KINDER, GENTLER TOYS Peace Place offers items that focus on self-fulfillment


And into plowshares turn their swords,

Nations shall learn war no more.

"Vine and Fig Tree"

The words of the children's song, based on the biblical verse in the Book of Isaiah, have taken on new meaning for the Peace Place, a new store at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor.

This weekend, the peace-promoting resource center is sponsoring a war toy turn-in.

Children will dismantle their "toys of violence" and recycle the usable parts and, in exchange, be given $5 gift certificates good at the shop.

"We're hoping to get people to think about the issue of what their kids play with," said Tom Hurst, director of the On Earth Peace Assembly.

"We see too many times around here that parents are buying things for children that focus in on the worst part of human behavior," he said.

"We want to say that there are alternatives."

The Peace Place, which opened Oct. 2 in the basement of Windsor Hall, is all about choices, Mr. Hurst said.

During this weekend's celebration, which begins tomorrow, a 10-percent storewide discount will help visitors become acquainted with the store's unusual merchandise.

Visitors to the shop Saturday will not only be able to turn in war toys -- accepted from the first 100 families -- but they can take part in face-painting, sing-alongs and storytelling during the daylong festivities for kids.

"On Earth Peace Assembly Inc., the parent organization, is proud to announce to the community the opening of a store where adults and children alike can come and feel a sense of safety in what they purchase," Mr. Hurst said.

"We want to offer them items that focus on creativity, imagination, sensitivity and feelings. What we want to do is carry resources to help people get along with each other."

The conflict management material for home, school and churches is only part of the store's stock, which emphasizes human harmony and self-fulfillment.

T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers come emblazoned with anti-conflict slogans -- "War is no game. Why buy war toys?" and "Resist Selective Service Registration. It's Quick. It's Easy. It's a Higher Law." They hang on the walls and on revolving racks throughout the one-room shop.

Parents looking for this week's permutation of the Teen-age Mutant Ninja Turtles had better shop elsewhere.

From the language tapes and origami kits to the soap bubble makers and rubber band-propelled wooden boats, just about every toy represents the difference between the commercially popular and the creatively educational.

"It's not a big place, but it's here," Mr. Hurst said, walking around the shop.

"At least we can tell adults in town that they no longer can say they have no place to go except [toy stores] with those aisles with the guns and rifles."

Shelves are filled with books about subjects with which children can identify.

Books such as "Black Like Kyra, White Like Me" by Judith Vigna and "We Adopted You, Benjamin Koo" by Linda W. Girard, expose children to facets of life they may have come into contact with, but are unable to understand.

Other books in the collection -- on abuse, the stages of pregnancy and growing up -- are designed to encourage children and their parents to examine their beliefs.

"We are promoting new ways of looking at things," Mr. Hurst said.

"When you read something here, you either reaffirm your belief or you come away having learned something new," he added.

For information on the Peace Place or this weekend's events, call the store: (410) 635-8708.

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