BUFFALO, Minn. -- Erv Schmidt, is an 85 year old resident of Buffalo, Minn. who has made giving back to his community a part of everything that he does. Before retiring, Erv served his community as a police officer, chief of police and even served the Hanover community as Mayor. When Erv retired he knew that there was still a lot more that he could do and kept looking for new ways to get involved.

About six years ago Erv met Otto Buttnhoff who was making a wooden car for his grandson to race at school. Erv and Otto worked together making toys and were eventually inspired to make more that could be given away. Thus, the Buffalo Community Center Toy Workshop was born. Erv and Otto brought together a great group of volunteers, also seniors and retirees, and began distributing toys wherever they saw a need. Since then toys have been distributed to various Salvation Army locations in Minnesota as well as local police and fire departments. These toys have also been distributed internationally to Ghana, Ethiopia, India and Afghanistan. Erv anticipates that more than 6,000 toys will be made and distributed throughout the world this year alone!

Erv will be the first to say that the success of this program comes from the dedication of the program's volunteers. Volunteers gather every Tuesday morning to help build and assemble toys. Some work directly in the toy shop and others make the toys in their own workshops at home and deliver them.

The toys are designed to be delivered to children with some assembly still required. Erv and his crew believe that the kids will value the toys even more if they believe that they had a hand in creating them.

Erv works with a few different organizations to distribute these toys worldwide. They include

Hope Centers for Children of Africa

, and

Children's Hope Chest

. Many of these connections were made through Park View Care Center in Buffalo. When Erv has toys that need painting many of Park View's senior residents are glad to lend a helping hand.

After seeing the toy shop take off, Erv knew that there was still more that could be done in Buffalo. Erv is passionate about giving seniors the best quality of life possible and was instrumental in starting a "

Let's Go Fishing with Seniors

" program. Erv currently serves on the Advisory Board for the "Let's Go Fishing" program and works with other program volunteers to take up to 12 seniors out fishing on the Let's Go Fishing pontoon. Last year over 1,000 seniors were given the opportunity to fish out on Lake Pulaski for no cost.

Interested in volunteering to support either of these great programs and live in the Buffalo area? Call the

Buffalo Community Center

at (763) 682-1181.