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Not just for the elderly

With all the fuss and commercial hype for the holidays, nothing stands out like a homemade gift. A hand-carved cutting board or carefully stitched quilt is often more meaningful than any department store purchase.

But let’s face it, final exams and end-of-the-year mental incapacity leave little room for spare time and creativity.Relax and let the elderly take control.

Greenthumb, a national nonprofit organization devoted to training, employment and community service for the elderly, has introduced a new facet to its Internet presence with the launching of Geezer.com.

The word “geezer” is Middle English in origin and comes from the word “guiser,” a costumed partier or masquerader. The name choice was derived from workers who participated in focus groups across the country, hence Geezer.com was adopted in the hopes that the name would be catchy enough to remember.

The site is a virtual arts and crafts fair funded in part by the U.S. Department of Labor. The online crafts fair comes complete with full-color photos of the items, biographies of their creators and a customer service department to handle any problems.

“We invite you to help us change negative stereotypes about aging and improve the lives of senior crafters across the country,” the Web site says. “Talented quilters, potters, photographers and jewelers often ‘masquerade’ as teachers aides, office assistants, farmers and grandparents.”

The organization, which provides services to more than 125,000 individuals annually, initiated the online craft site as a way to introduce the elderly to what they call a “vital worldwide market” for their unique, handcrafted items.

A majority of the individuals whose work is featured on the site have very little or no computer experience, such as Anne Berkas of Pardeeville, Wis. who sells her merchandise on the Web site.

“I’m completely illiterate when it comes to computers,” Berkas said.

Representatives from Greenthumb help her take pictures of her work and list it on the Web site.

Berkas’ specialty lies in handmade quilts, which she sells on Geezer.com for anywhere from $100 to more than $1,000.

“I am pretty much self-taught but had a friend in Missouri who got me interested in quilts,” said Berkas. “I enjoy the challenge of putting colors together, and the hand quilting is restful.”

Berkas is one of hundreds of artisans who have handed their work to the power of PC purchasing. With the holidays approaching, she expects to be sending out more of her quilts than normal.

Nancy Nelson uses Geezer.com as a way to market her handmade dog sweaters. She also sells the sweaters in her hometown of Rockford, Ill. Selling the items under the name “Abbey’s Dog Sweaters,” Nelson’s creations retail for about $15.”When my dog, Abbey, scratched off all her fur and needed a dog sweater to stay warm, I developed a nice, warm dog sweater for her,” said Nelson. “Abbey’s Dog Sweaters was born.”

Krista Landon, Webmaster for Geezer.com, said the Web site has been seeing an increase in “hits” (visits by Web surfers) in the last few weeks.

“The Internet has brought an efficiency to shopping, especially for the holidays,” said Landon. “First, it meant you didn’t have to wait in line to park at the mall or push your way through an ocean of shoppers inside. Now it means you can browse a huge craft show in your pajamas.”

Extra attention has been focused on the upcoming holidays, with new incentives and specials helping to add to the attraction of the craft site.

Registration is designed to be easy. Once a visitor is registered at the Web site, all it takes is a click and a charge before the handmade item is packed and shipped.

The e-commerce site is designed and run entirely by the elderly – proof that the stereotypical “geezer” is anything but.

  • Contact Danielle Ritchie at oraclefeatures@yahoo.com