The members of R and R Craft Class at St. Luke's-Winters Lutheran Church in New Windsor take recycling seriously.
And, they make it fun.
The nine members -- Helene Novotny, Betty Munshaur, Helen Palochonski, Mary Lou Shuman, Charlotte Mullich, Ione Wunderlich, Barbara Devilbiss, Thelma Lee Thompson and Nancy Parrish -- bring discarded household items to class. From the throwaways they create works of art.
"We try to make a useful item, decorative or otherwise, out of something that would normally go to the landfill," said Kellie Mendenhall, the class instructor. "We try to rescue things and find another way to use them."
From scraps of wood have risen perpetual calendars and bird feeders.
Dish detergent bottles have made sturdy bases, and have given form to various dolls.
Cardboard and scraps have been turned into sun bonnets.
Wicker paper-plate holders have formed the faces of pumpkin men for Halloween.
Church bulletins and yarn have made decorative necklaces.
Squares of old jeans and colorful plastic newspaper bags have become textured patchwork.
Even the table decorations for the church's Christmas banquet were made of recyclable materials.
"It's been a thoughtful and creative process," Mrs. Mendenhall said. The possibilities are endless, she said.
Mrs. Mendenhall formed the group three years ago because she believed there was a need to continue using items that were being needlessly sent to landfills. "I saw so many things going in the trash," she said. "I thought there's got to be some way we can make an impact."
Mrs. Mendenhall added that St. Luke's congregation has become environmentally conscious.
Usually class participants use only their own supplies to create their crafts. When an idea flourishes and more recyclables are needed, however, the class can count on other church members.
Some of the products the class creates are kept for personal enjoyment. Others are sold at the Church's Strawberry Festival. Proceeds from the sales are used for church necessities.
One woman in the group teaches what she has learned to her granddaughter.
But even more important, said Mrs. Mendenhall, is the camaraderie that has flourished among the women. "What started as an environmental awareness class has improved fellowship within the class and has extended both within the church and to family members," she said.
For some of the women, the sessions have been therapeutic. She said the R's in the class name stand for many things, including rest, recuperation, recycling, relief and rejoicing. Sometimes when stresses are too great in their private lives, the women have each other to lean on and gain strength, she said.
"It's a wonderful side effect of the class that we hadn't expected," Mrs. Mendenhall said.
Wednesday mornings are pleasurable times when the women can come together, use their imaginations and share two hours of fellowship. "They've added a spark to our congregation," the Rev. Darrell Layman said of the women.