Hats Off: Senior center employee wins award for creative class

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Jake Magee
Monday, October 30, 2017

Who: Linda Kleven, program director at the Janesville Senior Center.

What she does: Kleven lets her creativity shine and shares it with others by teaching classes that turn recyclables and otherwise useless items into fun, unusual projects. She even won an award for her efforts.

In summer, Kleven led a class that turned discarded wine bottles into wind chimes. It capitalized on the trend of "upcycling," which is an idea similar to recycling but instead involves taking "old, unwanted items and turning it around into something creative and beautiful and something that's useful," Kleven said.

Kleven taught students how to cut the bottoms off the glasses and sand the edges so they weren't sharp. They hung hooks from corks and put them in the bottles and hung chains from them, she said.

Some members attached beads to their chains or designed their bottles in creative ways.

"Everybody's was a little bit different," she said. "I think they loved them. Most of them hung them outside right away."

In early October, Kleven won the Wisconsin Association of Senior Center's Edison Bell Einstein Invention Award for the class. The award recognizes a new way of doing something, a new program or a great idea that was brought to life, according to a news release.

"It was very nice," Kleven said.

Why she does it: "I just think it's fun," Kleven said.

Some people have no idea how to do such projects. They can be easy to figure out on your own, but some people just need someone to guide them along, and Kleven said she is happy to help.

Kleven first does projects alone at home to work out the kinks. For instance, one project turned crystal vases into garden angels, but it took some trial and error for Kleven to figure out how to attach their glass wings without having them slide off.

"Really, it gets your creative juices flowing, and it's just kind of a fun activity," she said.

What others say: Kleven's supervisor, Janet McLean, admires Kleven's creativity.

"Linda looks for different and unique things that are out of the box. She's always trying to find items that people are going to throw away and reuse them and make other projects out of them," McLean said.

"People are always waiting for that next out-of-the box project that she will be doing, so my suggestion is when she's going to be doing a project, don't wait until the last minute because her classes fill up fast."

What's next: Kleven will teach a silk scarf dyeing class from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, at the senior center. It's $12 for senior center members and $17 for nonmembers.

She plans to teach another wine bottle wind chime class next summer.

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