When the City of Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation Department had to eliminate its Senior Ceramics Program this January, more than a dozen area seniors came close to losing one of their most lively artistic outlets. But thanks to the Ecumenical Senior Center and a Good Neighbor Grant from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, pots, mugs, plates and other ceramics have found new kilns to call home.

Steve Youngblood, the City of Kalamazoo’s Aquatics and Special Populations Coordinator, helped manage the original City-run program. "The ESC stepped forward quickly when they heard that seniors were going to lose the ceramics program," he says. "The first class was held at the ESC on Feb. 28, 2012."

Ceramics classes are held once a week, with about 12 people participating in each class. Tina Krum is the instructor. Because it is a drop-in program, new participants are always welcome.

"When Tina and I were looking for a new location," Youngblood explains, "we met with Margaret Smith, the ESC’s interim director. We all tried to figure out how to make the transition work. One concern was that the ESC’s utility bills would soar. Another was that their two kilns needed repairs. So the Community Foundation grant ended up being the seed money that helped us move the program to the ESC."

An added, unexpected benefit has emerged from the transition. According to Smith, ceramics has brought more people to the center. "Once the ceramics participants see some of the other programs we offer, they want to become part of them. So there’s a bit of a renaissance going on here."

"This grant was tiny compared to what the Community Foundation gives out each year," notes Youngblood. "But we have up to 18 people every week making the best use of those funds, and they have been very excited to see this program continue. We would have lost it without the Community Foundation’s support."