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Buying crafts, to help a cause Providence Center creates, sells art to aid disabled workers; Sales brisk at holidays; 470 adults receive training to give them productive lives


At the Captain's Corner gift shop in Loews Annapolis Hotel, it's the Providence Center label that counts.

It's not that the pottery, woodwork, paintings and crafts aren't alluring enough. It's just that spending money for a work of art and helping a good cause at the same time is more appealing.

All crafts sold by the shop benefit Providence Center Inc., a private, nonprofit organization based in Severna Park that has placed adults with developmental disabilities in jobs for 35 years.

"My feeling is that it's all very good work," said Sharon Block of Annapolis, who was admiring the crafts and searching for large pottery pieces as Christmas presents for family members. "But everything that you buy goes to help [the center], too.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," Block said.

From Adirondack chairs to flowered wreaths, the products of Providence workers are selling quickly.

The center has signed contracts with Baltimore-Washington-area corporations and businesses to produce crab mallets and wooden crafts.

Providence products are sold at the Loews Annapolis shop and another store at Festival Mall in Pasadena.

Providence handicrafts designed with sailboats, crabs and anchors also are sold at the Naval Academy gift shop, the National Aquarium in Baltimore and shops across the state.

The Yield House Furniture Makers' catalog offers its customers a choice of pinewood toys -- a yellow bus, red car and white rabbit on wheels -- made by Providence workers.

"I think people really buy into the concept of what we do, and that is train adults with disabilities to contribute to the community," said Susan Dodwell, who runs the Annapolis shop and handles retail sales for the center.

"I think people are into the giving-back mode because this project really helps people support something good in the community," she said.

"Plus, they're just great gifts," she added.

Providence Center began with six children in a farmhouse in Annapolis. Then, the center served only young children, because most weren't guaranteed a public education until the mid-1970s because of their disabilities.

But as business grew and more people sought its services, the center expanded to nine business and workshop locations in Annapolis and Pasadena.

Now, the center serves 470 developmentally disabled adults by offering job-training programs to help them lead productive lives. In addition to finding individuals jobs in businesses throughout the community, the center also provides activities for clients who produce popular artwork and handcrafts.

"This is one of our busiest times of year," said Charles E. Coble, executive director of the center. "Our mission here is to keep our clients working and earning a paycheck. It really gives them that sense of self-determination, and that's important."

Shuttle buses take the center's adults, or "clients," to programs designed to develop and maintain their employment skills, artistic talent and life-coping abilities.

Throughout the week, clients work at area businesses, including rTC Dunkin' Donuts, Maryland Hall of Records and a Wendy's fast-food restaurant in Annapolis.

Others work at the center's Baldwin Industries workshop in Arnold, where they do mass mailings, packaging and materials assembly for businesses in the Baltimore-Washington area.

On a more artistic level, clients can learn dance and drama in classes offered at Maryland Hall School for the Creative Arts in Annapolis. The center's Art Institute allows them to fire a kiln and spin a pottery wheel to make bowls, mugs, pitchers and other earthenware.

At the Earthtones Pottery Studio in Millersville, Eugene Harvey has drilled hundreds of thousands of holes into pieces of wood to create chairs, piggy banks and birdhouses sold by the center.

With about 30 other adults, Harvey helped drill, sand and assemble almost 900 wooden dolphin ornaments to ship for the holiday season.

"I'm back here by myself and I'm all independent," said Harvey, 43, who has been with the center for 15 years. "They trust me a lot, and what we make will become Christmas gifts and birthday presents."

Pub Date: 12/23/96

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