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Craft class puts life and baubles on the table

Mickey Cline, one of nine women gathered around a table at Rose Haven shelter for women, is crafting a necklace from the colorful array of materials that volunteer Lee Greer has laid out for the women.

'Oh, I know exactly what I'm up to now,' Cline says, nodding enthusiastically as she selects beads from a large plastic bin. 'This is going to be the best one yet.'

For the past three years, Greer has offered her time, skills and patient ear to those who come to Rose Haven for her weekly beading class.

The lesson is just one of the services provided by the community center in Old Town-Chinatown, which provides a safe refuge for women and their children who are homeless or in transition.

Every Thursday at 9 a.m., Greer wheels in a caddy laden with beads and related supplies. For the next two and a half hours, she will coach the women through a new or in-progress bead project.

Perhaps most importantly, the session also has become a therapeutic outlet for the group, a time to talk, listen or simply relax in the room's warmth and the Zen-like repetition of the craft.

'This is a time for sharing, but there's no expectation to talk,' Greer says. 'The only real requirement is that you be peaceable.'

Eight women in

Freddy McCamey is one of the first women to settle in at the beading table, centered in a room surrounded by cupboards labeled with their contents, including personal hygiene, towels and baby clothes.

'This is so cool Ñ thank you,' says McCamey, an experienced beader who's pleased with the small loom that Greer has brought her today. The rest of the women are content to create a necklace and, if time allows, a matching bracelet.

'I limit it to simple stringing projects, mostly because I don't know how often people will be here from week to week,' says Greer, securing one of the many closures she'll do at this session, adding that she's found eight to be the magic number of participants. 'It got to be too chaotic when we had more people around the table.'

The women are free to take a special project home to work on during the week, but they're not allowed to bring home additional materials, the cost of which adds up quickly.

The Portland Bead Society has funded Greer's efforts, recently adding another $500 to its original $2,000 donation.

A bead at a time

While they work, several of the women eat food that's been delivered from local grocery stores. Today there are Valentine's Day cakes that never made it to the desired recipient, and chef salads without dressing.

'It's hard to resist those cakes, but I'm trying to lose weight,' says beader Karen Kindreds, considering the fare. 'I wish they had healthier things for us to eat here, but I guess that's all they have to give out.'

Like most of the women at the table, Kindreds now lives in a low-income apartment after having been homeless. Despite her new permanent address, the friendly faces and supportive staff at Rose Haven are still an important part of her improved life.

'I come here every day,' says Kindreds, who's looking forward to studying art next term at Mount Hood Community College. 'This place is a godsend.'

Rose Haven counselor Stephanie Banka says the shelter encourages the kind of initiative that Greer showed in approaching them. 'We're always looking for people who want to share their own skills.'

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