GREENFIELD — Bright markers made splashes of color on a white plastic tag.
“It’s kind of a water pond,” Abbagail Gantt, 9, said of the green and aqua design she was making.
From the piano bench where she sat, about a dozen other girls were spread, some sitting on the living room floor and others gathered around the kitchen table.
Abbagail, who recently moved with her family to Greenfield, is one of the newer members of Craft/Community Girls, a group that meets twice monthly in the fall and winter months to tackle a creative project.
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“It’s just a good way to interact with other girls,” she said.
Tammy Coughenour was thinking something similar when she started the group a few years ago. Over time, though, it became more than that.
Coughenour, mother of three daughters, wanted to teach them some basic skills such as sewing and thought she would open that instruction up to some of their friends.
Girls invited friends. Donated supplies came in — beads, fabric, paint, candles, wooden pallets. Here and there, a girl has wanted to talk about faith with Coughenour in the kitchen. And while some of the craft projects were simply for taking home, others became a way to help causes they supported.
The white plastic tags decorated at the Nov. 15 meeting will be decoupaged with sayings and tied to suckers. They’re being sold as candygrams for $1 each. The hope is to raise money to buy a bus for an orphanage in Haiti.
This spring, the girls made pizzas and sold them. With the proceeds, they presented a check to Indian pastor Ghuna Kumar. His ministry has started a sewing school, where women receive a sewing machine when they graduate to help them start their own businesses.
“It’s kind of fun to see the looks on their faces when you give them the gifts,” said Kendall Schnecker, a fifth-grader at Greenfield Intermediate School, said of the group’s philanthropy. “He told us about how hard it was for the women in India to make a living.”
Tori Deutsch, a home-schooled third-grader from Greenfield, is in her first year with the group. Her favorite projects so far have been a painted sign for her room and a tied fleece blanket for Riley Hospital for Children.
“I love doing art, and I like helping our community, too,” she said.
Across from Tori in the living room, Mallory Schnecker said the group has grown as girls invited friends and includes people from several churches. She attends Brandywine Community Church; Mariah McIntire, a fellow Greenfield Central Junior High seventh-grader she invited, attends Park Chapel Christian Church.
Mariah talked about how the group made “blessing bags” for homeless people. Fifty were given to Brandywine’s Jesus Loves You ministry; other bags were sent with the girls so they and their parents would have one available to give away.
“I like giving things to people that need them,” Mariah said.
Heather Eaton met Coughenour at the Riley Festival one year and began coming to the group with her daughter Riley, a home-schooled high school freshman.
“I just remember being in awe of how welcoming Tammy was and how giving she was,” Heather Eaton said. “It became bigger than (crafts) … teaching the girls compassion and how to seek out needs.”
The need they hope to address by selling candygrams is a bus for Christ Compassion Orphanage in Gonaives, Haiti. Currently, the children ride to school and church in a small pickup truck, called a Tap-Tap.
“Thankfully God has protected the kids as they have traveled to and from school and church in the Tap-Tap, with as many as 35 standing and sitting in the bed of the truck,” Paul Galbraith, Brandywine’s pastor of missions and student ministries, wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. “Though this is a normal means of transportation in Haiti, we know it is a dangerous way to transport our precious kids from Christ Compassion Orphanage.”
Therefore, the goal is to raise $5,000 to buy a used 14-passenger bus, then fill it with hygiene items, school supplies and daily essentials, and ship it to Haiti, he said.
Such a bus should hold all the children, Galbraith wrote, as smaller students can double or triple up on the bench seats.
The bus also could take visiting mission teams to and from the Port-au-Prince airport. In the past, renting a bus for that purpose has cost as much as $500 a trip.
This isn’t the first time the girls have thought of Haiti. An earlier project was selling tie-dyed headbands to raise money for education there.
“She tells the girls, ‘If you hear of anyone that has a need, let me know,'” Heather Eaton said.
“That’s really what keeps us coming back — the enjoyment of being with friends, but also the growth of their hearts.”
The bus would also be useful to a business supporting the ministry and orphanage. Cool Blue Water was born after World Renewal International in Greenfield and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach campus collaborated earlier this year to install a water purification system in the area. The Embry-Riddle students helped local leaders establish a micro-business to maintain the system and also help pay for teachers in the area, according to a press release from the university.
To buy a candygram from the Craft/Community Girls, email Tammy Coughenour at email@example.com.
To otherwise donate to the bus project, write to World Renewal International, P.O. Box 399, Greenfield, IN 46140. Please include a note that says Haiti Bus. Or visit worldrenewal.org/central-america-and-haiti.