Welcome to My Neighborhood

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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: http://www.patchwork.org 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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Reports from Friends

The weather is scorching, the children’s program is on break for the month, and yet there is plenty of activity in Patchwork’s building. Monday through Thursday mornings in August our building is open for coffee, showers, the food pantry, bikes, Health Ministry, phones, talking with Patchwork staff, and much more.

There are moments like Hershel walking into the main office every morning to say, “Heeey. I’m the Fonz.” Clay drinking several cups of coffee and helping to move tables around for the Back to School Sale. ShariLynn bringing lunch for Shawn because she made too much today and wanted to share. James and Bruce joking in the main office.

We get to know our guests. We offer a safe place for people when they need it. When they no longer stop in, we hope it means all is well. Occasionally, we get a phone call like Shawn received earlierP1430111 this summer:

“Just got a call this afternoon from Rob and Jackie who came to Patchwork last year when they were homeless and Jackie was pregnant. They live in Texas now. Rob has a good job there, and Jackie is a stay at home mom with their 1-year-old son Seth.  She said that Seth is happy and healthy and that they think about us often.  They wanted to send pictures of the baby for all of us to see and they wanted me to say hi to Amy and John.

Before she hung up, Jackie said, ‘Rob and I think about you often, Shawn.  We just wanted to call to let you know we’re doing good and that we love you.’

Choking back tears.”

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Reflecting on the Summer

P1420991Last week we wrapped up another successful summer of children’s programming at Patchwork. As always, the summer was a family-like experience with multiple generations of people all participating together.  We had everyone from three-year-old Calvin participating in his fourth summer with us (yep, you read that right!) to 90-year-old Helen being introduced to the children of the children she used to teach here as a volunteer.

Thanks to our two Sculpture Weeks, we have some new sculptures in our Blackford’s Grove Forest at the corner of 6th and Blackford. Every participant had an opportunity to try welding, under the tutelage of this summer’s visiting sculptor Adam Rakestraw. The group worked together to design, fabricate, and install gates for the garden made from old bike parts and a one-of-a-kind bottle tree. In the process of installation, we used neon string to stabilize the piece as its concrete base dried. The group decided the string added to the piece, so we left it connected. Participants during Art Garden Week II created bottle tree jewelry to add to the tree as well. Stop by and check out our fun and quirky new art!

Dance Week was next up and was presented in collaboration with the Children’s Center for Dance Education. Dance WeekParticipants had a wonderful time jumping, moving, and dancing with Sadia. The week included learning Spanish dances, large and colorful streamers, and a Soul Train dance line for which everyone laughed and had fun.

Last week was Art Garden II. Susan Fowler was back to tell more stories from Indiana’s history in honor of the bicentennial (this was her 10th summer here!). We learned about Larry Bird and the history of women’s basketball and the Olympics and Abe Lincoln. In the studio, participants glazed the ceramic mushroom sculptures they’d created during Art GardeningGarden I. In the garden, they picked plums, blackberries, cucumbers, onions and zinnias. They also dug a bountiful harvest of potatoes. In the kitchen, they roasted the potatoes and onions, chopped up the plums and cucumbers, mixed up Jello and cookies, made cobblers, and scrambled fresh duck eggs.

Special thanks to the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana, the Evansville Audubon Society, the Indiana Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Vanderburgh Community Foundation for providing special funding for our summer arts activities.

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A Group Effort

Business in Patchwork’s Food Pantry has been booming. In the first 6 months of 2016, we’re serving an average of almost 200 people per month. That’s up 35 people every month compared to 2015! That means we distribute a large quantity of food: an average of 1.6 tons per month! About 90% of that food comes from Tri-State Food Bank, our main P1370938supplier.

However, sometimes the Food Bank runs short on particular items that we include in every food order. Sometimes there isn’t the variety of food available from the Food Bank that we’d like to include in our food orders. And sometimes it’s simply good to get help to keep costs down for the Evansville Emergency Food Pantry Consortium that pays the Food Bank’s fees for the food our pantry receives.

