Giftedness

Last week at Patchwork’s Sunday worship service, Jean let the group in a meditation on Paul’s words in Romans 12: 3-8:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,  so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.  We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith;  ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching;  the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.”

Jean encouraged the group to look around the room and create a list of the gifts of the people they saw around them. The list was affirming and an accurate depiction of the multitude of gifts that it takes to keep a place like Patchwork running. We need and appreciate them all.

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At Patchwork, we are poised on a season of change and are using our gifts to make it happen. Around us, school has started for children in K-12, for college students, and for their teachers and professors. The world has grown steamy with tired, end-of-summer heat. The tomatoes in the garden have begun to die off, the potatoes are long gone, and the zinnias are six feet tall.

Our after school Arts & Smarts Children’s Program will begin next week. Both Tutoring (Grades 1-5) and Leadership Training (Grade 6+) begin on Tuesday, September 2 while full Arts activities (Grades 2+) begin on September 16. Registration forms for children, teens, and adult volunteers are available on our website (www.patchwork.org) and in our main office.

2014-15 Arts & Smarts announcement

Meanwhile, mornings continue to be busy with our neighborhood hospitality and visits to our food pantry. Lately we have had many mornings when our guests drink 6-8 pots of coffee and take 8-12 showers. This has left our shower and coffee supplies depleted and we would welcome the following items:

  • Travel size shampoo and soap
  • Razors (double blade are sufficient and preferable to single blade)
  • Deodorant
  • Ground coffee
  • Coffee creamer
  • Sugar

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First Impressions

A woman parks by our garden and gets out of her car with her cell phone glued to her ear. She walks in Patchwork’s alley door and proceeds, on a mission, through the building to the front door. She never pauses her phone conversation.

“What? Where are you? By the front door? No. I’m at the front door. Well, I don’t know where I am, but it looks like a fun place,” she says into her phone.

I manage to flag her down and we establish that she is, in fact, in the wrong building. Hers is a great compliment of Patchwork, though. We work to make this a welcoming place for anyone who enters.

On Monday, a woman comes in to find out if just maybe we have some bags of school supplies left after Saturday’s Back to School Sale. We’d sold 181 bags on Saturday, but we have 3 bags left and she gratefully purchases two for her children. P1170476Another woman sees the last bag and is ready to take it but finds out that it costs $8 and she can’t pay. A man waiting with the first woman overhears and quickly pays for the second woman’s school supplies without her noticing. We tell her that the bag is hers to take and she is surprised and thankful.

Someone stops by to pick up some dog food for her pet. We’re one of the few places where you can find it for free thanks to the Tuly Fund which was established by the Blackford’s Grove Neighborhood Association in memory of Tom Loesch and Billy Hedel’s dog Tuly. Recently, we’ve gotten a donation to buy more dog and cat food in memory of Rocky, Sophie, and Spank. You can donate, too.

Later in the morning, Dee greets a group of men by name as they sign in for showers. Some days we have 10 showers and some days we have 0. This is a day with 10.

“Are those your fightin’ pants?” she asks one man wearing military camo shorts.

“No, this is my concrete jungle outfit,” he replies.

“What kind of toiletries would you like?” she asks another man.

“Soap. Shampoo.”

“Razor?” she asks (we don’t always have them in stock).

“Yeah.”

“Here’s some gourmet soap,” she says as she hands over a thin, pink round.

“It smells nice. Is this one that they made next door?”

“Yes,” she tells him. Our guests have been happy to receive handmade soap: seconds and trial formulas from our neighbors at Soap Solutions. They have noticed that the Soap Solutions house smells like essential oil even from the sidewalk and are interested to get to try the products.

A man comes in to get food from our food pantry but is not eligible because it has been less than 30 days since his last food order. Dee starts looking through a list of independent pantries for one that wouldn’t require a referral but would be close enough for the man to reach on foot.

He sits by her desk and chats while she calls around until she finds one that will work. He gets up to leave and announces with satisfaction, “It was a battle, but we won.”

 

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With Enthusiasm!

P1160463bLast week we ended our summer children’s activities with Dance Week, which was presented in partnership with the Children’s Center for Dance Education.

