JOYFULLY MADE: Shares, Inc. teaches life skills with a side of fun

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Stephanie Raney, a client at Shares, INC., displays the shirt she made with the design she developed. Clients at Shares, INC spent time at Organic Robot making shirts and learning how screen printing is done. Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Stephanie Raney’s eyes lit up when she lifted the screen, revealing the T-shirt she had just printed with a design she had hand drawn.

The 54-year-old woman was part of a group of adults from Shares, Inc. who got to try their hand at screenprinting this week at Organic Robot Designs, a custom apparel shop in downtown Greenfield.

The field trip was a great way to introduce the group to a local business while giving them a chance to create their own shirts, said Cindy Weisheit, senior program manager at Shares, Inc., a not-for-profit which works with adults with physical and intellectual disabilities.

The visit was part of a series of art-related activities funded by an art education grant Shares, Inc. received last year.

Several artists have stopped by the Shares, Inc. center, at 645 S. State St. in Greenfield, to visit with the adults there, sharing a glimpse into their various art forms. Program participants have focused on various forms of art each month, from painting and drawing to sculpting.

This week’s visit was especially fun because they got to make their own T-shirts, each taking turns pressing the screen of ink down onto a shirt to imprint the design Rayner made — a collection of cartoon characters engaged in Shares, Inc. activities.

The visit was also fun for the Organic Robot staff.

The shop owner’s wife, Debbie Vetters, worked for years with children with disabilities. Working with the group from Shares, Inc. reminded her of what rewarding work that was, she said.

“It was great to see them all so happy making the shirts. They were all so joyful,” she said.

Weisheit said the field trip was a great way to cap off Disabilities Awareness Month, which takes place each March, while teaching the participants a new skill.

“They learned how to actually print a shirt themselves, which not only gives them a new work skill but gives them a sense of accomplishment,” she said.

Shares, Inc. is a multifaceted program headquartered in Rushville. Adults with physical and intellectual disabilities not only learn life skills but have the opportunity to earn a paycheck doing a variety of jobs at the center, from sorting to packaging.

The screenprinting trip was a great way to teach participants a skill while exposing them to a unique form of art, said Robin Jeffries, a life skills instructor for Shares, Inc. who accompanied the group on the field trip.

In addition to teaching life skills that run the gamut from education to recreation, Jeffries has also been managing the art programming made possible by a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.

In addition to hosting guest artists, Jeffries has been teaching participants about famous artists like Monet and van Gogh.

“Every month I cover a different artist and we do a project that mimics their art,” she said.

In Raney’s eyes, there’s no work of art that quite compares to the T-shirt she made with the design she drew in pencil, showcasing some top-notch artistic skills.

“She was just so happy when she first saw it,” said Vetters. “It was great seeing the smile light up her face.”