UIndy’s Anna Elzer is using an unusual approach in leading a special service project. As a result, she’s known on campus as the “colored pencil lady.” With her passion for helping others, this creative education major is raising funds for three groups in the Central American country of Belize by creating and selling colored pencil bracelets. The University enjoys an affiliation with Galen University in Belize, and a number of students have arranged to study there for a time in what’s described as a tropical paradise.
“This project came together quite unintentionally, to be honest,” Anna explains. “I made the first colored pencil bracelet for my sister as a Christmas gift, and just from her wearing it, popularity and demand for them became evident. I was planning my Honors project right then and was inspired by previous Honors students to make and sell the bracelets to raise money for an organization.”
Those students, Lyndsay McBride ’10 and Lydia Fischer ’09, had created Inches International, a very successful project raising funds for schools in war-torn West Africa.
It wasn’t until Anna, now a senior, took her first trip to Belize in May 2010 that her project really came together. She worked at Hills of Promise school in Benque Viejo.
“I immediately fell in love with Belize and all the students there! I was just starting the education program at UIndy, and teaching these students was such a new experience for me. I was ready to go back to Belize from the moment I left,” Anna says. And that’s just what she did. She returned in May 2011 to work again with students at Hills of Promise.
The bracelet sales had just begun, but it wasn’t long before they were a hot commodity on campus and even around the city.
“It’s amazing how many people you see on campus wearing those bracelets,” observes Admissions counselor Kari Martin. “You just see them everywhere.”
Creating a bracelet craze
“I really didn’t have to do any advertising,” Anna says, “because they gained plenty of attention from everyone wearing them. I was soon asking for colored-pencil donations to keep up with the demand.”
Last fall, Anna participated in Masterpiece in a Day, an event in the nearby Fountain Square district for local artists to sell their work. In a day, Anna sold more than $1,100 worth of bracelets. She continued to sell the bracelets at other art shows in the city and on campus. By the time she made her third and final trip to Belize in December, she’d raised $4,000. The donations went to three worthy causes: the Hills of Promise school; Mary Open Doors, a domestic abuse shelter for women and children; and Octavia Waight, a senior living center.
“I had worked with each organization during my previous time in Belize,” she says. “It was great to be able to help them one last time.”
Pitching in, helping out
“I could not have done this project without the help of the UIndy community,” Anna adds. “I’m so grateful for the support and guidance given to me from both professors and students. Everyone donated, bought, sold, and helped make these bracelets, which in turn allowed this project to become such a huge success.”
Anna finally had to stop cranking out the bracelets this semester to focus on her student teaching and finish her education degree. But, she says, “I want to keep traveling to other places internationally and experience even more. Belize will always have a place in my heart and I would love to go back again. “But for now my sights are set on new places and new adventures.”
—Candi Witzigreuter ’12