As I watched the group enthusiastically leap and gyrate and shuffle and spin (some more with the beat than others) I thought: This is Patchwork in a nutshell.

We say that our Arts & Smarts children’s program surrounds children with a community of adults who help each child discover and explore the things that they are passionate about. I think we do this quite well by offering a wide range of activities for kids to try, including Dance Week.

There were some older elementary-age boys signed up for Dance Week along with a bunch of younger girls. “Oh no,” I thought. “On the first day the boys will see who else is here and think this is really not cool, too young for them, and too girly.”

The first day came and I was amazed to see the opposite. The boys were some of the most enthusiastic participants: twisting, jumping, and expressing themselves through dance with wild abandon. Little had we realized what talents lay within them.

P1170160No one said, “You’re a boy, you can’t do dance week,” or “You’re silly. You dance like a crazy person.” Instead, there was a safe place for everyone to try dance, have fun, and find out if just maybe it was something that they really love. Girls, boys, adults–everyone had a blast together.

Part way through Dance Week, one of the boys approached me and said, “Since you run this place, you need to tell Jane that we should have improv classes.” I took note. Maybe during the school year we’ll have to explore some passions for improv.

In other Summer highlights, you can watch a wonderful report on our Art Garden Week II that aired on our local Channel 14, WFIE. If you missed it, you’ll want to check it out.

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Paying it Forward

P1140893While the children have been busy with all sorts of fun summer activities at Patchwork, those receiving our Neighborhood Hospitality have been accommodating and gracious as the hours that we’re offering showers, coffee, a place to rest, and other services have changed from week to week in order to keep them opposite our children’s programming.

Recent Hospitality highlights include:

  • One morning, one of our regular guests noticed a new man come inside looking a little lost. The regular spoke to the new man and quickly found out that the man did not speak English well but that the man needed food from our food pantry. The regular had grown up in El Paso so he had learned to speak Spanish. He acted as a translator to help Shawn write a food pantry referral for the second man and to get some phone numbers for employers to help the seconP1130266d man in his search for a job. As the man’s food order was filled, a past children’s program participant arrived with her small children to get some diapers. The children looked at the fish in our fish tank and jabbered to the Hispanic man, who had bent down to listen to them while he waited for his food.
  • A homeless man asked for a pair of pliers to fix the handlebars on his bike. I found out that he’d been riding it broken for several days, so he was really happy to get it fixed. He was in a great mood and his enthusiasm was infectious.
  • A man came in and picked up a loaf of bread. He said that he’d just moved from Indianapolis and had gotten a job at a restaurant. After work the night before, his boss had given him a bucket of tuna salad to eat. He was glad the bread would turn it into meals.
  • A homeless man who has been showering at Patchwork off and on for the past few months brought in a pack of razors to contribute to our stock of toiletries. He said he wanted to “pay it forward” and had had an extra dollar so he used it to get the razors for everyone.

Last week, I was talking to someone who was a little exasperated with and amazed by all the traffic through our building. He asked, “Theoretically, P1140902tomorrow everybody in the city of Evansville could just come into Patchwork and make themselves at home, is that right?!”

“Yes,” I replied. “Theoretically if everyone in Evansville decided to come in and visit us tomorrow, they could.” And I pretty much meant it, too.

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Monumental Art

We’ve just completed two Sculpture Weeks at Patchwork. They are great examples of the kind of high quality arts experience that we offer children. It’s definitely NOT your average arts and crafts time!

The weeks were led by Rob Millard-Mendez, an associate professor of art at the University of Southern Indiana. We began with a tour of the art in our neighborhood. At one point, the group compared one sculpture that was part of the Sculpt EVV outdoor art exhibition with an abandoned chest of drawers on a concrete pad across the street. The two objects provided an opportunity to ponder the questions: What is conceptual art? Of these two installations on Adams Avenue, which one was created by a professional artist? Which one or both could be considered conceptual art? What commentary does each provide on its urban setting?

conceptual artb

After the tour, the kids got to work on reinventing and refreshing some of Patchwork’s outdoor sculptures. Rob led them through the entire process from ideas and sketches to the design phase and construction. They worked with wood, ceramics, metal, bamboo, found objects, paint, and power tools to make their ideas a reality. As with all art projects, there was a great deal of creative problem solving involved as we discovered challenges and roadblocks.

