Arts & Smarts, Growing Artists and Problem Solvers

“Don’t take a picture! I’m your boss!” he said, then realized it sounded harsh coming from a kid to an adult, particularly an adult who runs the place. He adjusted and softened his statement, “I’m the artist and you’re the photographer. You can document my art and show the pictures when I’m famous. But this art isn’t finished yet. I want you to take a picture when it’s done.”

A few days later, I was talking to the Arts & Smarts kids about my own sculptures. I talked about making my art from interesting found objects and hoping that my art will make people look differently at the things they see around them every day.

The boy raised his hand to be called on, “I have two questions…well, an observation and a question.” His input was interesting and insightful and a good reflection on the artistic process.

I love the fact that Patchwork’s Arts & Smarts program helps this boy feel like a serious artist. An artist whose art is worthy of documentation. An artist who looks at and tries to understand other artists’ work. An artist who might be famous some day.


The kids have been working with Dave Marienau in the studio learning woodworking techniques as they build fairy houses. Eventually the fairy houses will be installed around Patchwork and in a private garden space near us at the Rathbone Retirement Home. The idea is to create miniature, intriguing, interactive environments to ignite Rathbone residents’ imagination.

The project began with the children sketching their fairy house designs and translating the sketches into wood and foam board. Some of this translation was trickier than others. One girl had drawn a roof that was rounded like a mushroom cap. But how to make a curve using stiff board? And how to attach the roof so it wouldn’t slide off while the glue dried?

“We’ll have to FIGURE IT OUT!” the girl said excitedly.

The next thing I knew, she and her adult partner had found some long, cylindrical foam shapes. The girl figured out how to embed a nail in each end of a length of it and how to push the nail spike into the top of the house to form a rounded roof shape. It was the kind of ingenuity and problem solving that the arts are all about!

Notes from 40 Years at Patchwork:

In October 1980, Patchwork Central purchased and moved into the former Washington Avenue Synagogue at 100 Washington Avenue. The new building was only a short distance from Patchwork’s previous home in a house at 431 Washington Ave, but represented significant growth and changes for the organization. From the October 1980 Patchwork newsletter:

The question ultimately becomes for us whether to proceed with small, carefully-calculated steps (euphemistically proclaimed as “Faith tempered by reason”) or to dare giant, prayerfully-risked leaps, trusting in the wisdom of “Gospel foolishness.” We have chosen to LEAP!

This beautiful and functional building fits the many dreams we share. It symbolizes a fresh and invigorating awareness of the Spirit of God calling us forward. Our decision grows out of spiritual searching and a movement among us to new places of ministry.

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The Look of Integrity

Ted is a man who “looks” homeless. His hair is a little stringy and he looks like he hasn’t showered for a couple days. He talks wildly to himself. You would probably move away from him if he passed you on the street. I probably would, too, if I didn’t know him.

Ted is also a man of integrity who felt comfortable enough at Patchwork and who trusted Shawn in our main office enough to help him out when he ran into a problem bigger than himself.

This morning Ted came into the main office and gave Shawn some things he’d found lying on the ground.  It was a really nice backpack, a laptop computer, and a stack of college textbooks, and other supplies.  He said he had found all of it on the ground and thought someone would be needing it.

Shawn found a planner with names and telephone numbers in it and was able to reach a young man’s father on the phone.  The father told her that his son had called him late last night to tell him that someone broke into his car while he was at work nearby.  His fellow staff members saw the thieves and chased them.  Probably the thieves tossed the backpack as they took off running.

Ted must have discovered the stolen items in the morning on his way to us.  He was conflicted. He really wanted to keep the backpack because a good, strong backpack is something that is invaluable to him. But, he knew that he should return it to its rightful owner.

The young man came in to pick up his belongings, and Shawn shared the story with him.  He was so impressed that he wanted to do something in return for Ted.  Shawn told him how much Ted really wanted to keep his backpack but knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, so the young man decided that he would buy a backpack for Ted as a thank you.

Notes from 40 years at Patchwork:

At times it has felt we were involved in as many ministries as there were stars in the heavens on a clear night. Friends warned that we should narrow our focus so that we could be clearly identified and people would more readily support our projects. But his was not our intention, nor out style. The needs around us were diverse and out talents and calls are varied. Our ministries are to be in those places where we are being led and because life is complex we know we are called to many places.

–March 1979 Patchwork Newsletter

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Stories from the Sozo Health Ministry

John Rich continues to be busy with his work as the Health Minister. He and Mary Damm, RN, are here every Monday morning to talk with people, take blood pressures, and answer a variety of health questions. Much of the rest of the week John spends driving clients to and from medical appointments and accompanying them into these appointments if they request it. ValentineIt is both rewarding work and emotionally draining work.

