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Created4ACause in Chico

11/25/2015 08:58AM ● By Melissa Mendonca

Building Hopes

December 2015
By Melissa Mendonca
Photos: Paula Schultz

In a season of giving, the bar is often set high to find offerings with meaning. There are so many variables: Is it local? Handmade? Unique? Will a purchase support a good cause? If the questions overwhelm, a visit to Chico’s Created4ACause could be the remedy.

An endeavor of Butte County’s Work Training Center, the boutique is a place to find or make handmade gifts that resonate with the bonus of supporting individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities finding community through work.

The large, light-filled shop at 830 Broadway St. combines handmade retail in the space once used solely by All Fired Up, a ceramics painting studio. In acquiring the studio, the Work Training Center added a work and recreational opportunity for its clients as well as a spot to showcase the creations of its varied other work training programs, such as sewing and woodworking. Everything is open to the public, including ceramic painting.

“We’ve been successfully hosting paint-your-own-ceramics parties,” says Executive Director Don Krysakowski.

Visitors may paint their own ceramics to create personalized gifts or may choose from a selection of pieces created by clients, including painted bisqueware and freeform clay creations such as bowls, flower pots and Blessing Birds. The birds are hand-formed and hand painted, so each is one of a kind. They include a small hole for a personalized message, or blessing, to be written, rolled up, and delivered with the bird.

Created4ACause garden totems have become popular because they allow flexibility and creativity while staying simple as a way to add art to the yard. Created with ceramic pieces stacked on a metal pipe, a family can customize their own with each member painting a specific piece, or a customer may select multiple pieces created by Work Training Center clients. Or they may combine talents of family, friends and clients.

In the wood shop, clients create everything from small wooden soap boxes to large planter boxes to wine crates and owl and bat boxes. “We're constantly on the lookout for ways to personalize things,” says Krysakowski, noting that just about anything can be personalized with a company logo or message. A local rice company has its products artfully packaged in a customized box sized for shipping.

Clients in the sewing program create sturdy canvas bags ideal for farmer’s markets. They’ve constructed travel bags with clear plastic fronts to safely store TSA-approved toiletries in carryon items and keep a selection of string backpacks. Each item is developed with quality construction enough to be fine as a gift in and of itself. Or it can be the base for a custom project developed either by the giver or Work Training Center clients. The canvas bags, for example, may be painted and embellished for more personalized giving.

“The entire concept of the Work Training Center is that we’re trying to advance our clients’ abilities as much as we can,” says Krysakowski. He notes that there’s a “value and satisfaction they get from a job and a job well done.” While Created4ACause is one of the newest endeavors, it joins other opportunities, such as landscaping, recycling and light manufacturing.

“The challenge we have is to offer the variety of jobs that will allow people to move along
the socioeconomic spectrum,” he adds. About 400 clients are engaged in formal day and work programs, with another 300 or so joining in social events sponsored by the organization, including dances and field trips.

For while work is important, so too is play. “To the extent we can engage our clients in the community on a regular basis, it serves their plans well,” says Krysakowski, listing off places they have visited, including Turtle Bay and the Sundial Bridge, San Francisco Giants and Sacramento Rivercats games, and Seattle. Independent living is a goal the Work Training Center sets with clients, and this includes supporting social development as well as workability.

“A lot of our challenge is to convince local business owners the values and contributions of our clients,” he adds. They usually just need extra coaching to successfully get a job done. Otherwise, he says, they possess three of the most important qualities needed in an employee: they show up to work, are drug free and want to be there.

Whether you want base supplies for your own gifting creations, an opportunity to paint ceramics, or an opportunity to cross names off your gift list with ready-to-wrap handmade items, Created4ACause may just have what you need. And if you don't find exactly what you want, be sure to talk with someone. “We’re open to ideas,” says Krysakowski. “If nothing else, we’d like to make this a place the community has a definite
stake in holding onto.”

830 Broadway St., Chico