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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Global Connections

Many nations from across the globe came together at Patchwork on Wednesday to teach the children in our Arts & Smarts program.USI International Students

International students from the University of Southern Indiana’s International Community Service program have been visiting us every Wednesday afternoon all semester and decided to put on an international party this week. They brought food, clothing, games, photos, music, and other artifacts from their home countries and shared them with the children, parents, and other volunteers.

After a snack in which everyone got a sampler plate from around the world, Arts & Smarts participants went from table to table, talking to each of the international students and asking questions. International students visited their neighbors’ tables to learn interesting new facts about their friends. Parents came over to the tables to see what was going on and joined in, too.

International foodFrance, Pakistan, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Japan were among the countries represented. The room was lively with conversation, smiles, laughter, and engaged faces. Some learned to fold origami, some received henna tattoos, and some learned to say hello in German.

These face-to-face, global interactions are particularly important in this day and time. I’m thankful that Patchwork is a place where they can happen.

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Young Entrepreneurs

Patchwork Central’s annual Holiday Art Sale is this Saturday, November 5 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Included will be an eclectic mix of artwork from both established and new artists. p1440764There will be paintings, drawings, ceramics, jewelry, greeting cards, fiber arts, sculpture, and more. 30% of sales at the event will be given to support Patchwork’s programming.

Included among the art and artists will be the latest quirky nativity sets created for you by the children in Patchwork’s Art & Company. In Art & Company, children build art skills by learning to create the nativity figures in our ceramics studio. These are not your ordinary nativity figures! They include pregnant angels, minimalistic Marys with fancy hats, and Christmas dinosaurs. The children learn how to be good salespeople and then staff the Art & Company table at the Sale. Afterward, we calculate the “company’s” profits and each child receives a company dividend check whose amount varies based on his or her investment of time and good behavior.

To illustrate the learning that happens as part of Art & Company, Jane tells this story:

Elijah was making something out of clay and was doing it well. He had started out making one kind of animal, maybe a cat, but at one point he looked at it and said, “Well, this will just be a lion.” To me, that was huge. p1440786Normally, he would have become very frustrated because he couldn’t do what was in his mind, and he would deem both his art and himself a failure.

I have been talking to the kids about how often I will start to make one thing, but the clay wants to be something else, and so I roll with it. This is what Elijah must have done, and it is wonderful that he did it all on his own. I didn’t have to lead him through that thought process.

That was huge. Elijah really struggles with getting frustrated and angry and giving up because he feels that what he has created does not match what was in his mind. I’m excited that he changed his expectations and just went with what the clay wanted to be. He made a really nice lion!

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September Arts & Smarts

We’ve completed our first month of Arts & Smarts children’s programming for the academic year, and things are going well. Dixie has a good number of tutors including some new volunteers, some familiar faces, and some new education students from the University of Southern Indiana. Outside of tutoring, the kids have been busy helping prepare snack, playing games, doing reverse tie dye, creating ceramic faeries and gnomes, and learning about the elements and principles of design. Every Wednesday, they’ve also gotten to meet a van full of international students from the University of Southern Indiana.

USI International Students

Some nice stories from the year so far:

Jane has been hiding faeries and gnomes inside and outside of the building for the kids to find. They might be tucked under a step or under a stool or in the foliage of a plant. It’s like a scavenger hunt. She’s instructed the kids to bring her the figures whenever they find them and reports that the kids present their finds with joy and pride.Tie Dye

One day, Jane brought a girl into the main office where Dee was working. The girl was in tears because she is new to the program and it was the first day that her grandma had dropped her off rather than waiting in the library for the program to end. The girl felt a little scared to be here without her grandma. While the girl was in the office, she started to look around and saw all the cat pictures around Dee’s desk. “You like cats?” she asked Dee. Dee loves cats. The two started talking about cats and the girl started to feel better. Jane reflects, “I came back into the office, and she was a different kid. She was sitting on the seat of Dee’s wheelchair happily chatting about cats.”

Dixie reports one mom who eagerly asked, “When does tutoring start?” She’s a single mom who has to juggle four active kids, homework, and supper every evening. The tutoring program is the closest she can come to being in four (or maybe five) places at once. Dixie also reports another Hidden Fairiemom who showed Dixie the A her daughter got in a class. Dixie said, “She was so excited she wanted me to see it, and she felt like tutoring has made a difference.”

Finally, I’d spent an afternoon documenting the program, communicating with donors, writing grant applications, and various other behind the scenes things that keep Patchwork running. I was sitting at my desk behind papers and files and notes when I heard a little, “bye bye.” I looked over the top of a desk organizer, and realized one girl had made it a point to stop in my office door to wish me a happy farewell. I can’t think of better encouragement as I went back to work.

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Welcome to My Neighborhood


Many of the people who work and volunteer at Patchwork live within a one mile radius of our building. That includes 7 out of 10 staff members and key volunteers. And, even if someone at Patchwork doesn’t live in the neighborhood themselves, they know multiple people who do.

