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Published: Wednesday, 12/28/2011

Craft shows set up as venues for aid to others

Fees from exhibitors include food, toiletries

BY KATE GIAMMARISE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tania and Garry O'Brien, at a recent sale at an Elks lodge in Toledo, display a basket assembled by an exhibitor. The couple have donated to Humane Ohio and Cherry Street Mission Ministries. Tania and Garry O'Brien, at a recent sale at an Elks lodge in Toledo, display a basket assembled by an exhibitor. The couple have donated to Humane Ohio and Cherry Street Mission Ministries.
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Handmade jewelry. Gift baskets. Crocheted sweaters. Candles.

The items may look like typical craft-show fare, but they're much more than that, Tania O'Brien of West Toledo explained. She and her husband, Garry, run People Who Care of Ohio. They organize craft shows that collect items such as food for food banks, personal-care items for Cherry Street Mission, and pet food for Humane Ohio.

Everyone displaying wares at the show must bring a food item for donation; attendees can donate as well.

"We try to make a nice craft and gift show, but we also want it to be about giving back to the community," Mrs. O'Brien said.

The couple have been running the shows for about 15 years and have been married 17.

Mr. O'Brien is a retired assistant fire chief from Bedford Township, Michigan. Several years ago, part of one foot was amputated because of diabetes.

Multiple sclerosis limits Mrs. O'Brien's ability to walk.

"We wanted to not just sit around," she explained with a laugh. "We do what we can to make our lives meaningful."

She had no estimate of how much food or other items they have donated over the years. "Thousands," she said.

Since they began working last year with Humane Ohio, which runs a pet food bank, the O'Briens have collected more than 2,000 individual items, totaling 653 pounds of pet food and treats, Humane Ohio spokesman Jill Borkowski said.

"The fact that they do it on an ongoing basis is unique. They really keep the pets and people in mind, year round," Ms. Borkowski said.

The O'Briens have recently begun donating toiletry items such as shampoo to Cherry Street Mission Ministries.

"A few bags goes a long way," mission spokesman Ashley Shaffer said of the donated goods. "When we receive that from anybody we are extremely grateful" because the agency is serving about 240 people a night, she said.

Raising donations through craft shows is unusual, she said. "It is more typical to see a church group [making donations] -- a craft show is not the first thing we see," she said.

People Who Care can be contacted at 419-902-4225.

Contact Kate Giammarise at: kgiammarise@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.



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