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Festival features apples, artists

October 09, 2005|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa.

When asked to spell her last name, Kathy Bless says, "Bless. Just like 'God bless you.'"

The aptly named resident of Fayetteville, Pa., blesses bereaved parents with beautifully hand-painted boxes in which to store keepsakes of their baby.

Bless is a member of Apple Valley Painters, a local chapter of the national Society of Decorative Painters. The 71-member local group paints memory boxes, which are given to parents whose infants pass away at birth or shortly afterward.

Three members of the group worked on memory boxes at a table under a canopy Saturday as part of the 23rd annual Apple Festival, held at Tayamentasachta, the Greencastle-Antrim School District's environmental center.

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Apple Valley Painters President Barb Noel said the boxes go to several local hospitals, and bereaved parents use them to hold the birth certificate, crib card, cap, gown, wrist band or any other memorabilia of their child,

Some of the lids are painted with sayings such as "Each new life, no matter how fragile or brief, forever changes the world" and "In an instant, you touched our hearts forever."

Bless, who takes lessons at Rags 'n Lams Paint Studio in Waynesboro, Pa., said that painting "is a learned skill. It's a lot of fun."

She painted flowers on an oval blue lid Saturday morning, which was damp and cool.

The paint was "not drying too fast today," Noel said.

The Memory Box Artist Program Inc. began in 1998 as an all-volunteer effort to provide boxes for families of infants who pass away in the hospital so that the families did not leave the hospital without any representation of their child's life. To date, the program has provided more than 75,000 boxes for infant bereavement programs free of charge, according to the program's Web site.

Charles White, director of Tayamentasachta, said volunteers had sold 1,000 apple dumplings by 10:30 a.m.

"We usually make 1,500 dumplings, but made fewer because of the rain," White said. "But there were 30 people lined up by 8:45 a.m."

Usually, 2,000 to 3,000 people attend the event, which raises about $3,000 each year to support community and school programs at the 35-acre environmental center, White said.

Visitors sat at tables under pavilions and ate barbecued chicken despite the rain and cool breeze, which became cooler as the morning went on. The ducks on the pond seemed completely unaffected by the weather.

Several members of Cub Scout Pack 13 of Greencastle stood on a farm wagon, calling out to visitors to buy pumpkins, sunflower heads and Indian corn, all of which were grown at the environmental center.

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