September 10, 2014 // 10:11 AM
Meet the Mountain View Vision and Design Team
Written by Scott Miller
If “service” sounds synonymous with “drudgery,” you haven’t lived at Garden Spot Village, where giving back and having fun are often one in the same. Many of the Village’s more than 40 “official” interest groups and many informal ones give back in many ways—some of them quite unique. Take, for example, the women of the Mountain View Vision & Design Team. While bonding over their love of handicrafts, this group of dynamic and delightful women is supporting the Garden Spot Village Benevolent Fund, participating in the global fair trade movement and changing the face of personal care.
Starting with soap
When the Mountain View personal care community began its culture change journey in 2008, leadership encouraged team members to draw on their personal talents and abilities to develop activities. Denise Hoak, Director of Personal Care Services, brought in her soap-making supplies, and a group of women made soap to sell at a craft table during the Garden Spot Village Fall Festival. Thus was born the Mountain View Vision & Design Team.
“The soap was a big hit, and we have made it for the Fall Festival ever since. The women make the soap and then wrap it and decorate it using flowers we have pressed during the summer,” says Diane Pechart, Activities Director at Mountain View. The women also make notecards and frame wall art using pressed flowers. In time for Christmas 2012, with encouragement from Deborah Fast, Director of Volunteer Services, the women really began to spread their wings.
“Deborah liked our soap very much, so she talked to Diane, ” said Gladys Ziegenfus, who moved to Garden Spot Village from Palmerton, Pa., in 2009. The Team developed a line of soap exclusively for the Village Store. “We had no idea it would take off like it has.”
The women make the soap in a variety of scents, such as English lavender, eucalyptus mint, and oatmeal honey, plus limited-edition scents like Winter Solstice. They also make lotions in scents like “Choc-O-Raz” and “Mountain View Breeze.” Their packages bear a butterfly motif. (The community raises and releases butterflies every year.) Last summer the group did a Spa Day at the Village Store, using their Mystic Mint lotion to give hand massages.
Reaching around the world
About two years ago, a volunteer taught the group the art of tea bag folding, making intricate designs out of folded paper. A buyer from Ten Thousand Villages, the global fair trade retailer that grew out of Mennonite Central Committee, saw the designs—and the group’s potential. Today, in addition to making soaps, lotions and other crafts, the group develops folded paper designs and product prototypes to inspire a group of artisan women in Bangladesh who sell their handmade items through Ten Thousand Villages in order to support their families and their communities.
“Thanks to Garden Spot Village’s openness to innovation, what began as a tea bag folding project has really grown into something much broader,” says Deborah Fast.
The team has a core of four or five members, ranging in age from early 60s to 100-plus, who get together every other week. They meet with Melissa Hand, a buyer from Ten Thousand Villages, about twice a year. Other members join in depending on the project at hand.
“When we get together, the ideas just flow. The energy and enthusiasm has a positive effect on all of us,” says Ziegenfus. “It’s a real team effort.”
The first Mountain View design to go through the long development process is a card featuring a folded paper Christmas tree. The design is currently in production in Bangladesh and is expected to be available on the Ten Thousand Villages website and in its retail stores this fall. The card uses paper that the artisans make from water hyacinths, a weed that clogs waterways.
Most of the artisans involved in the handmade paper project are female heads of household who have no land or assets. Revenue sharing from the sale of the Christmas tree card and other items gives them a source of income. Closer to home, sales of the Mountain View Vision & Design Team soaps and lotions in the Village Store support the Garden Spot Village Benevolent Fund, which benefits other residents who, for reasons beyond their control, need financial assistance. What’s more, team members are helping shatter stereotypes and inspiring those around them to enhance their lives by serving regardless of age or healthcare status. Not least of all, they are showing that service can be a lot of fun.
“We genuinely like each other and have fun doing it,” says Ziegenfus. “I feel surrounded by love all the time.”