Virginia Beach nonprofit uses gift collection to create handmade greeting cards

After donating 4,000 rubber stamps to the Ability Center of Virginia six years ago, Michelle Prendergast and her team decided to leave their mark.

A family had donated a collection of rubber stamps following the death of a loved one. Prendergast, executive director of the Virginia Beach-based nonprofit that helps children and adults with disabilities lead happy, productive lives, said stamp boxes should be put to good use.

“They have all been categorized; I had never seen anything like it,” Prendergast said. “He made cards for his family and his church.”

In turn, Ability Center staff started a small business, ArtWorks, in 2015 that sells original handmade greeting cards made by adults through the nonprofit program.

“They love doing it. It gives them a purpose,” Prendergast said. “And there’s something to be said for receiving a card these days. … ”

Art, in a variety of mediums, was already an integral part of the center’s programming, so it seemed like a natural fit.

The greeting card program — with all proceeds going to the program — has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. About 20 artists make the cards for four hours every Wednesday in the art studio.

The range has also increased.

“The Royal Chocolate was one of the first stores we started selling them in,” Prendergast said.

The cards, which cost $4 each or three for $10, are also stocked and sold at other local businesses, including Sugar Plum Bakery, Cottage LunaSea and Hickory Trading Co.

ArtWorks program manager Cathy Scarborough said the nonprofit wants other businesses to let the organization sell the cards as well. Bulk orders, custom maps and partnership opportunities are also available, Prendergast said.

On November 10, the Ability Center opened its own on-site store selling the cards at 5825 Arrowhead Drive, Suite 201, in Virginia Beach. The store also sells Christmas bells and gift tags. It is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday and by appointment.

The greeting card program shows how donations to the nonprofit continue to give.

“They have so much fun making, showing and selling their cards,” Scarborough said. “And when people give something, it’s really appreciated and used.”

Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836, sandra.pennecke@insidebiz.com

Mika R. Pyle