The Just Imagine Gift Shop from the Stark County DD (Developmental Disabilities) has a manger scene for sale that is one-of-a-kind. It is hand-molded out of clay and is the collaborative work of the artists and crafters at Stark County DD.
It's just one of many items that Christmas shoppers can find at the gift shop this year.
Items such as Christmas trees made out of buttons, snowflakes made of upcycled plastic soda can rings and a slew of other high quality, artistic and decorative items also are available.
"We have people who work in the ceramics shop, the wood shop, that do acrylic painting, stained glass, sewing and other crafty items," said Therese Heitkamp, training coordinator for the Stark DD. "All of the items in the store are made by adults with disabilities. We have items available for sale year round, and we swap out seasonal items throughout the year."
Included in the shop are handcrafted tree ornaments, colorful and trendy ceramic dishes, framed artworks, Christmas wreaths and Christmas cards that are designed and printed at Stark DD.
The gift shop has been open since the late 1970s. It opened in the current location in the 1990s.
"We used to sell more country or traditional items," Heitkamp said. "Lately, we've been exploring the more fun and artistic items our adults can do. We also have a gift shop upstairs of the 2nd April Galerie and Studios in downtown Canton, and it's open on First Fridays."
Heitkamp said that 50 to 75 crafters and artists work on the items sold in the store. She said that many have been working in the woodshop, ceramics shop or other areas since the gift shop opened.
"Some of our adults have been making items for years, and they really know what they are doing," Heitkamp said. "We do provide art classes and other types of training for our adults. For example, we had training classes on how to use a weaving loom and a potter's wheel."
Amanda Westlake, one of the store associates, also is one of the artists. Her expertise is in stained glass. She said there are some favorite items in the store that sell well every Christmas season.
"The ceramic lighted Christmas trees are always popular, and the upcycled snowflakes are popular, and we've sold out of the button Christmas trees and had to make more," Westlake said.
Other items that use upcycled items include painted glass bottles and window decorations made of an old cedar fence.
Heitkamp said they try to keep their prices low and only make items that are in demand.
"It's a great place to shop and do some Christmas shopping. I do most of my Christmas shopping here," Westlake said. "The items change all the time so it's a good idea to stop in throughout the year."