Fairy Houses for our Neighbors

A wonderful thing happened last Friday in the Arts & Smarts Children’s Program. Yes, wonderful things happen all the time in the Arts & Smarts Children’s program, but this was particularly wonderful.

All spring, the children have been building fairy houses using wood and foam board. They sketched their designs, cut wood, hammered, glued, painted, and solved problems that they ran into along the way. They used clay to make fairies, gnomes, and flowers to inhabit the houses.

On Friday, a group of Arts & Smarts participants walked to the Rathbone Retirement Community on Second Street to install some of the fairy houses in the garden area. The idea is that the Rathbone’s residents will discover these small dwellings tucked into the landscaping as they walk around the garden. Hopefully they will be intrigued, look more closely, and notice the details that the kids have added to each one.

Residents of the Rathbone gathered in the garden to greet us and the kids paraded the finished houses for them. Then the residents went indoors for supper while the kids moved around the yard to find the perfect shrub or leaf for their houses to hide under. We all admired our work, then went inside to share a pizza dinner with the Rathbone residents.

It was a fantastic afternoon. The houses came alive when nestled in the garden. The Rathbone residents (including long-time Patchwork volunteer Helen Belleville) smiled and chatted with the kids. And the kids carried on great conversations with the residents, the Arts & Smarts staff, and each other. They were polite, kind, respectful, and took pride in their artwork. It was a special day.

**And don’t forget, you can purchase some of the kids’ artwork to install in your own garden at Patchwork’s Pancake Extravaganza this Saturday (April 22) from 7:30 am-11:30 am!

Notes from 40 Years at Patchwork:

Patchwork opened its Back Alley Bakery in 1982. Still remembered fondly for its potato bread, motivation for the project was to provide training and jobs for people who lived nearby. Judi Jacobson was the bakery manager and Darlene Blagg was the head baker, the first paid employee.

Among the many stories still told about the Bakery is the one about the mobile bread cart built from a hospital gurney. In the September 1983 Patchwork newsletter, Phil Amerson said this of that cart:

In this invention, this hospital-gurney-turned-bread-cart, jobs were being created, lives were being changed, and hope was emerging. We were able to participate in something very rare… we committed ourselves to something we could not fully control. If we were to succeed, it would be because of a fine human gift:  imagination. And seeing the transformation of such a small item which meant so much to us and our neighborhood, we were reminded of the potential for change for all of God’s world. We had no certainty we could bake bread, sell bread or see people employed, but it was happening. A leap was made for others and for ourselves; we had made commitments we could not fully control and imagination emerged. These may well be the fundamental elements for discovering the ongoing renewal the Creator would have for our world.

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Transportation Rolling Onward

The finished bike room is just outside my office. When people come in who need a bike, Pete takes them to look over our inventory to see if there’s something that will meet their needs.

Last week I overheard a woman who was looking at the bikes with Pete. In order to start narrowing down the possibilities, he asked what she was planning to use the bike for.

She said she needed it to go to work sometimes. It’s a little bit of a distance.

Pete showed her one bike that he thought would be good. It was a solid bike for riding with multiple gears to help you get where you’re going on a regular basis, not just a short cruise to the store.

I wasn’t paying close attention, but the next thing I was aware of Pete saying was, “Oh! You’re taking this home today! We’re going over to the studio and we’ll fill out paperwork right now.”

She clearly was expecting a wait list or an extended intake process. She was shocked.

“You’re kidding…You’re kidding. I’m going to cry. Oh my goodness.”

Not long after, she was riding away on her new transportation.

Pete is determined to give out 100 bikes in six months, and he’s on track to do it. He’s given out nearly 90 bikes at this point.

He’s given away so many bikes that he could use more:

  • 24″ or 26″ Men’s-style mountain bikes (we’re well stocked on all other styles of bikes, especially children’s bikes).
  • New 24″ or 26″ tires and tubes, the items needing replacement most often.
  • Donations to the bike shop that will allow Pete to purchase new tires, tubes, parts, and tools that he needs.

Notes from 40 Years at Patchwork:

Patchwork’s after school children’s program began in 1981, not long after the group moved into The Meetinghouse at 100 Washington Ave. From the December 1981 newsletter:

“Clowns yelling ‘A Rerun,’ disco dancers singing ‘Double Dutch Bus’ and artists coloring their own tie-dyed tee shirts! These are some of the images from the After School Children’s Program which has as its staff Ruth Doyle, John Banks, Peter and Becky Rogers-Bechtel, Vicki Coleman and several volunteers. Besides having fun with games, arts, crafts, songs and drama, children are learning to do their homework regularly with the help of tutors, to set up activities and put up supplies, to make their own snacks and to settle arguments without violence. “

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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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