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Book of Dreams: Freedom of creating art inspires women in community program

For years, The Sacramento Bee's holiday drive has sought to help those in need in the capital region. Today, we start a new series of tales of hope and generosity.

Linda Tiefenthaler used to spend much of her day on her sofa, reading and avoiding the financial, physical and mental hardships facing her.

She wasn’t eating much. She shuttered herself in her house, unaware of what was happening in the world.

Then came Women’s Wisdom Art, a low-cost community art program for women overcoming homelessness, violence, illness and abuse.

Tiefenthaler began taking ceramics, weaving and jewelry classes, and swiftly fell in love with molding and shaping clay into pieces of art.

Now, she spends more than 40 hours a week producing artwork. She’s participated in art shows and had a quilt she crafted on display in the Crocker Art Museum. She also teaches young people at Allied Ceramic Art Institute in Fair Oaks.

“Women’s Wisdom Art brought me out of my isolation,” she said. “It gave me something to wake up for. It really saved me.”

The nonprofit organization, while helping dozens of women find comfort and solace, has had a bumpy existence. It was founded in 1991 as part of Maryhouse, a shelter for homeless women and children, and later it was folded into the auspices of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. In 2009, the food bank decided to focus on emergency services and funding to the art program was cut.

But the need continued. Last fall, the program reopened, offering six classes per week.

“Really, it was the women who convinced me to reopen,” said Helen Plenert, the program’s manager.

Donna Norris, a Women’s Wisdom Art supporter, has asked Book of Dreams readers to help purchase a color laser printer-scanner to help produce women’s art, including greeting cards. A large inventory of art supplies is also needed, Norris said.

It’s an invaluable program, said Constance King, a retired social worker whose daughter was referred to Women’s Wisdom Art. Both mother and daughter enjoy spending time in the comfortable, vibrant clubhouse at Max Baer Park in Sacramento.

“I was in and out of a lot of different programs during my career, but this one, in particular, is very good for women,” she said. “For many, it has changed their lifestyle. There’s just something about the unity that’s involved.”

The program has made a positive impact on her daughter, Mallory Knight, who has since begun taking courses at the Institute of Art and is aiming for a career in graphic design.

While Knight’s schooling is building her technical expertise, Women’s Wisdom Art provides something she wouldn’t get in a classroom.

“It feeds my spirit so I have the freedom to express myself,” she said.

Needed: Color laser printer-scanner, art and office supplies.

Total: $5,000

BOOK OF DREAMS WISHES

Here’s a list of wishes published so far in the series:

Dream: Help for avid book reader Priscilla Wong, who was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

Needed: An electronic page turner. Total: $350.

Dream: Mobile beds for the nonprofit Family Promise of Sacramento, which provides shelter for families and helps them overcome homelessness.

Needed: 14 rollaway beds and bedding. Total: $4,200.

Dream: Supplies for Wellness Within, a mind-body wellness center for cancer patients and their families.

Needed: Supplies for classes, food for nutrition classes, drums for meditative sessions, and art supplies. Total: $5,000.

Dream: Portable computers for Stephanie Spidell and her daughters, one of whom seeks a career in the medical field. One of Spidell’s daughters, 2-year-old Khya, was born with a brain malformation and died Nov. 22.

Needed: Three laptop computers. Total: $3,000.

Dream: Musical instruments for United Cerebral Palsy of Sacramento and Northern California’s Adult Day Program.

Needed: Set of instruments that can be played together in harmony. Total: $3,000

Dream: Household items for Volunteers of America’s Sacramento Senior Safe House, a six-bedroom emergency shelter for people 62 and older.

Needed: A dishwasher and other kitchen items. Total: $2,000.

Dream: Cold-weather apparel for HOPE Inc.’s “GLoven the Homeless” campaign.

Needed: 1,500 hats and gloves. Total: $4,000.

Book of Dreams 2013: Read all the dreams and make your donation

From the editor: With your generosity, we can help those in need

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