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Children of Grace’s Necklaces for Charity

Danville Resident Mary Ann McCoy’s charity supports Ugandan orphans who have lost their mothers to AIDS through the sale of handmade jewelry.

Photos courtesy of Children of Grace

When Danville resident Mary Ann McCoy went to Jinja, Uganda in 2001, she didn’t expect to find a new passion. But when McCoy met Grace Talitwala, a young widow suffering from AIDS with three small children to provide for, her world changed. As the two women formed a close bond, Talitwala confessed her fears of leaving her children alone. Who would support and provide for them? How would they get through school without her?

McCoy couldn’t answer these questions for Talitwala, but she vowed to share her story when she came home. She wanted to make sure others knew about the mothers in Uganda stricken with AIDS leaving their children with no stable support system.

Two weeks after McCoy’s return home, she received an email that Talitwala had lost her battle. To honor Talitwala and the promise she made to her, McCoy formed Children of Grace, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and working with orphaned children. Children of Grace’s mission is to provide tuition, food, clothing, education, healthcare, mentoring, and empowerment programs to teach each student self-sufficiency and life skills. 

One of the ways Children of Grace supports these children is through the production and sale of jewelry, handmade from old magazines by the guardians of sponsored children. These women travel to Kampala, the capital of Uganda, to purchase collected magazines. The women painstakingly cut the magazine pages into triangles, roll the scraps into different shapes, and cover them in varnish to transform the paper into beads, a process that can take as long as 24 hours to complete.

The jewelry is brought over by Children of Grace staff and volunteers traveling back and forth between the United States and Uganda, to eliminate the cost of shipping and allow 100 percent of the proceeds to be given to Children of Grace.

With the gift-giving season in full-swing, these one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry not only make for original and affordable gifts (bracelets range from $5–$10, necklaces from $20–$35), they also give you the opportunity to give children in need the care they deserve. Here are the ways you can purchase these special gifts for your loved ones (or for yourself, too!):

• Through a Children of Grace event marketplace. Visit childrenofgrace.com for information on an event near you or how to find out about hosting a bead party.

• Email the Children of Grace Advancement Coordinator, Risa Cranmer. She will set up an appointment with to show you a variety of inventory that is in stock—even items not listed online.

• At Canvas Tag Sale Studio, a studio that sells handcrafted items to support third world micro lending and local charitable causes. Open Saturdays, 10 a.m.–3 p.m, 101 W. Prospect Ave., Danville, (925) 389-2446, canvasforcauses.com.

• Through Just Hearts, a fair-trade organization aimed at creating sustainable lives for families in impoverished countries. justhearts.org