By Derek Liebig
Kylie Touchette loves clementines. She eats several of the small citrus fruits every day and she’s been known to bring three or four to bed with her as late night snacks. And the craving appears to be genetic, because her younger brother loves them as well.
And while the inclusion of clementines in her diet ensures that she gets her recommended daily dose of vitamin C, there’s one problem: finding a home for all the empty wooden clementine boxes.
But with a little help from her grandmother, Marie Monty, Kylie has discovered a rather creative and charitable use for those boxes.
The affable eight-year-old third grader has been creating custom one-of-a-kind beds for dolls and stuffed animals that she plans to donate to young children for the holidays.
The effort is part of a project she and her grandmother have dubbed “The Matthew Project.”
“Awhile back I started giving her an allowance every week for doing chores around the house but I asked her to give back $1 toward a charity project,” Monty said.
Originally the intention was to use the money to support a local charity, such as the Whitehall Food Pantry, but then a different idea literally fell from the sky.
“We were in the process of deciding what to do when a stack of clementine boxes nearly fell of me,” Monty said.
The incident reminded her of an idea she had seen at the Vermont State Fair and ever since Kylie and her grandmother have been making the small wooden beds.
“Anyone can make a donation, but this is an investment of time and self,” Monty said.
Kylie begins each bed by removing the label, then she paints each box white, and finishes by gluing little round knobs atop each corner. And then the real work begins.
Kylie makes small mattresses for each bed and then adorns them with a handmade quilt and bed cover.
Surprisingly, Kylie’s favorite part is sewing all the blankets, a skill she has refined over the last year.
When she began, neither Kylie nor her grandmother were very good with a needle and thread.
“It was a learning experience for both of us,” Monty said. “When we started she pushed the pedal and I pulled the fabric through and then she pulled the fabric through and I pushed the pedal.”
“I was a little scared of the needle at first,” Kylie added.
In fact, Kylie has learned to enjoy sewing so much she plans to attend a quilting workshop and is considering making prenatal blankets as her next project. “It’s awesome,” she said
Once all the sewing is complete, Kylie places a doll or stuffed animal in each bed and writes “From Kylie, with love,” on the bottom of each box. Some of the dolls and stuffed animals were toys Kylie has outgrown, others were purchased with her weekly $1 contributions and others were donated by local residents.
Kylie says she takes care to design and color coordinate the beds. For instance, there’s a Mickey Mouse bed with a Mickey Mouse (who else) stuffed animal, a purple bear with a purple blanket and even a bandana and blue jean quilt.
Kylie has made around 30 beds and plans to give them away at a Holiday Dinner on Dec. 18 at the United Methodist Church to help supplement holiday gifts for families in need. Anything that goes unclaimed will be given to students at the local Head Start.
“It’s nice to give people stuff. I don’t want to be greedy and keep it,” Kylie said.
Monty said the project has been deeply rewarding for both of them.
“It’s given her pride in herself,” Monty said.
And, provided a little joy for a few dozen kids who receive the beds this holiday season.