Hands to Hearts
Craft and gift fair, featuring
13 artisans, to benefit Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey
Saturday, Nov. 16, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 17, noon-5 p.m.
Montclair Planned Parenthood Health Center
By GWEN OREL
A woman passing by her booth told Montclair potter Vicki Pollack that if not for Planned Parenthood, she would have died.
Stories like that are part of the reason Pollack organized a craft and holiday gift show three years ago to benefit Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey.
Formerly an event planner for United Cerebral Palsy, Pollack knew she wanted to do something proactive after the election of 2016 left her feeling helpless.
She and her daughter, Amy Gurowitz, decided to have a pottery sale to benefit PPMNJ.
“It was the hit they were taking,” said Pollack, speaking last week in her pottery studio in the basement of her Montclair home. “They were made out to be this horrible organization that only provide abortions. And that is factually a small percentage of what they do, because it’s just pretty much reproductive services for women and health care for women and women who don’t have insurance.”
That first sale was at her house, just herself and her daughter. Then the next year, she decided to do something bigger, and ask other craftswomen to be involved. They moved to the Planned Parenthood affiliate home in Montclair. It was important to her that the artists be women. “I think guys are great,” Pollack said with a laugh. “But you know, to me it was making a statement that women are supporting other women.”
This year’s crafts sale is on Nov. 16 and 17. Titled “Hands to Hearts,” it features 13 local women artisans, who will donate 30% of their profits to PPMNJ.
Crafts on sale include jewelry, body creams and lotions, scarves, home decor and jewelry made by women in Uganda, Murano glass jewelry, music boxes, pottery (functional and sculptural), knits, and more. The price of items ranges from about $25 to $250.
A raffle and a sale of baked goods made by members of the grassroots organization Women for Progress, which is co-sponsoring the event, will also raise funds.
DOORS ARE OPEN
Erin Chung, founder and executive director of Women for Progress, is also the interim director of external relations for Planned Parenthood.
Women for Progress, like Pollack’s first sale, was formed out of frustration after the 2016 election, Chung said. “We were a group of frustrated, upset women, who wanted to do something impactful.” Her organization is a 501(c) (4), which means it is a nonprofit that can spend a certain amount of its time in political engagement. Its Facebook group has about 2,100 members, and there are about 200 dues-paying members, Chung said. The group has donated to the ACLU, to Moms Demand Action, and to other organizations, and has held educational events.
“Hands to Hearts” raises awareness of the funding cuts to Planned Parenthood. The Montclair affiliate was forced out of Title X federal funding because of a gag rule that prevents doctors from even mentioning abortion when they counsel women about reproduction, Chung said.
And yet, only 4 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion: 96 percent are things like PAP smears and cancer screenings, she said: “Title X money never funded abortion, only medical stuff. But if the gag rule prevents doctors from even mentioning it, they won’t take the money.”
And Planned Parenthood also funds men’s health: “One guy said he had gotten his HIV positive diagnosis out of Planned Parenthood. That is more typical of the things we do.”
Specific to the Montclair affiliate, women can also receive birth control advice and prescriptions via telehealth. “That’s amazing for single moms, and people with transportation limitations,” Chung said. “They can get what they need, without having to come in.”
PPMNJ serves Essex, Hudson and Passaic counties.
“Hands to Hearts” is important because it gets the Planned Parenthood name in the community. “We are always looking to serve more patients. People don’t even know there is a Planned Parenthood in Montclair,” she said. “This raises the visibility of PPMNJ in the community. Hosting it there is strategic: our doors are open. Some people think that since Title X was blocked that we closed, and while some have, we have not. We’re here, our doors are open, please come and let us serve you.”
And it’s a fun community event, she added.
Murano glass designer and music box designer Susan Worth Acampora of Montclair, and Ronni Pressman of Clifton, a potter and fused glass maker (and assistant cantor of Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield), are returning for their second year in the show — and agreed as soon as they were asked. Pollack knew Pressman, and Worth Acampora knew someone else involved.
The women use social media to get the word out, as well as flyers.
Worth Acampora put the flyer up at her church, Montclair’s Central Presbyterian, and people came to support her.
She designs the jewelry, which is made out of Murano glass, in Venice, Italy. Her work is sold in major museum gift shops, including the Metropolitan Opera gift store.
She also makes music boxes, a family business begun by her mother in 1963. The inlay work on one music box was done in Sorrento, Italy.
Pollack’s sculptural pottery is not functional, but “artsy fartsy,” she said with a laugh. “I’m not a production artist. It can take me a really long time to finish a piece.”
Pressman’s fused glasswork includes earrings, necklaces, and plates.
Last year, about 200 people came per day, Pollack said. Craftspeople were running out of inventory.
“What a terrible problem,” Pollack said with a laugh.
“Being part of the community is nice,” Worth Acampora said. “That it’s local artists coming here. I don’t have a lot of opportunities to show locally.”
Pressman agreed. “Like Vicki, I’m not out there to produce, produce, produce.” The professional crafts shows are really geared more for full-time artisans, she said.
“Even doing just a little something can make you feel like you are making something and help change,” Pollack said. Even though it doesn’t raise that much money, Planned Parenthood is happy about the show. “It is a friendraiser. I was apologetic because I didn’t want to spend money on anything. But they said getting people in the door, to see the center, is very important. And it is.”
Pressman said, “We may not be the ones knocking on doors and saying ‘hey, go vote,’ but by us doing this, we’re really voting with our feet.”