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Friday, December 28, 2007

A friend of the Albert Shafsky House B&B in Placerville comes up with a great idea to help seniors

From yesterday's Mountain Democrat

Serving up joy and with each senior meal
By Rosemary Revell Democrat staff writer December 26, 2007 16:54
Photo by John Zachry THERESA ZACHRY organizes a program to create placemats for seniors. The placemats brighten the meals the seniors receive from the Home Delivered Meals service. One day in mid-December, placemats were spread out everywhere - 195 of them to be exact, all representing the art work of students in kindergarten through sixth grade at Gold Trail and Sutters Mill Schools.

The placemats were arranged like a sea of many colors, shining due to lamination, and they were all over the floor of the front lobby of Minuteman Press in Placerville. As well as having many colors, they also presented a variety of form and subject matter.

Since the placemats were destined for holiday, many had a Christmas theme while others were snowscapes or winterscapes, and some were smiley faces guaranteed to warm the heart of any senior recipient. Some placemats bore the name of the artist while others were inscribed with messages such as 'Hi, I hope you have a nice day.'

The placemats are the brain child of Theresa Zachry, 10, of Placerville, daughter of John and Carolyn Zachry. Theresa generated the idea as a project for the Girl Scouts of America Bronze Award, so she arranged for the art work and raised the funds that paid for laminating. She then engaged in distributing the placemats to seniors as a Christmas gift from the kids of El Dorado County.

Hot idea

The idea for Christmas placemats began one very hot July day.

'Over the summer, I was doing Home Delivered Meals with Rita Timewell (co-innkeeper of the Albert Shafsky House), and on one of the very hot days I made snowflakes to keep the seniors cool,' Theresa explained.

In a cooler time of year, Theresa was faced with the challenge of coming up with a project of worth.

'My mom and I were talking about what I needed to do to earn my Bronze Award for Girl Scouts. For the Bronze Award, you have to have a certain amount of badges in (specific) areas and then a project that spans 48 hours. Then we thought of placemats for seniors.'

The placemat project entailed quite a number of executive tasks for the Gold Trail School fifth grader. Theresa's first task was to arrange for the art work and placemats.

'I talked to the principals of Gold Trail and Sutters Mill, and they thought it was a wonderful idea,' said Theresa.

The principals talked to their teachers, and the teachers arranged for their students to draw or make a picture on placemat sized art paper.

'Most of the kids in the schools except for the 7th-and 8th-graders made a placemat,' Theresa said.

After acquiring the mats, Theresa's next task was to raise money to defray the cost of materials and labor for lamination.

'I raised money from Kiwanis, Network El Dorado and the Community Foundation - Steve Healy. I got $800 all together. I collected the placemats and my dad had them laminated,' Theresa said.

'I charged her for it, though. It took one employee all day,' said John Zachry, 50, owner/operator of Minuteman Press.

Theresa's remaining task for the Bronze Award was to make sure the placemats reach the target recipients.

'Everyone who does Home Delivered Meals is take some placemats, and my mom and I are passing them out at senior centers,' she said. 'The project took a long time. It was pretty hard.'

'Theresa already has a sense of community. My wife and I have been volunteers and on boards of directors, so she has seen that in her parents. She thinks of others first,' said John.

Zachry also said Theresa has natural entrepreneurial instincts as well as artistic tendencies.

'Whenever she spends time at Minuteman Press, she does artwork and sells it to customers. She's a rather persuasive little salesperson,' he said.

Theresa's art specialty is making refrigerator art for adults who do not have kids or grandchildren to make it for them.

'The ultimate goal of this Bronze Award project is to lighten up the day of a senior at one of the senior centers or the folks who receive Home Delivered Meals. The placemats are for them to keep and to remind them that our kids today really do care,' John said.

The Bronze Award is the highest honor a Junior Girl Scout can earn. It requires her to learn the leadership and planning skills necessary to follow through on a project that makes a positive impact on her community.

A group of Junior Girl Scouts themselves actually instituted the Bronze Award in 2001 in Savannah, Ga.

The four requirements to be eligible for the Bronze Award are: to earn two badges related to the project; to complete one of the Girl Scout Signs found in the 'Junior Girl Scout Handbook;' to earn the Junior Aide Award or the Junior Girl Scout Leadership Award or two other awards; and to complete a project specifically for the Bronze Award.

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