That’s when it’s nice to get some help from our friends. We have a great group of congregations that have collected food for our food pantry for decades, and we’re grateful for their faithfulness. They know us and they know what we might need. Some ask each month what items we would like them to collect for the following month.

We have people who keep us stocked on eggs, since they’re on the list of items given as part of every food order but are rarely available through the Food Bank. Bill Hemminger brings us fresh produce from the garden he manages at the University of Evansville.

In May, we received 331 pounds of food from 8th graders from Thompkins Middle School. They collected food to win door prize tickets at their school dance and only got credit if the P1400906items they donated were on the list of items we include in every food order (no octopus parts or German sugar beet syrup).

Recently, we’ve added some friends of our dedicated food pantry volunteer Darlene. Darlene reports that one woman in particular is committed to filling the food pantry shelves. Darlene laughs because she knows that the food leaves as quickly as we can stock the shelves.

But we’re happy to see Darlene’s friend try her best to fill our shelves. It means many more people who need a little help feeding their families will go home with grocery sacks full of nutritious food.

Thank you again to everyone who donates food to our pantry and to all our dedicated food pantry volunteers!

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Life Is Connections

Patchwork is in the middle of our fabulous summer children’s activities. We started two P1380181weeks ago with Art Garden Week I. It’s our biggest week of the year, with over 25 children and 25 high schoolers and adults in attendance. Participants receive our unique mixture of experiences in the garden, in the art studio, and in the kitchen. They also experience Susan Fowler’s frenetic storytelling.

Susan is great at pointing out how everything and everyone is interconnected. Her mind links it all together. Her theme for the summer is the state of Indiana’s Bicentennial.

Susan and Connections: Work on Indiana’s constitution began exactly 200 years before our Art Garden Week I. The constitution was written in the shade of an elm tree in Corydon, Indiana.P1380163

Elm Tree: Ashton played this famous elm tree when Susan led the children in acting out the writing of the constitution.

Ash: Patchwork has an ash tree in its front lawn and now ash trees are being threatened by emerald ash borers. We love our tree and don’t want it to die.

Patchwork’s tree: Every day we ended our time together in the beautiful shade of Patchwork’s ash tree.

Walk to the Ohio RiverAt the end of the day: On Wednesday, a group of children and adults departed from our closing circle to walk all the way to the Ohio River to collect water and bring it back to Patchwork. It was part of an effort to raise awareness and funds for CoCoDA, an organization that helps residents of small villages in El Salvador gain access to drinking water. In areas where there is no nearby source of drinking water, children spend a large part of their day simply fetching water. It took us an hour. Find out more in this news story.

Water: Susan led us in discussions about water and the fact that it is essential for life. She suggested that perhaps she should not squirt everyone with her famous squirt bottle because it was wasting precious water.Clay mushrooms

Susan’s squirt bottle: Susan decided to give her squirt bottle to John H.  so he could squirt some water into everyone’s hands as a bit of refreshment. John was so excited to be able to squirt the bottle that he ran around the circle and sprayed everyone with a lot of water. Everyone was happy to get squirted and didn’t mind a little water being wasted.

Water not being wasted: We used the water we collected from the Ohio River to water plants in Patchwork’s garden. During Art Garden I, we transplanted flowering plants for the butterflies and vegetables for the children to eat. They need extra water.Cabbage to roast

Garden: In the studio, everyone made ceramic mushrooms that will become art for our gardens.

Garden Art/Art from the Garden: We also harvested garden produce, brought it into the kitchen, and turned it into beautiful snacks to eat together.

Time together: Any child can come to Art Garden Weeks. There is no charge, so money is not a barrier. It is only through many generous donations that we are able to do this. We are grateful that so many people see the value in these activities for children. Special thanks to the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana for providing special funding for our summer arts activities.

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