Participants in two day-services programs for adults with developmental disabilities at Goodwill Columbus are involved in a project that might be called a true act of chair-ity.

Participants in two day-services programs for adults with developmental disabilities at Goodwill Columbus are involved in a project that might be called a true act of chair-ity.

Under the coordination of Cody Miller, resident artist at the Art Studio & Gallery at Goodwill Columbus' headquarters on Edgehill Road, program participants are transforming old oak chairs into animal-themed chairs for the Homeless Families Foundation's Dowd Education Center.

The center provides afterschool and summer programs for at-risk children.

So far, the Goodwill participants have presented the Dowd Center with two chairs they transformed into a giraffe and a gorilla.

The chairs have been placed in Dowd's library.

"I wanted to set up a project that would allow our participants to do something that would benefit the community," Miller said. "They really enjoy being able to do something that especially is for children."

The idea for the project arose when Gale Hacker, director of the Dowd Center, told Miller about a number of oak chairs that were in storage.

"I had done a similar project when I worked at United Cerebral Palsy, where we made 'creative benches,'" Miller said. UCP merged with Goodwill Columbus last year.

"I'm so impressed with the work the Dowd Center does for at-risk children," he said. "I thought this would be a way to do something fun for the children they serve."

It takes the Goodwill participants about two months to make each chair, working for a couple of hours two days a week.

"It's really exciting for them when we're able to put all the pieces they've been working on together to create one of these chairs," Miller said.

The chairs are also exciting for the children at Dowd, Hacker said.

"The first thing they want to do when they come into the library is sit in one of those chairs," she said. "It helps make the learning environment here more fun and appealing for them. It's not that they don't enjoy being in the library, but now they really like coming here."

As she painted a piece of wood that will become part of the next animal chair, Natasha Porter, a participant in Goodwill's New Generation Work and Activity Services program, talked about how much she likes being part of the chair project.

"I love doing this project because it gives me something to do and it's nice to know the children will like the chairs," she said.

It's amazing to see how Miller's designs are used to convert ordinary chairs into delightful animals, Porter said.

"I can't wait to see how they turn out," Porter said.

For Jerry Watson, a participant in Goodwill's Sage Senior Services program, the chair project gives him satisfaction in two ways.

It makes him feel good to know he is involved in a project that benefits other people, he said.

But he also benefits from the project.

"I like doing the painting because it really relaxes me," Watson said. "It eases your mind."

The giraffe and gorilla are just the first of an entire zoo that will be donated to Dowd, Miller said.

Ten to 12 chairs will be completed over the next couple of years, each one a different member of the animal kingdom.

The next few chairs will be placed in the Dowd library, Hacker said, and the remaining pieces will be placed in classrooms in the facility, located on North Grubb Street in West Columbus.

"We're so appreciative of what Cody and the people from Goodwill are doing for us," she said. "We don't know what the next piece they are giving us is going to be. It's going to be a surprise. The children are really excited to find out."