Lifting up communities: Art therapy for veterans

Community Forklift aims to turn the construction waste stream into a resource stream for communities in the DC region.  Throughout December, we’ll be highlighting the work we do to support our neighbors and our staff.  If you like what you see and want to lend a hand, you can make a financial contribution on our website. Your support is crucial to our work.  Every gift, large or small, helps us lift up local communities through reuse.

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Did you know we distribute free materials to local nonprofits?

Our Community Building Blocks program (CBB) provides grants of store credit to nonprofits, schools, and volunteer groups in need of building materials for projects that serve the greater community.

One organization that has recently made great use of the CBB program is Art Therapy for Veterans Administration DC Medical Center Residents. The organization was able to get free picture frames, tiles, paint, and other supplies for use in art therapy sessions offered by the organization at the Medical Center’s Community Living Center.

Members of Art Therapy for Veterans Administration DC Medical Center Residents.

Kasse Andrews-Weller is a volunteer with Art Therapy for Veterans Administration DC Medical Center Residents, and connected the program with Community Forklift. An avid Forklift Fan herself, she is an artist who earned Bachelors and Masters Degrees in art, specializing in ceramics. She is also a military veteran, who not only helps other veterans create art in the Art Therapy program, but participates in the program herself.

In her work with the Art Therapy for Veterans Administration DC Medical Center Residents, Ms. Andrews-Weller has met disabled veterans, “who seek art as their creative expression.” When asked what art therapy means to her, she says, “I’m not a trained art therapist, but art therapy to me gets me in a place that I need to be in – a place that is sort of like a quilt, in the fact that it keeps you warm, it covers you, and it’s pleasant memories.”

She wanted to gather her classmates to make quilts as an extension of this feeling, and it’s been an ongoing project. All of the patients use 6 x 6 clay molds, frames, paint, plywood, tiles and flooring to create their own mixed media master piece. Ms. Andrews-Weller rolls out the clay for her classmates, and punches holes into them. After that, the veterans are given total freedom to be creative. During this creative process, Ms. Andrews-Weller says, “There’s a feeling of accomplishment because there are several stages to this; I roll out the clay but then they are on their own.”

A class member personalizes their 6×6 clay slab by poking holes.

Much of the art that the veterans design is inspired by their passions, and each piece is personalized. “We come up with a thing, which was quilts, and then it’s like what is your favorite thing, what represents you, and what is the main driving force in your life…The work that they’ve done is reflective of their own self-expression, something that provided comfort.” The groups’ individual pieces were recently combined to create one big quilt, which went on display in the exhibit Healing Arts, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in early November.

The Quilt displayed at the Walter Reed Military Medical Center.

Many of the materials used in the quilt project came from Community Forklift.  For example, Community Forklift picked up a large number of picture frames from a Marriott Hotel renovation.  Ms. Andrews-Weller spotted them on a trip to the ‘Lift, and was delighted she could get them for free through her Community Building Blocks grant.

“My gratitude goes to Community Forklift because they’ve made so many things happen and made a difference in the lives of these Veterans.”
–Kasse Andrews-Weller

Ms. Andrews-Weller regards classmate Michael Green as a great example of how the art therapy program has helped veterans. Mr. Green is The Capitol Hill Art League’s Honorary Member and October’s Artist of the Month. According to the Capitol Hill Art Workshop’s website, “Michael is a Disabled US Army Veteran who has been living at the Veterans Administration DC Medical Center‘s Community Living Center since 2008 following the death of his Mother.” Mr. Green has a condition called cervical spondylosis, which caused him to be in a wheelchair.

However, his disability has not stopped him from pursuing art. When asked about Mr. Green, Ms. Andrews-Weller made it known that “…Now, he’s the first person that shows up for class every week because he’s just so excited about doing something!” Mr. Green enjoys painting and drawing portraits of people. He uses crayon, magic marker, and paint as mediums. Aside from his portraits, he has also painted directly on parquet flooring and tiles during his art sessions. Ms. Andrews-Weller says, “I’m exploring the possibility of having an exhibit of the veterans’ works in a Gallery in DC…And he [Michael Green] gets to exhibit his work on open calls and he actually sold one the last exhibit we had and he was just – he was so honored.”

Michael Green displaying some of his artwork.

Want to help us support more great projects like this one? 

Please give us a lift by making a donation! Each financial gift, large or small, helps us fulfill our mission to lift up communities through reuse.

Community Forklift is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation. Donations are tax-deductible to the maximum extent allowed by law.

If you are a Marylander considering a donation this season, remember that we are participating in the Maryland Community Investment Tax Credit Program; a program that rewards Maryland taxpayers who donate to nonprofits that serve local communities. If you make a donation to Community Forklift of $500 or more, you can earn a Maryland tax credit of 50% of the value of your donation.  This tax credit is in addition to Federal and State charitable tax deductions! You can reduce your tax liability while helping us lift up local communities!!

For more info on the tax credit,

please visit our website or

call our office at 301-985-6011.

Thank you!