Below are two stories from John that illustrate the Sozo Health Ministry’s vision of holistic healing:

She opens the car door, plops down in the passenger seat and slams the door harder than usual. “What’s wrong?” I ask, almost afraid that I am opening a metaphorical door that I won’t be able to close again, no matter how much I will want to do so in the next few minutes. She launches into a vituperative tirade about her family situation. She is a client of the Sozo Health Ministry, and I am driving her to a doctor’s appointment. I have discovered that car rides to and from doctor’s offices can have their own sort of healing effect. She gets to vent. She gets to escape the stressful home environment for a brief amnesty while she travels to the next stressful environment—her doctor’s exam room. More than that, she gets to be HEARD. Someone really listens to her. It is hard to overestimate how healing that is. She also gets to have her driver—also a registered nurse–reassure her that she is not alone in handling all of her appointments, medications, tests, diagnoses, and uncertainties. She is heard and she is not alone. Healing cannot be far behind.

Around Patchwork, everybody knows his name. He is one of our regular guests during hospitality time, Monday through Thursday mornings. People would see him walking into the building and call out his name, loud in greeting. Most of the time, he would smile that charmingly dimpled smile and wave his hand in acknowledgement. A couple of weeks ago, though, he wasn’t smiling. He had lost a lot of weight. He just did not look healthy. Mary, one of the RN’s who volunteers with the Sozo Health Ministry, took his blood pressure. It was fine. Then she checked his pulse; it clocked in at over 130 beats per minute, significantly higher than it should have been. crocusWe advocated for him to get an earlier appointment with his primary care doctor. That appointment led to a hospital stay full of scans and tests to find out what was wrong. Unfortunately, our friend has a terminal illness. In the last few days, there have been tears shed, stories shared, phone calls made, and even bedside visits by multiple Patchwork volunteers and staff. If you pray, please keep our friend in your prayers.

Please keep all of the Sozo Health Ministry clients and volunteers in your prayers. Healing cannot be far behind…


Notes from 40 Years at Patchwork:


“Patchwork Central… a perfect name for the multifaceted, many-dimensional personalities which are its essence. It is a community of dedicated Christians who incorporate the message of Christianity in its simplest and truest form in every segment of their lives. These re not passive people. They are people who are actively engaged in giving their time and their energy and financial resources to the community of Evansville.”

 ~Katharine Van Ost; a lawyer who volunteered at Patchwork. 1979 Newsletter

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Working Together to Get Things Done

The Spring Semester of Arts & Smarts is well underway. Good things have happened already and more are planned for the upcoming months.

Last week, the Junior Leaders (grades 5-8) met for a special afternoon of fun planned just for them. They reflected on the Christmas Store that they had helped organize for the younger participants, and they celebrated the project’s success. For fun, they assembled and decorated cookie houses.

They were very impressed to be p1460457constructing houses and devoted a lot of time to getting the decorations just right. They’re ready to build more, which is good because this spring we have plans for another service project: constructing Gnome Houses to be installed in a garden at the Rathbone Retirement Community near Patchwork.

In other good moments, yesterday I watched as a participant and a volunteer worked together to roll the book cart out for Book Club. Both are quirky individuals whose uniqueness has sometimes prevented them from being successful in other programs. Here at Patchwork, they have found a place to thrive. It is something at which Patchwork excels.

They needed to fit the cart through a doorway, and I cautioned them that I didn’t think it would fit. “No, we can do it,” the boy told me. Then he thoughtfully coached the volunteer to get the cart steered through the doorway: “Careful…Careful…Slowly…Careful.”

With their teamwork, the cart slid through the doorway without a single book brushing the door frame. I was impressed. The teamwork I saw represented significant growth for each of them thanks, in part, to their years at Patchwork. I was also reminded never to underestimate the power of people working together.

The Patchwork House

Notes from 40 Years at Patchwork:

“First there were individual thoughts, then idle conversations, then serious ones. Finally three couples and their four children left the jobs and homes they had and moved to Evansville, Indiana. They called the community they became “Patchwork Central”.

First each family bought a house in the same downtown neighborhood, then they planted gardens and met their neighbors, then they worked to reclaim their neighborhood’s park and pool and school. Finally they bought another house in the neighborhood for their offices. They called this center of so much of their activity “The Patchwork House”.

–1990 Patchwork Central Time Line Booklet

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40 Years: Patchwork Central’s Ruby Anniversary


In 2017, Patchwork Central celebrates 40 years of serving our neighborhood through flexible and innovative programming!

We’re excited to be planning some special events to celebrate, starting with our annual Soup, Salad, & Style event on Thursday, February 23 from noon-1:30 pm. Tickets cost $45 for individuals or $450 to reserve a table of 8. Purchase your ticket by sending a check to Patchwork Central, 100 Washington Ave., Evansville, IN 47713 or by following this link to purchase a ticket online through Eventbrite.

Looking to the future, we remain strong and will continue to listen to our neighbors and adapt to meet their needs. Looking back, we have impacted the lives of many thousands of people and our influence can be seen in businesses and organizations across the city.

