Creating a purpose

By Matt Ledger

The Elk Valley Crafters Association is a growing collection of woodworkers, painters and other artists. “The joke I used to tell was that we were 12 women and one old man,” Lesia Bergman says.

However, the number of crafters has now doubled since those early days. It now has 25 members … and one more man. Bergman, who joined in 2000, is in her third year as the group’s president. She was the youngest for several years, until she turned 59 in 2014 and a few younger crafters joined.

And they are more than just artists. The group’s members are devoted to using their skills to raise money to benefit a range of charities and local organizations.

Artistic origins

The group started off with five people — including woodworkers Wanda and Enos Yeager and china painter Betty Cousins — meeting informally for a few years. The handcraft hobbyists formed the nonprofit organization in 1995. In recent years, Cousins and the Yeagers passed away. However, two of those original founders are still with the group as honorary members — Ruth Monschein crochets clothes for dolls and Annette Harrison paints gourds.

During the 20 years that followed its creation, the crafter’s group has donated more than $60,000 to local charities and organizations. Individually, the artists take part in other crafting events and juried shows, with most averaging one show monthly. The Elk Valley Crafters have also united their passion for an even greater purpose.

Doug Atkins and his wife are wood carvers who like to create miniature wildlife figures.

Doug Atkins and his wife are wood carvers who like to create miniature wildlife figures.

Creating for a purpose

Lesia Bergman is a monogrammer who uses her embroidery machine to drop designs and initials on everything from towels to T-shirts. “I needed an outlet to make more of what I really enjoy creating,” she says.

Crafters work on their own throughout the year, stockpiling handmade creations for two annual events. In mid-November, the artists will take part in Fayetteville’s seasonal extravaganza, the 23rd Annual Host of Christmas Past. Their spring show occurs the second weekend in March.

From seniors to scout troops and from fire departments to the Junior House for abused children, these artists support nearly as many local programs as there are members in the group. “We believe in giving back to our community, especially those who need help the most,” says Chris Bussler, the group’s vice president. “I love that we are able to help the schools.” She became involved in 2010, starting with scrapbooking and crocheting. She has since expanded her artistic interests into drawing and painting.

At the beginning of each year, the group sets budgeted goals for each of the organizations and charities that they contribute toward. “We even donated a bicycle to a man after his was stolen,” Bergman says. “He rides daily to the nursing home to see his mother. If somebody needs us, we’re there to help.”

Elk Valley Crafters will be at Fayetteville’s Host of Christmas Past in Downtown Fayetteville, Tennessee, on Saturday, Nov. 14 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 15 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Elk Valley Crafters Association meets on the third Monday of each month, and their membership fee is $10 annually. Applications for those interested in becoming a new member are available at elkvalleycrafters.com.