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East Ridge at Cutler Bay has many talented crafters and the community’s annual holiday bazaar is the culmination of their efforts.

The bazaar is a fundraiser for the community and one of the two major fundraising events of the year.

The ‘Villager Crafters’ meet every Monday at 2 pm in the craft room at the community’s Lifestyle Center. Residents craft their own projects but come together to hash out ideas.  Organizer Barbara Sims is wealth of inspiration.

“We bring ideas to the group and decide what we want to create,” she said. “We may start a craft together on a Monday and take projects home to complete them.  Multiple projects can be underway fitting someone’s interest.”

Many items are created that residents can use at East Ridge.  From refrigerator magnets, throw pillows, totes for assistive devices and door wreaths, there is an endless list of projects the crafters make.

“We try to be very frugal and recycle using items from the East Ridge thrift store,” resident Fran Plummer explains. “For example, old Christmas ornaments can be revitalized with a new look.  Someone once said they had some wine corks and these were transformed into bulletin boards, hot plates, coasters and holiday wreaths. We’re always on the lookout for things to repurpose and craft.”

Fran’s specialty is peacock wreaths since so many peacocks wander through the community. During mating season their feathers can be found in the grass.  She said her neighbors are gracious enough to lookout for these feathers and often leave dozens of them on her doorstep.

“Usually, everyone puts the feathers in a vase but I wanted to do something different. I looked up peacock feathers and crafts on the internet and found feather wreaths,” she said. “I then went to JoAnn Fabrics for supplies.  Now it’s not unusual for me to make 35-40 wreaths each season.  You can see many on the front doors of East Ridge residences.”

Discovering her crafting passion was something that came when she moved to East Ridge.

“Living at East Ridge is like being a teenager,” said Fran. “There are no responsibilities.  I have time to learn new things and don’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning my home.”

Barbara’s crafting specialty is sewing and appliqueing adult bibs. Fashioned from washable cotton, her women’s style resembles a blouse with rows of lace trim or eyelet.  The men’s version is a conservative print with an applique white collar and fabric tie.

According to many experts, crafting has many therapeutic benefits.  British physiotherapist Betsan Corkhill conducted an online survey and 81 percent of 3,545 knitters said they felt happier after knitting. The results were published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy.  Dedicated knitters reported higher cognitive functioning and even those who were clinically depressed said knitting made them feel happier.

Crafting has been found to help people unwind as well.  Studies indicate that crafting is an exercise in mindfulness.  The repetitive motion of sewing a stich or painting calms one’s state of mind.  A meditative state is produced that enhances the release of serotonin.

Crafting also builds self-esteem and communal support.  People have a greater sense of self-worth and connection though a group of crafters.  To be able to say, “I made this” is a process of envisioning, producing and realizing a product in its final form. There’s a physical bonus too. Something as simple as threading a needle, gluing and pasting is good for hand-eye coordination.  Studies show that people who are engaged in leisurely activities including knitting are less likely to develop dementia.

So when our residents and families head to the Holiday Bazaar they are validating the talents of our crafters and helping East Ridge as well.