Booster

Campaign aims to keep kids in Legos

Million Lego for Kids collects building blocks for Clintonville, area youngsters

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LORRIE CECIL/THISWEEKNEWS
Logan Bills, 4, seems more interested in playing with the Legos than listening to the music during a concert by the Clintonville Community Band on May 21 at Mozart's. The band was performing to raise money for the Million Lego for Kids project.
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It came about almost by accident.

"Just about a year ago, before Mozart's moved to their new location, they were down here closer to where I live," Joan Harless recalled last week. "I was in the habit of stopping in for a coffee or something in the morning."

Harless had just retired after almost 20 years with COSI, writing workshops and managing programs for middle school students.

Mozart's Bakery and Piano Cafe co-owner Anand Saha one day asked his frequent customer how retirement was going, and she admitted to being a little bored.

Practically the next thing she knew, Harless was manager of Million Legos for Kids, a project Saha launched in February 2012 as a means of getting the building-block toys into the hands of children whose families can't afford them.

"About 15 minutes later, he had convinced me to work on this," Harless said. "I was a willing participant, I must admit."

Saha had gone so far as to obtain nonprofit status for the Lego project, but then Harless said he got caught up in purchasing and renovating the new 4784 N. High St. location of his restaurant. That was why, she added, he approached her about taking over management of the effort.

"It was just kind of a lucky meeting of the minds," Harless said. "It's been really rewarding -- a lot of fun, but just really rewarding.

"There are so many levels of learning with Lego. It's not just engineering and physics. It's artistic expression. It's learning to collaborate with others."

The Clintonville Community Band performed May 21 at Mozart's in a fundraising concert to benefit Million Legos for Kids.

The Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center is the fiscal agent for Million Legos for Kids, according to its website.

The project benefits children in the Clintonville-Beechwold area and some surrounding neighborhoods.

"The exciting thing is when we put as many Legos as possible in the (local) schools, we can just expand our borders a bit and keep working," Harless said.

Million Legos for Kids accepts tax-deductible cash donations as well as donations of used Lego sets.

"I can clean them up, and they're practically indestructible," Harless said. "We always welcome those."

Current drop-off locations for donated toy sets are: Mozart's; Wholly Craft, 3169 N. High St.; Weiland's Market, 3600 Indianola Ave.; and all locations of KEMBA Financial Credit Union.

"Certainly, we are not going to turn down any help that we can get," Harless said. "If enough people want to offer a place for other people to donate, we're open to ideas for that."

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