PHOENIXVILLE, Pa. (AP) — The best thing about the group home where Cindy Moore once lived was her friends.
Otherwise, the food was lousy and activities were scarce. Moore was bored.
So, more than a year ago, the animated West Vincent Township resident moved to a place where she is more than just a client with intellectual disabilities whose basic needs must be met.
At Camphill Village Kimberton Hills, Moore is considered a working artisan.
"Tuesday, it's pottery. Wednesday, weaving and Friday, we fluff wool," said Moore, 47.
She is part of a crafting community, making rugs, scarves, and other items to be sold at farmers' markets as part of the mission and philosophy that is the foundation of the village.
The sloping, 432-acre Chester County homestead and farm near French Creek is a place where 100 residents — 44 of them adults with developmental disabilities — create crafts, grow vegetables, make bread, sell their wares, and live together in a nuclear-family arrangement in houses spread across the property.
It is one of 80 such Camphill communities worldwide (nine in the United States) that are part of a movement founded in 1939 by the Austrian physician Karl Konig and based on the teachings of the philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Both believed that every person, including those with disabilities, has a role in contributing to a world whose environment and people are interdependent.
"We provide a place for people to be included and to contribute," said Felicity Jeans, executive director of Camphill Kimberton.
This weekend, the community is hosting a conference of 60 people from 11 Camphill locations in the United States and Canada to learn crafting techniques, improve skills, and discuss the therapeutic virtues of crafting.
Craft communities believe there is "soul-building, healing power, and sense of fulfillment" in creating something from natural materials by hand, said Thomas A. Guiler, a Syracuse University doctoral student who is studying crafter communities. Guiler will speak at the conference.
Residents and students from the two other Camphill communities in Southeastern Pennsylvania will also attend: the Camphill Special School in Glenmoore, Chester County, for youngsters with intellectual disabilities in kindergarten through 12th grade; and Camphill Soltane, also in Glenmoore, a program similar to Camphill Village Kimberton but for young adults.
With Kimberton, the three area communities make up a continuum of community for people with disabilities as young as 5 and as old as 90.
The residents, called villagers, live in households with volunteers called co-workers, who run the house and help the villagers live as independently as possible. Some are on year-long assignments with Americorps. Others, like Herta Hoy, have spent decades at Camphill.
"It wasn't so much that I had to earn money. That wasn't in the foreground," said Hoy, 70, who emigrated from the United Kingdom in 1961 and raised her five children at Camphill Kimberton. "I just wanted my life (to be dedicated to) something worthwhile."
Hoy, who had trained at Camphill communities in England, came to Kimberton shortly after it was founded on property donated by the family of the philanthropists H. Alarik and Mable Pew Myrin.
Pew Myrin, whose father, Joseph N. Pew, founded Sun Oil Co., established the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts with her siblings.
The Myrins were proponents of Steiner's principles of organic farming (biodynamics) and education (the basis of the Waldorf Schools approach of using play and hands-on activities such as knitting and gardening as crucial parts of a child's development).
The annual live-in fee for residents at the village is $42,700, but the majority pay what their families can afford, said Bernadette Kovaleski, Camphill Kimberton's development director. Day-only programs are $2,000 a month. Fundraising and selling what the farm and craft workshops produce is critical, Jeans said.
At Camphill Kimberton, residents work in the community's bakery and cafe, which are open to the public. They also tend crops including kale, beets, scallions, peppers, and eggplant.
They work and sell at area farmers' markets and at the on-site Community Supported Agriculture system, in which families pay an annual fee to support the planting and harvest, then get to shop for the produce - and sometimes pick their own.
"This is beautiful stuff," said system member Kathy McDevitt of the fruits and vegetables Tuesday before walking out to the fields.
Down the road, Moore molded clay in the pottery workshop while resident Bill Lewis, 56, sat at a loom moving his feet on pedals, and using threads culled from worn blue jeans to make a rug.
"I split firewood, help plant trees, paint signs. Today I'm doing jeans," said Lewis, who has lived at Camphill Kimberton for 20 years. "I'm making a rug and I like it when people come and buy it."
Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.philly.com