Special bazaar features crafts of developmentally disabled


Clients of West Bay Residential Services, Inc. held their first annual holiday bazaar on Friday and sold quality handmade items, most of which are produced by the people West Bay supports through its residential and day service programs.

Crafts included Christmas ornaments, wreaths, handbags, pottery, magnets, themed gift baskets, paintings, greeting cards, and even baked goods.

They were joined by two other Rhode Island agencies dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with disabilities, Gateways to Change and Project Friends. All three organizations encourage clients to get out into the workforce and as a result, many participants began their own businesses.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., clients earned cash for their products, which they kept for their own needs.

“I’m saving my money to go on a Disney Cruise,” said Lisa Marotto, 46, who made and sold pottery bowls and magnets.

Debbie Jette, 36, helped make jewelry.

“I like making sales,” she said. “Santa Claus is my favorite part of Christmas.”

Gloria Bray, 42, who asked Santa for a new radio for Christmas, enjoys painting wooden ornaments.

“It makes me happy,” she said.

Cathy Keithan, 38, paints independently and sold her artwork. Additionally, she crafted 52-by-52-inch tablecloths with matching napkins, as well as aprons, bookmarks, jewelry and greeting cards.

“I can make practically anything,” she said.

Keri Hickey, 29, enjoyed selling AVON products. She has been working for the company that promotes makeup, skincare, jewelry and other items for women for eight months.

“I love it,” she said.

Wheelchair-bound clients create crafts, too. They design and instruct the staff to put together their visions.

Rebecca Beaton, 29, and Rebekah Larko, 28, are two examples.

“I make cards on the computer,” Beaton said.

She also constructs jewelry. Diane Scott, direct care provider, assists her with stringing the beads.

“I’ll say, ‘What do you think about this?’ and she’ll say, ‘Oh, no,’ and we both laugh,” said Scott. “Her designs always sell the most. She’s brilliant at it.”

Larko helped make various crafts, as well. While she cannot speak, she uses a communication board, a chart with letters and symbols on it, to express her thoughts. She said the best part of the bazaar is, “To make money.”

Penny Merris, the day activity director, laughed at Larko’s answer. She thinks taking part in crafting their items is important for clients.

“They enjoy making things and are such a big part of the creative process,” said Merris. “It’s great for their self-esteem because they are selling things that people value and it’s good for socializing because they are meeting people from the community.”

Scott agreed and said it helps them build confidence while showing the community the activities they do.

“It’s very rewarding and reflects the work they’ve done all year long,” she said.

Joan Horta, a member of the support staff at Gateways to Change and wife of Armand J. Horta, who was selling his book, “God’s Intentions for Mankind,” feels the same.

“They are proud of themselves and feel grateful to be earning their own money,” she said.

Paul Scott, 34, is a carrier for the Beacon. He spent his time selling cookies at the bazaar.

“I’m having a good time,” he said.

But he isn’t the only client that works for the Beacon. Other carriers include Ed Corvese, 50; Stacy Upham, 27; Ronnie Johnson, 34; Arthur Seale, 28; Raul Rosa, 51; John Petit, 29; Mary Buckley, 50; Karen Jette, 64; and John Petisce, 49.

West Bay Residential Services, Inc., which celebrated their 35th anniversary last month, was established in 1981 and is located at 158 Knight Street. It is a private, non-profit organization providing services to people challenged by differing abilities. With a staff of more than 350, they provide support to more than 130 individuals in communities throughout the state.


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