After Fr. Vince’s September trip to El Recreo and his homily regarding his trip, my thoughts were stimulated on how I could assist the people during their food and water crisis. Being involved in agricultural and having an awareness of weather and crop dilemmas, but never to the degree of what was being experienced in El Recreo, I concentrated on what I could do to help. I wanted to create a project with symbolic meaning that incorporated a personal touch that showed how we cared about their dilemma.
The choice of making wreaths was generated by the symbolic meaning that emphasized generosity and the giving and gathering of loved ones. My goal was to handcraft wreaths with all natural supplies gathered in Iowa rural area. The wreaths could then be sold with all the proceeds going to purchase edible corn for the people of El Recreo.
I have an art design background with training and experience of more than 30 years in this field. Along with being employed in the industry, I served on several Boards of Directors, where I implemented marketing designs for retail and non-profit organizations. Over the years I have made hundreds of different styles of wreaths. For the El Recreo project, I created five 12”-diameter wreaths, one 30” wreath, and 20 8” candle wreaths.
With the help of family members–Jessica Shafer, Tyler and Charlie Shafer, and Nicholas Thompson, the wreaths were created in just two weeks. Our wreath-making gatherings were filled with fun and happiness, but most importantly, it was the awareness that we were helping those less fortunate that made it even more gratifying.
Making the wreaths was a labor-intensive mission as all materials were gathered and assembled by hand. The wreath forms were created from willow branches. The corn was picked, shucked, trimmed, and soaked in water. Our biggest challenge was drying the materials appropriately, nevertheless, this was solved by using an old corn crib with excellent airflow. The corn crib served a dual purpose as it also functioned as our work station. In addition, this old building resonated a divine state of peacefulness, beauty, and fulfillment.
The small crosses that adorned each wreath were made from maple twigs and wrapped with twine. Shelled corn was collected directly from the combine. Bittersweet, wheat, grasses, ornamental corn, and leaves were hot glued in place. Small paper bags were decorated with a message of intent and thank-you notes of support were attached to each wreath.
This project was very spiritually fulfilling for me. We all live in fragile conditions and share many life experiences. No matter what our skill set, we all have the opportunity to provide services in different ways to assist others.
By Teresa Shafer