As a result of their hard work, our 10-year-old giraffe sculpture has a new lease on life, our bike rack sculpture has a fresh coat of paint, and work is underway toward an extraordinary new sign to mark Patchwork’s Meetinghouse. The new sign should do a much better job of expressing who we are and what we do. The sign is in the shape of a hand and will include our name and ceramic images that convey the variety of activities that take place in our building. It will also incorporate repurposed parts from the beloved old stove that we removed from Patchwork’s kitchen back in 2010.

Gavin is the youth whose hand served as the model for the sign. As a group transferred the tracing of his hand to a seven-foot-tall paper model for the piece, he urged everyone to make sure it looked right. “I don’t want to have to see some mistake every time I drive by,” he said.

What a special opportunity for kids to know that their ideas and their artwork will be on display for the city to see for years to come.

Here’s the initial sketch of the idea:

hand sign

 

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Art Garden Week I: The Summer Begins

Art Garden Weeks are my favorite time of the year. Storytelling, gardening, cooking, ceramics–groups move from one to the other. There’s so much positive energy spilling out of the building. It’s also the largest group of people we work with in a year. This week we had an average of 28 kids every day and an additional 20 adults and teens.

Highlights from this year’s Art Garden Week I, the first week of our summer children’s activities:

  • Patchwork has our own genuine Camp Songs thanks to Dixie, who has outdone herself by creating new lyrics to several old favorites. P1120660One of my favorite new lyrics is to the tune of YMCA: “Art Garden Weeks…It’s fun to come to the Art Garden Weeks. You can get your hands clean, you cam make healthy snacks, you can do many things you feel.”
  • Susan Fowler creates a Memory Sketch to commemorate each week spent telling
    stories with us. She dedicated this week’s to Calvin, our 8-month-old participant, and Helen, our 87-year-old-participant. It includes one of the many songs that Dixie led the group in this week. On the last day, Susan saw one little girl looking at the Memory Sketch P1120931and humming the song. “I’ve been singing this song at home all week,” the girl told Susan. The song is one that Dixie’s grandpa taught to her and she taught to us.
  • One child’s grandparents reported that he came home after a morning at Patchwork and remarked that Art Garden Week is just like home: You get to garden, you get to cook using real knives, and there are all ages of people all together.
  • Multiple people commented about the wonderful spirit present, particularly the spirit of all the different generations of people working together. “There’s a spirit of community,” said Claire, who’s leading the ceramics lessons, “It cleanses you and makes you feel good inside.”
  • Joni is a long-time Art Garden volunteer who has taken over the kitchen
    leadership this year. As an activity leader, she enjoyed the opportunity to interact P1120563with every child. This year it struck her that she remembers seeing some of the kids since they were 6 or 7 and now they’re teens who are helping to teach the younger children. She also enjoyed hearing them remember activities from years ago–like the memory of growing popcorn in our garden which came up as they popped popcorn and added butter and fresh herbs for snack this week.
  • Jane commented that it’s wonderful the way people find their place here–and somehow we do manage to find places for many unique and wonderful individuals. Once they’ve found a place, they shine!
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Showers!

This morning we’ve had a record number of showers: 14!P1120336

It’s a lot to pack into a short morning at Patchwork, but everyone appreciates the opportunity that we offer and is willing to work together to make sure each person has their turn.

While they wait, one group sits at tables talking, drinking coffee, and eating zucchini bread. Another group sits on the bench in the shade behind Welcome Matt also visiting with each other.

One man says he needs to shower quickly because he’s catching the bus to Nashville. Shawn works it out with the others so he can get cleaned up and on his way.

Someone arrives to donate some toiletries and right away Shawn sees one of our guests who she thinks might be happy to receive some. The woman looks through the makeup bag and sees several things in it that make her smile. “Thank you so much for everything,” she says.

A man leaving after receiving food from the food pantry stops in the office to say thank you to Shawn and I and wishes us a good long weekend. We’ve filled 4 food orders to feed 7 people today.

A man who has taken a shower says, “Thank you for being so nice here. It makes me feel civilized, even though I’m homeless.”

 

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