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Opinion / Analysis / Essays

January 7, 2001 Sunday
BLACK BOARD: Lessons for Life Through the Arts
An Appreciative Home for That Lovely Noodle Collage

Children's art is one of those renewable resources that most parents hate to throw away. But youngsters are so prolific with their crayons, markers and paints that posting their creations on refrigerators with magnets will go only so far. So choices between clutter and the wastebasket must be made.

Debra Bercuvitz of South Deerfield, Mass., came up with an alternative to tossing out the precious artifacts of her daughter, Espy. And her idea is catching on at Espy's day care center.

She recycles the art through a local Meals on Wheels program. When older residents and others who have difficulty getting out receive prepared food at home, they might also get a 4-year-old's drawing, painting or even the occasional crown or noodle collage.

"I've always been interested in intergenerational work," said Ms. Bercuvitz, adding that she was very close to her grandmother. "I love being with old people, and I think they're so isolated."

So she set up a collection point -- a cardboard box perched on a filing cabinet in the director's office -- at the day care center. She distributed a letter to parents at the beginning of the year announcing her efforts and now it takes her only about 10 minutes a week to empty the box and take the contents to a local center for older people. "It's so nothing," Ms. Bercuvitz said. "It's the lowest energy volunteer thing that I've ever done."

Janet Filarey, a meal-site manager for the federally financed Meals on Wheels program who has 42 homebound clients, said the art deliveries had been a big hit. "They're tickled, they think it's great," she said.

Only once has Ms. Bercuvitz rejected a painting. A child had painted a piece of paper completely black. Although she saw merit in the toddler's "attachment to one color," she thought the piece might be depressing for the recipient.

All articles © Eric Goldscheider

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