It lends something special to the way that Patchwork operates. This is OUR neighborhood. It’s not some place that we drive across town to get to every morning and drive away from at the end of the day. It’s not a place we come to just to provide a service or set up a Midlerprogram. We see our neighbor’s struggles and they are our own. We are all part of this neighborhood together.

Now that the weather is starting to cool off, it’s a pleasant walk to work for me. As I near Patchwork, I wave hello to Caroline who is out in front of her house. I see Percy riding his vintage tandem toward Patchwork. I pass Robert at the bus stop and he waves. On the way home at the end of the day, I report a wandering urban chicken to its owner.

Other days, John and I might walk to the river and say hello to James sitting at the Haynie’s Corner Fountain. On a hot day, it’s always cooler down by the fountain, some Patchwork regulars have told us. When Shawn stops at the corner mini-mart to pick up some milk, she sees plenty of people she knows and she can give a friend a ride to somewhere they need to go. At the mini-mart, there’s even a little jar on the counter to collect pocket change to benefit Patchwork.

At Patchwork, there is a sense that we’re all in this together. There is more friendliness and solidarity when you pass each other on the sidewalk and commune over eggs in the local mini-mart’s cooler.


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Creating Community

When we talk about “creating community” at Patchwork, one of the things that we do is to create a place where a variety of people can come together, meet each other, and learn from one another.p1430348

For example, for the past couple months we have hosted nutrition students from the University of Southern Indiana. They have done a study to try to improve the health of people with high blood pressure by providing information on better nutrition. The students staffed a table throughout the summer taking blood pressures, giving out extra food, offering nutritional advice, and simply talking to the cast of characters who come through our doors every day.

On her last morning with us, one of the students came into the main office and said, “It’s been interesting. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned about who I want to work with in the p1430389future and…who I don’t. I don’t know how you guys do it every day. ”

Over the course of the summer, she’d spoken with men, women, and children who were low income, homeless, mentally ill, disabled, sick, healthy, gay, straight, non-English speaking, African American, Hispanic, white, angry, frustrated, happy, hopeful, and everything in between.

“I believe that everybody has a redeeming quality. For some it’s not so hard to see. Some it is, but everyone has something,” says Mary Damm, who volunteers regularly in the Health Ministry.

Our volunteers are here to help, but they also have a good opportunity to learn from our guests. I am thankful for time to talk to our guests and to get to know them and their stories. For all of them, these stories are complex and go beyond bare statistics and polarizing pro/con arguments. They are individuals, and they are created in the image of God. Learning from them is one of the things that makes my job worthwhile.

For another reflection on learning at Patchwork, watch this interview with Jesse Graber in which he talks about his experience as an Arts & Smarts staff member and a Mennonite Voluntary Service worker:

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Arts & Smarts After School Begins Again

We’re gearing up for the new school year at Patchwork!

What impact does our after school programming have?

Just last week, a woman who works in the community came to meet with us so she would better understand all the services Patchwork provides. She was impressed with all that we do. As she was leaving, she mentioned that she had been to Patchwork before, but it had been many years. She had spent a year caring for her grandchildren and had decided to bring them to our Arts & Smarts program after school.P1430218

“There was an art sale around Christmas? Right? The kids make nativity sets, sell them, and get a paycheck?” she said. “Well, my grandson made a big nativity set when he was here. It was the featured nativity set at the sale, and it was so nice it sold before I even got a chance to see it!”

The woman credited Patchwork’s Arts & Smarts program with sparking her son’s interest in art and with recognizing his talent. She said that after his year at Patchwork he continued to build on his interest in art. Now he’s in college and studying art in Indianapolis!

Whatever your child’s interest, we work to acknowledge and support it in the Arts & Smarts program. We provide academic support through our tutoring program and adults who encourage every child to value school and to do their best. We teach youth how to be good role models for younger children.

How to enroll or volunteer:

Tutoring for grades 1-5 starts on September 6 (the day after Labor Day), and Dixie is accepting registration forms and setting the schedule now. You can find the forms on our website, stop by our main office, or give us a call and we’ll send you one.

To meet the demand, Dixie, our Tutoring Coordinator, needs volunteers to tutor. Tutoring sessions P1430249are offered Monday-Thursday. Each day, the first tutoring session begins at 3:20 and the second one begins at 4:15. You can tutor multiple times or just one session per week. Tutors are asked to arrive 15 minutes prior to the start of their tutoring session to give them time to prepare for their students. If you are interested in volunteering, please complete a volunteer registration form and (for volunteers over age 18) a background check form.

Leadership training for youth in grades 6-12 also begins on September 6. Participants will learn how to be good leaders and about their roles as Junior Leaders and High School Volunteers. They will also get to do some special projects aimed at older participants. Hours are 2:45-5:00, Monday-Thursday. Registration forms are available on our website: and in our main office. Questions can be directed to Jane, the children’s program director.

Children in grades 2-5 will be able to join all of our after school activities on September 22. We’ll have a big party that day with special guests.

Call us at 812-424-2735 if you have any questions!

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