readers and a book and toy for each child monthly in underprivileged schools in their area. The charity in conjunction with the city provided a playground for a school which had none and then paid to move the playground equipment to another needy school when the first one closed.
The Trash Can program that Wood to Wonderful created for Reading, PA provides decorated trash cans around the city to keep the streets clean.
A Mountain Bike program is sponsored by the nonprofit to encourage young people to work on bikes that have been donated and then to compete in annual challenges sponsored by the charity.
Clearly this nonprofit ,which has been helping a city which ranks very high on the list of most economically needy cities in the USA for many years, is a top notch example of how a charity can be involved in many ways in a very needy environment.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Wood to Wonderful has been a fabulous resource and community partnership here at our school. We are so grateful for the continued partnership with Louise and our volunteers who spend time with our students, instilling the joy of reading in our kindergarten and first grade students. Our students look forward to their visits and love their stories and monthly gifts :)

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Wood-to-Wonderful is an exceptional charity, providing a loving, supportive experience for adults with special needs. The adults work in a safe environment enveloped by nurturing kindness and careful supervision. Doug and Louise provide an experience in which these individuals not only make wooden toys but they gain social skills and are part of a caring community of other workers. Not only do Doug and Louise provide this remarkable experience for the adults, but they also provide books and accompanying toys for young children in Reading public schools. They even send their wooden toys to Title One first grade students in Maryland to accompany books provided by Reading Is Teriffic, a children's charity inspired by Wood-to-Wonderful. In Reading, Wood-to-Wonderful has a Can-it program, providing beautifully-painted trash cans (again, decorated under the Browns' loving guidance), which are placed strategically throughout Reading. Wood-to-Wonderful is indeed a charity in every sense of the word, using the money they raise to provide a caring, loving experience for those they serve, and at the same time helping these individuals feel a sense of purpose and self-worth.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with Wood-to-Wonderful for well over 10 years now. WTW provides all the books and a matching toy for each child in the classroom. I have witnessed year after year the impact we (readers) have on these less fortunate children. I use to read to my child almost every day while he was growing up. Most of these children do not have a parent that reads to them on a regular basis. We (the volunteers) get to witness the enthusiasm and attention with these kids each time we read to them. In my opinion, without WTW, most of these kids would not experience what it is like to have an adult read to them. Kudos to WTW!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I participate in a program that volunteers visit and read to Kindergarten classes. Each child receives the book we read and often a hand made toy from Wood-to-Wonderful. The children really enjoy the toys.
Last month I attended a holiday party where the children sat with Santa Claus. Each child also received a toy made by Wood-to-Wonderful. One child was quoted that the "toy was the best thing the elves ever made!"
I agree!!!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Wood-to-Wonderful is a truly exceptional organization. I have worked with them for more than a decade, and have ALWAYS been impressed with their dedication in helping those mentally and/or physically challenged. And they don't stop there -- they have developed an amazing reading program getting youngsters involved in reading programs including giving each student a book (to take home) and a toy (related to the book). Then, out of nowhere (except in the minds of Doug & Louise Brown) they decided to help the community in providing large trash cans throughout the city, eliminating much of Reading's litter. Their imagination knows no bounds in helping the disadvantage (!!) be it a person (making toys), a cause (getting youngsters to read), a city (Reading)! They are to be commended for all that they do!!!

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am thrilled to have MIss Sandy come into my kindergarten classroom to read to the children and give them their own book as well. They also a wood toy to go along with the book. The children love seeing her and getting the books. It is a great way to get books into the homes of the children.
- Mrs. Zimmerman