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Mental health clients' art exhibited in Chambersburg

April 27, 2003

tammyb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Patrons at the Chambersburg Mall this weekend had an opportunity to vote for their favorite piece of art - and learn a little more about recovery from mental illness - at the 10th annual Drawing On Our Dreams art show.

The show was sponsored by the Franklin/Fulton County Community Support Program, a coalition of mental health professionals, clients and their family members.

Mall patrons were invited to cast a vote for which of the 91 entries - created by mentally disabled adults - should win. When the votes are tallied by early next week, $50 will be awarded for first prize, $30 for second and $20 for third.

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But winners and prizes weren't the focus of two of the participants on hand Saturday to show shoppers where to vote.

The community needs to understand some of the talents of the mentally disabled, said Lee W. Geisinger of Chambersburg, whose essay on President Eisenhower was one of five literary entries.

"We have the same dreams and aspirations of ordinary people. But we suffer from a disease of the human brain," he said.

Geisinger, who is co-chairman of the Community Support Program, said he hopes the art show and other activities will help show the public that "mental illness is not something to be afraid of; it's something to learn about. We're trying to get across more general understanding."

There was plenty of talent on display - creations included everything from poems to paintings to clothing to hats. There were even a couple of Elvis quilts.

"We worked hard on the stuff," said Mary Kauffman of Chambersburg, whose 11 pieces in the exhibit included floral hats and baskets.

"The hardest thing for me to do was the hats," she said.

Kauffman said it took several weeks to pull the exhibit together.

"A lot of people worked their fingers to the bone," she said.

Participants made many of the items at the New Horizon Club House, a center for mental health clients in downtown Chambersburg. Kauffman, who has cerebral palsy, said she'd never attempted any art projects before she started going to New Horizon.

Her visits there changed her in other ways, too.

"I'm starting to trust people, which I would never have done before," she said. "I was afraid to be out among people. Now here I am, with things in my life I would never have gotten into ...

"I was told people with cerebral palsy wouldn't amount to nothing," she said.

Now, Kauffman helps with local project for United Cerebral Palsy as well as the Community Support Program.

"With God's help, I got like I am today," she said.




What: 10th annual Drawing On Our Dreams art show, sponsored by the Franklin/Fulton County Community Support Program.

When: Through May.

Where: Shape Gallery, 39 W. King St., Shippensburg, Pa.

For information, call 1-717-263-3548.

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