As an indication of the people who come through Patchwork and the services we provide every year, here is a summary of the things we accomplished last year:

  • Our food pantry served 2406 individuals from 1326 households and distributed almost 22 tons of food which would make up approximately 28,000 meals.
  • 93 children and youth in grades 1-8 attended at least one day of Arts & Smarts activities. A total of 129 days of activities were offered, equaling 2271 individual afternoons of creativity, learning, and growth within a caring community of adults.
  • We logged approximately 7900 instances of hospitality (cups of coffee, phone usage, clothing, referrals to other agencies, etc.). This included 850 showers for individuals who didn’t have other access to shower facilities.
  • Our Bike Shop distributed 35 refurbished bicycles to people who relied on them for transportation, completed 35 major repairs for existing bike owners, and did numerous small repairs to keep bikes roadworthy for their owners.
  • Our Sozo Health Ministry provided 401 health encounters for 92 total clients. These included weekly health screenings, education, advocacy, non-emergency transportation, and spiritual care. Sozo and its coordinator John Rich were recognized with awards from Leadership Evansville, Deaconess Hospital, and the Courier & Press.
  • Several other community organizations were able to use our space for meetings and to provide community services.
  • Our gardens provided attractive green space in our neighborhood.
  • Many different people came together to find respect, safety, and support.


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A Special Place in a Special Season

This week has been a wonderful reminder of why I love Patchwork. It was full of wonderful people, performances, and experiences. Everything was free and available to anyone who wanted to join in–and a very wide range of people did just that! It was a beautiful way to move into the Christmas holiday and close out 2016.

Among this week’s happenings:

  • Pete arriving Monday morning with his hammered dulcimer to play Christmas carols for everyone.

  • Receiving a warm Christmas card from a woman who lives across the street and who drinks at least one cup of coffee here every day. The card read, “Dear all facility workers, Sending you good wishes and holiday cheer for a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year! Sincerely, Coffee Drinker, Lisa.”

Well Wishes

  • A Channel 14 news crew on Tuesday morning documenting the busy bike shop for a report that evening. There was banter among the volunteers in the background. “It feels so good to be here,” one person declared.

Pete getting interviewed

  • A big group of carolers from the Haynie’s Corner Arts District Association warming up on Tuesday evening with cookies and hot cocoa at Patchwork after they finished caroling in the neighborhood. The group sang at both businesses and homes around the neighborhood. One magical moment: a little boy in a house down the street who was silhouetted as he peered out his picture window to see what the hubbub outside was all about.  He and his siblings came out for a song.

Haynie's Corner Carolers

  • Darlene serving up her Christmas breakfast casserole on Wednesday morning so that every guest, staff member, and volunteer could have a hot breakfast. It was garnished with red and green peppers for Christmas.


  • Pete rolling a bike indoors from the Bike Shop on Wednesday. The 85-year-old woman who had donated it to us reported, “I got that bike when I was 10!” It didn’t need much work to be ready to ride again.

75-year-old bike

  • Midler the parrot visiting us on Wednesday morning, perching on Helen Fisher’s shoulder, and talking excitedly to everyone in earshot. Later, Midler sang along with carolers who were visiting with us.

  • Receiving extra donations for our food pantry on Wednesday morning. These included canned goods from a high schooler who, for the second year in a row, organized a food drive around a slumber party.

canned goods

  • A full jam session on Thursday morning led by Troy Miller. There were guitars, singers, and a mandolin/hammered dulcimer. A big crowd gathered to listen, and they clapped along. The coffee pot steamed. “He’s a really good guitar player!” and “This is great music!” were among the comments.


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The Bustling Bike Shop

These days, the Patchwork Bike Shop is busier than ever. Pete has found a crew of five to help him rebuild and repair the bikes that our guests depend on for transportation. With all this extra people power, we’ve been able to get a lot more work done and to get dramatically more bikes out on the road–25 in the last two weeks!

Bike Shop Crew

The shop is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:45 am to noon. For the time being, walk-in repairs are done on Tuesdays only, reserving Thursdays to concentrate on refurbishing donated bikes to give to new owners.

Some days the Bike Shop is full of people waiting to get their bikes repaired. And some days it’s full of people looking for a spot to chat with friends and to talk about life beyond bikes.

Recently, a man stopped by Patchwork looking for Pete:

“Is the bike guy here?” he asked. “I need a bike. I’ve seen the bikes he gives out. p1450825A couple of my friends got one. He does good work. Gives out bikes in better than factory condition.”

Later, I listened as another man picked out a bike for himself from the options that were ready to ride out the door:

“Wow! That’s perfect! Wow! I can’t believe this! Wow! I just got blessed!

For many of us, a bike is something we keep in the garage to ride by the river on a nice day. Or they are something that is part of a weekly exercise routine. However, for many of Patchwork’s guests, bikes are a primary form of transportation that, when combined with the bus system, can go a long way in getting them where they need to go around town.

Thus, owning a bike, keeping it in good working order, p1450422and keeping it safe are important things in many of our guests’ lives. It’s equally important to have a place to get a new, safe, working bike or to get an existing bike repaired when the brakes go out or the wheel gets bent or the tire goes flat. That’s where our Bike Shop plays a key role.

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