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Seattle senior building blocks for homeless children

Seattle senior Bob Mitchell is making wishes come true all year long for homeless children in Seattle.
Seattle senior Bob Mitchell is making wishes come true all year long for homeless children in Seattle.

SEATTLE -- Right about now, kids are creating their Christmas lists and parents are starting their holiday shopping. But for Bob Mitchell, the date on the calendar doesn't matter. He's making wishes come true all year long for homeless children in Seattle.

The eighty-seven-year-old retiree lives at Bayview Retirement Community on Queen Anne Hill.

He has Addison's Disease, and as a result, deals with low energy levels and fatigue on a regular basis. Still, that doesn't stop him from going to work for several hours a day in the woodshop at Bayview, creating sets of toy blocks.

"I'd rather do this than go back in the exercise room and pull on weights," said Mitchell.

He says the project started as an alternative way to stay active. Then, this retired teacher got the idea to donate his handmade toys to homeless children.

"The research on blocks as learning tools is very extensive," he said. "With blocks, there's so much they can learn."

Mitchell and Bayview teamed up with Mary's Place, and he started sending his blocks to the children who stay there. For a long time, photos of the kids playing with his blocks was the closest Bob came to seeing them in action.

But recently, he made the trip from Queen Anne to the shelter on the corner of 9th and Stewart, and go to see for himself the joy his creations bring the kids.

"It's fantastic," he said, as he watched the kids build castles out of blocks.

The children were equally excited to finally meet him.

"I mean, when you really look at it, it's pretty amazing," said Marty Hartman, who is the executive director at Mary's Place. "It may be a set of blocks, but it's really everything these families are working on. Building, hoping, dreaming. A fresh start."

Hartman said the blocks are a huge hit among the kids, especially since Bob hands them out in personalized bags. She says the bags make the blocks easy to carry for children who often have to leave all of their toys behind when their families wind up on the streets.

"What you take with you when you leave that night and your mom tells you you're not going to return to your home is really just your basic necessities," said Hartman. "Every kid wants that, they want something to have of their own, a favorite toy, something they can carry around. And Bob makes that possible."

The staff at Bayview says they couldn't be happier it all came together.

"It's both a hobby for him and a sense of purpose," said Jan Anderson, who is Bayview's Chaplain. "I think it just gives him a kind of pleasure that nothing else can right now, when he's limited to what he actually can do. We're really proud of him."