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Group of disabled adults takes on projects for those in need around Demorest

POSTED: November 25, 2012 12:00 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Horace Leachman talks to Denise Eller about some of his artwork in the Dream Weavers Gallery in Demorest.

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A group of developmentally disabled adults in Demorest is using its members’ creativity to help others in their community overcome life’s challenges.

The Dream Weavers meet twice a week at Avita Community Partners, a community service board serving North Georgians with mental illness, addictive disease and developmental disabilities.

Each week, they look for people to help and come up with ideas to accomplish those goals.

"They’ve chosen to use their group time as an advocacy group," Denise Eller said.

Eller has been overseeing the group since it started 13 years ago.

Members may bring in a newspaper article that highlights a problem, or someone from the community may bring an idea to them.

Eller said working with the group is always fun because she never knows what sort of project it might choose to work on.

"It’s a huge variety of things they give back to," Eller said.

Among the Dream Weavers’ list of community projects: raising money to purchase a washer and dryer for a young couple in need; volunteering at Freedom Hill, a women’s recovery and transition home in Demorest; and collecting canned goods for food drives.

Members even have made contributions to the lives of people in other countries by helping raise money for earthquake victims in Haiti, and have donated to Heifer International to buy livestock for families in developing countries.

Sometimes the projects are much simpler and hit closer to home.

Eller said the group heard about an elderly woman’s husband who died a few weeks before her birthday. Knowing the woman would be alone on her birthday, members baked her a cupcake and went to her house, where they greeted her with a song and a candle for her to make a wish.

David Brock, a member of Dream Weavers, said helping other people is the best part about being in the group.

"I think it’s good things we’re doing," Brock said.

Member Wanda Kilgore says her favorite project has been creating owl dream catchers out of old sweaters for children. The owls then were donated to Children’s Center for Hope and Healing in Gainesville.

"We give people stuff in the community and that makes me feel good to help out other people," Kilgore said.

The group often makes crafts out of recycled materials, just another way its members try to make a difference. They use discarded materials like tin cans, pet food bags and even dryer lint to come up with their projects.

"It’s a goal to not have to go to Wal-Mart and buy materials. It’s caused our folks to get creative," Eller said.

Some of their artwork and crafts were displayed on the set of the movie "Wanderlust" staring Jennifer Aniston.

While the Dream Weavers are eager to help the other members of their community, the program benefits members in several ways. It provides them with an opportunity to work on social and communication skills while giving them a creative outlet.

The success of the program has prompted other counties to start similar efforts in their communities. Developmentally disabled adults from Toccoa, Carnesville and Hartwell have come to spend the day with the Dream Weavers. They worked on projects like the owl dream catchers to take back to their communities.

It also gives them the opportunity to show that even though they have disabilities, they have the same desires to help people who are struggling.

Eller said the group has shown her that people shouldn’t be labeled.

"There doesn’t need to be a category. We need to be working together," Eller said.



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