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Westminster teen takes creative approach to helps restart veterans' lives

Auction ServiceCultureJeff ChaneyBaltimore School for the Arts

Westminster High School student Madeline White, 16, was fairly far from home Nov. 11, attending an event in Baltimore on Veterans Day.

But she was there, among some 300 attendees, sharing a view of "home" that could help homeless veterans across the state.

The event was "re-StART with Art," an art auction and gala at Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore to benefit Baltimore Station — a residential recovery program treats men, mostly war veterans, who battle homelessness, substance abuse and lack of job skills.

White was among many students throughout the region — most members of their schools' National Art Honor Society chapters — who contributed paintings and photos, as well as specially painted doors that symbolized doors to recovery for the homeless and addicted men.

White, a junior at Westminster High, designed a door that depicted a barren landscape in front of a fence — and a serene meadow with lighted trees behind the fence.

It also included her personal written message, which said:

"My nightmares can't follow me into my reality, unless I allow it.

My past, my pain is just another nightmare.

I don't let it hold me back.

I escape."

White, whose mother, Judith James, is Baltimore Station's volunteer coordinator, was volunteering for the third year in a row.

But her door was not part of a school art project.

In fact, she admitted, "My high school doesn't even know I did it."

Also donating art to be auctioned at the annual fundraiser were professional artists and Baltimore Station graduates, as well as students from the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Baltimore School for the Arts.

"It's a great cause," said Mount Washington resident Alex Kramer, the other co-chairman, who works for an architectural and design firm.

Kramer said his involvement is partly personal, because his brother is a veteran, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Fortunately, he came back well, but not everybody does," Kramer said.

White and other students also served as volunteers, working alongside residents of Baltimore Station.

Clean and sober, and wearing his Baltimore Station T-shirt, Vietnam War veteran Jeff Chaney was one of the residents working at the event. He had something to prove.

"I can give 100 percent," said the Baltimore native, 58, who served time for assault before learning about the program. Chaney now lives at Baltimore Station.

Residents can live there for up to two years, as long as they remain drug-and-alcohol-free. Chaney isn't planning on leaving any time soon.

"This is the longest I've ever been sober," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Auction ServiceCultureJeff ChaneyBaltimore School for the Arts
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