A 13-year-old boy has brought joy to the hearts of many of his Tottenville neighbors this holiday season.
Joseph Lauro of Totten Intermediate School has spent most of his days recently crafting wooden reindeer alongside his father, Harry, for friends, family, school fairs and various charities around Staten Island, including The Eden II and Genesis programs for adults and children with autism.
Joseph started making handcrafted goods out of Popsicle sticks for his parents at 8 years old, and since then has taken on more difficult projects, ranging from a house for his bird, Sunny, to a doghouse for pets Boomer and Gizmo, to an extravagant plant holder that goes around the deck in his backyard.
“He is way ahead of his time, and the neighbors really love his work,” said the elder Lauro. “Along with spreading holiday cheer, he is learning responsibility and how to run a small business; this is how many of the great entrepreneurs get their start, with small business being the true backbone of the economy.”
With reasonable prices and little to no cost for materials, Joseph has raised almost $600 this season alone. The wood used for the reindeer bodies comes from trees felled by recent rain- and snowstorms; the Lauros store the wood in their shed.
Every safety precaution is taken when Joseph handles power tools: He wears ear and eye protection, along with thick work gloves, to protect him from flying wood chips. And his father is at Joseph’s side at all times when he handles any dangerous tools.
“He fell in love with making things a few years ago, when we bought him a few hand tools and a small hand sander,” said mom Jane Lauro. “You would think a 13-year-old boy would want your conventional type of Christmas gifts, like a bike or a video game system; not Joseph – he asked for a chain saw. But I don’t think he is old enough for one yet.”
Apart from building reindeer, Joseph enjoys the outdoors with his friends. He plays offensive line alongside several of his classmates in a 9-11 flag football league on the South Shore. And he’s pulling good grades, to further his dreams of becoming an engineer.
“It feels good, knowing that the reindeer I have created have put a smile on many faces,” the boy said. “I love giving back to my community, and if I can brighten up someone’s holiday season, than I am doing a good job.”