WATERLOO — With more time on his hands working remotely during the pandemic and sharing custody of his daughter during a divorce, Darin Adams was looking for a healthy distraction.
So he dove in to one of his hobbies — woodworking. He began by building a picnic table for his four-year-old daughter.
“She absolutely loved it,” he said.
So he wanted to do more. He began advertising the toddler tables on Facebook and was shocked at the response.
“There was a lot more interest than I thought there would be,” he said. Before he could respond he had more than 200 comments from interested Facebook users.
“I wanted something to consume my free time to make them happy because I was not the happiest at the time,” he told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.
Now he’s averaging about 25 hours per week in his garage building furniture to make children happy.
“It’s kind of like a part-time job almost, except I don’t make any money,” he said.
Even the proceeds go toward making others happy. He is giving all profits to the House of Hope in Waterloo, a nonprofit organization that helps homeless, single-mother families and women ages 18-24 who age out of foster care.
This year Adams gave the House of Hope $180 and two toddler tables.
“They were really excited about it,” he said. “Especially the tables. They do a lot of work for kids too.”
With plenty of lumber on hand and a passion for helping others, Adams created the Treasures 4 Tots page on Facebook for those interested in purchasing toddler tables or chairs, or donating to local charities that “contribute to the global good.”
Adams has nailed down an efficient system for building. It takes him 15 minutes to build a table.
“Over time I learned how to make stops and jigs so I can make them faster. It cuts down on construction time so I can build more,” he said.
Adams is serious about spreading joy. He has altered his toddler table design for specific requests, including a design to accommodate a child in a wheelchair. The picnic table cost nearly twice the price to build and took more time than he typically spends on a table. But he charged the same as any other table.
“This is supposed to be open to everybody. When you do something for fun, you do it for fun,” he said.
Adams is prepared to build more furniture, but he’s sticking to his customer base.
“I only build stuff for toddlers because kids are always happy. If you build a chair that’s just for them, they’re not going to complain. They’re so happy because they have a table built just for them,” he said.
With lumber prices soaring, Adams charges $55 for a painted picnic table and $45 for unpainted. Chairs cost $45 for painted and $35 for unpainted. Adams said he intentionally keeps his prices at a fraction of what the online store Amazon charges.
“Then less people would be able to buy them, and less kids would be happy. And that wouldn’t serve its purpose,” he said.
This year Adams is spreading the joy to animals as well. He is building “catios” — cat patios — and donating proceeds to the Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project. He chose the animal rehab project because they recently helped him rescue a baby owl he named “Hootlet.”
About three years ago Adams discovered his yard in the Cedar Terrace neighborhood is also home to a family of barred owls. Each year Mr. and Mrs. Hootie, as Adams refers to the parents, return to a tree in his yard to build a nest for their baby owls — hootlets.
“I have a toddler, so I have to make this stuff funny and cute,” he said.
This year one of the hootlets didn’t make its first flight with his two siblings. Instead the baby owl fell out of the tree and landed in the grass. The hootlet was taken to the Black Hawk Wildlife and is undergoing rehabilitation.
“Owls are asynchronous hatchers, which means they don’t all hatch at once, but this guy is weeks behind his two siblings! We have never seen such a difference in ages in one nest,” the rescue project’s Facebook page states.