Bennett’s Beavers began in 1995 when founder Jim Bennett was asked by his sister Margaret to make some wooden cars for the sick kids at Mott’s Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI., where she was volunteering. He made her a sack full of toys, and they were an immediate hit. So much so that Margaret came back the next week and asked him to make more. Once again, Bennett obliged, and soon he was making bags full of cats, dogs, bunnies and more. In fact, he was making so many toys that he soon ran out of wood, and could no longer make them. That was until an old friend started bringing him scrap wood from job sites. Bennett’s workshop was back in business. Then he began recruiting volunteers to help him meet the demand. He and his crew have now been creating the wooden toys ever since. Eventually, finding a large enough supply of wood to fill the needs again became an issue, as did raising money to help pay for all the equipment needed. So a family friend of Bennett’s held a golf outing to help raise funds. But the demand just kept growing. Other hospitals were asking for the toys as well — and Bennett couldn’t help himself. “I never learned how to say no,” he jokes. Bennett and his volunteers stay busy. There is always another order that needs to be finished, whether it’s meeting the needs of hospitals that have run out, or building special holiday-themed toys. In 2001 Bennett’s Beaver’s incorporated as a 501(c)(3) charity.
What had begun with one hospital has now become a year-round project that provides over 40,000 wooden toys of over 75 designs to 50 hospitals and camps across the United States. The wood is donated from Doors & Drawers of Dexter, Michigan, and from Comins Lumber Sales Inc. of Comins, Michigan.
In the spring of 2010 Bennett’s Beavers moved into the old fire hall in Hamburg Township. Previously the Township leased the building to Bennett’s Beavers for a dollar a month. In January of 2015 the Township donated the fire hall to Bennett’s Beavers. The old fire hall is brightly painted in red and white. Bennett now has more than 38 volunteers who meet three times a week to turn out toys. The toys are of various designs, objects, and shapes of animals and vehicles. Each toy arrives as a blank wooden shape that children paint and turn into whatever piece of art they see fit. In 2023 Bennett’s Beavers produced over 40,000 pieces