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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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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