Kathy McClure and Art McDaniel started Rescue Repurpose Redeem a little over a year ago with the guidance of Stephanie McKay of MUST’s Supportive Housing Clinic.
“We rescue things that other folks no longer want or need, repurpose them into something that is beautiful, creative and useful, and redeem self respect and dignity,” McKay said.
She runs the 40-unit housing complex in Marietta that provides shelter and support to individuals who have been homeless for any given amount of time.
“No one wakes up and chooses to be homeless or that they want to live with a disability,” McKay said. “It just happens, and some folks don’t know how to make good choices or they don’t have opportunities to make good choices or opportunities to make different choices. Many of them are not going to be employed in a traditional setting for various reasons, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t valued. I believe that our responsibility is to demonstrate their value to everyone else.”
McClure and McDaniel live in the housing complex now and work with four other artists in a shop off Osborne Road, sewing and crafting items such as bags, angel books, Christmas ornaments, wall hangings, cards and holiday decorations.
“This is about the people that we serve in this program,” McKay said. “It would be great to create a self-sustaining business enterprise — which we believe we are well on the way to doing. But the thing that’s most important and the thing that amazes on a daily basis is when you can actually observe someone regain their self confidence, to see them grow from victims to participants.
The nonprofit uses money raised from selling the one-of-a-kind handicrafts for business expenses like supplies and also gives back to MUST.
McKay’s vision is that in three to five years, the artisans will be able to “run the whole show.”
“I hope that they learn more than just a craft, but the responsibility to be a good employee,” she said.
McClure, 53, said she and McDaniel started sewing in her apartment last fall, making pin cushions and sashes with scrap fabric and stuffing while watching football games.
“I’ve been an artist most of my life and took art in high school and sewing,” she said. “I have fun doing it and believe it or not, it’s a good way to relieve stress — and then sometimes a good way to collect stress when it’s not turning out like you want it to.”
She spends about 50 hours a week in the shop.
Originally from the Roswell area, McClure has been in Cobb for nearly 20 years and receiving support from MUST for a number of years.
“The program and MUST gives me plenty to do,” she said. “My mind goes crazy trying to think of new things to make. I just have fun doing it!”
McDaniel, 52, said it’s been great to see how their small project has evolved.
“We’re growing and we’ve got plans for the future on how it’s going to work and what it’s going to look like,” he said. “I just have a great deal of faith that it’s going to happen, because what we’re doing is worthwhile.”
McDaniel, who has been in Cobb for about four years and moved here from Lawrenceville, said his mother taught him how to sew as a child.
“I’ve always been good with my hands. I used to do woodworking. I had my own business for a long time and was reasonably successful at it. (Sewing) satisfies that need in me,” he said. “This engages a part of your brain, the creative side.”
Another artist who joined the group about three months ago is Walter Beck. He comes from a family that worked in jewelry repair.
“I’m glad to have something to do,” Beck said. “It helps a lot to be able to have something to work on. It keeps your mind occupied, and you’re able to see other people enjoy it once you get through.”
Beck served in the Army for two years and lost his cousin at Fort Eustis in Virginia in a training exercise during the Gulf War.
The 42-year-old came to the MUST program from the veterans homeless shelter and now works in the shop for about six hours a day making ornaments and working mostly with magazine and wrapping-paper strips doing what artists call “quilling,” where they tightly coil the medium into shapes.
“It’s fairly natural to me, time consuming and some of it’s monotonous. But when you get through with it, it makes it worth it,” he added.
Another resident familiar with jewelry work and who is looking forward to introducing that craft to the program is Donna Cheek.
“I love doing arts and crafts so (RRR) was a blessing,” said the 51-year-old originally from Decatur. “I’m not that good at everything but I always have liked to do things like this.”
Cheek, who’s been in the housing unit for about two months, said she enjoys the camaraderie of being with her fellow artisans.
“When things are not going great in your life and you come and people make you laugh, you forget about your problems,” she said.
Jon Sherrill works in the shop for a few hours each day and the 53-year-old credits the program for saving his life.
“I am a person with an illness and I need to be around people and I need to be distracted so I don’t have racing thoughts,” he said. “Rather than just sitting in my apartment and feeling sorry for myself, I’m actually getting out and doing things. Interacting with people gets me out of my comfort zone.”
He has been supported by MUST for a little less than four years.
The former model-trains crafter makes about a dozen holiday ornaments a day using old hymnal pages.
Volunteer Dawn Ettinger, 42, works with Sherrill on the ornaments and has been in the unit for about eight months.
“I think I’ve always been creative, I just never had a chance to show how creative I am,” she said.
Her favorite part is seeing what project they’ll come up with next.
Ornaments are $5 and can be purchased at MUST Ministries, 1407 Cobb Parkway, in Marietta.
To purchase other items, such as the intricately sewn house bags ($38), call Stephanie McKay at (678)993-6893 or the MUST Ministries main office at (770)427-9862.