As Viviana De La Rosa, 10, crafted alongside residents at a Belmont Village workshop hosted by Giving Artfully kids, connections formed naturally.
Viviana’s cat sweater sparked a discussion about a resident’s cats. A resident and Viviana learned they both had participated in Girl Scouts.
Sitinee Sheffert said she discovered her own love of crafting when her children were young, and she wanted to share that love with other organizations who served those in need. After noticing there weren’t many resources where people could connect their craft to a charity it could benefit, Sheffert began her own website, Giving Artfully (www.givingartfully.com).
She began Giving Artfully Kids in September 2014 to give kids that same opportunity to combine their creativity and the needs of communities near and far.
“Giving Artfully Kids is so unique because of our emphasis in blending charitable giving and the arts together seamlessly,” instructor Suzanne Cronacher said.
In March 2017, Giving Artfully Kids connected Beye Elementary School students with Belmont Village residents. Now, Giving Artfully Kids meets there monthly for intergenerational crafting; the next session is April 13, with details on the Giving Artfully Kids website.
Sheffert said people from around the world have contacted her at www.givingartfullykids.com, and she’s developing a certificate program so that anyone can bring Giving Artfully Kids to their own community.
Sheffert said recipient organizations are grateful and some keep an ongoing relationship with Giving Artfully Kids.
“A lot of the organizations I found through my Giving Artfully website,” Sheffert said. “Other times, they reach out — ‘Could you make more dog toys for us?’ ”
While money can be an abstract concept for young children, with a craft, Sheffert said “they could physically see and understand” how it will help another.
Stephanie Kloster-De La Rosa, Viviana’s mom, said her family learned about the Belmont Village program through a Giving Artfully Kids afterschool program at Beye School in Oak Park.
Through Giving Artfully Kids, Viviana made “Blessing Bags” with personal care items to give away to anyone in need.
“She has so much more awareness of people who have needs beyond our family,” Kloster-De La Rosa said.
Cronacher also worked with the Beye School PTO to bring Giving Artfully Kids to classrooms.
“It would coincide with what the teachers were currently teaching,” she said. For example, a three-dimensional mural made of heart-shaped cards reflected on themes from a book.”
“Some were purely visual; others got involved with the writing on it,” Cronacher said.
Cronacher said her mom lived at Belmont Village, and “whenever I’d bring my kids, their [residents] eyes would light up.”
Belmont Village activity program coordinator Leanna McKenzie said kids bring “a whole different energy.”
“Some of them don’t live near their grandkids, so it’s fun to adopt grandkids for a few hours,” she said, while crafting is a way of “providing every resident with the mental challenges that will help them continue to learn lifelong.”
McKenzie remembers a resident who gave a craft to his bed-bound wife.
“He was able to give her something that would brighten her day,” she said.
Viviana also remembers the residents she’s met at Belmont Village, and “it was nice, because they would tell their stories.”
“It’s fun to see the two generations working together on a project that will help someone else,” Sheffert said.
Giving Artfully Kids is planning an intergenerational crafting summer camp, giving relationships more time to grow.
“It’s a first for us, too,” McKenzie said of the camp.
Viviana said one of the best parts of crafting is “making the different designs to make each of them unique.”
She’s also continuing a family tradition of service.
“When I was a kid, I used to give back and go to the local nursing homes up in Wisconsin,” Kloster-De La Rosa said. “It’s neat that it’s similar to something I did.”
“There’s a bigger world out there, and they have this ability to give back,” Sheffert said.
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