Crafting the ‘Before and After’

(from left to right) Seniors Emily Hay, Ashley McGuire and Amanda Mazzaro show off their craft tools. Photo by Dianna Wood

By Heather Mead

Instead of spending their free time watching movies, playing games or spending time with friends, seniors Emily Hay, Amanda Mazzaro and Ashley McGuire have started a ministry.

The three seniors began the program “Before and After,” in which they fix up “junk” to sell and share the Word with the customers they meet.

The Bible inspired the title of the ministry.

“God takes us when we’re broken and basically useless and makes us into something new,” McGuire said.

The girls do the same with the trash they find, creating crafts.

They find inspiration in items they see on the side of the road, in dumpsters, and in thrift stores and garage sales.

The girls make a variety of items including Hay’s button bracelets, Mazzaro’s spoon bracelets and McGuire’s record moldings.

Hay once made a wallet out of an old cassette, and Mazzaro makes artwork out of board game pieces.

“I like taking wood pieces, painting them and [placing] Scrabble words on them,” Mazzaro said.

Mazzaro’s work features words such as “home,” “live,” “pray” and “faith,” and each piece is one of a kind.

In the past, the students only sold at the Kankakee Farmers’ Market, but now they have other ways of selling their products.

They have a Facebook group called “Before & After Handmade Crafts,” where their featured crafts and prices are posted. The girls are also planning on holding art shows at their apartment, McGuire said.

Customers can purchase premade items or request special orders.

“A girl gave us a list of six people and their interest for a Christmas gift,” Mazzaro said.

The crafting hobby began last year when the group participated in the Kankakee Fall Art Stroll, an annual event where about 70 people sell their art.

Also last year, Hay and Mazzaro gathered many “treasures” from the trash, including lamps, a movie, a DVD player and a rug. Their discoveries inspired them.

“When we were at the Farmers’ market, we put up a sign that said ‘Got Junk?’” McGuire said.

Because of the sign, they have received calls from strangers asking them to pick up items.

Since the ministry began, the students have sold hundreds of crafts, over 100 of which have been bracelets. Hay made $300 last year and used the money to help pay for her trip to Haiti with Missions in Action.

Not only are the girls making money, but they also have an opportunity to talk to others who are open to conversation about faith.

This year, their focus is on sharing God’s word.

“It’s something we’re all passionate about: using our creativity to make a difference and spreading [God’s message],” Mazzaro said.

They all enjoy hearing people’s stories, which happens when their products attract people to their table.

“People connect with us through the crafts,” Mazzaro said.

Most of the business’s profits help pay the girls’ tuition, but some of the money goes to different causes.

“We put out a tip jar for our Compassionate child from Kenya,” McGuire said.

The three also plan to travel the nation with their crafts.

“We would like to go to different Nazarene churches and help them with rummage sales and [go] to farmers’ markets close to those churches,” Hay said.

They are even writing a book about their experiences.

Amidst all their business plans, the women rely on God.

“God has told us to do this mission,” Hay said. “God will provide. Your future doesn’t have to be planned out.”

The three seniors will be displaying their creations at a craft show in the Oaks lounge on Tuesday, Oct. 25, from 7 to 11 p.m.

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