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Crafts for a Cause

Local artisan upcylces vintage goods to support ill and injured military members.

The home studio of Mason artisan Maureen LaBoa hosts a parade of worn-out books, thrifted furniture and vintage papers. Where others may see junk, Maureen sees potential, finding beauty and purpose for items that others might discard. Her transformation of these items is inspiring: bookmarks crafted from books beyond repair, and furniture given a second life with paint, illustrations, maps, blueprints and nautical charts. With her lovingly and skillfully crafted creations, Maureen gives second chances to the forgotten, and she does it all for the benefit of U.S. military personnel. 

Maureen and her former Navy officer husband Tony LaBoa are avid supporters of Semper Fi & America’s Fund, a national nonprofit that supports injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. The LaBoas were first introduced to the organization when Tony was preparing to run the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon, a popular road race that requires fundraising. 

“This was back when Iraq and Afghanistan were very busy and unfortunately, the military hospitals were very busy and there was a definite need. I asked Maureen if she wanted to run with me…,” Tony begins. 

“Um, no,” Maureen chimes in, “Somebody has to ring the cowbell,” she says with a laugh.

“She didn’t want to run, but Maureen wanted to be involved in the fundraising,” Tony explains. 

The LaBoas held a big October tag sale each year and donated the proceeds. Then Maureen started Painting for Patriots, a creative endeavor to gather even more funds, donating 100% of her net proceeds to the cause. Tony’s first Marine Corps Marathon was the starting gun for 17 years of support. Since 2006, this passionate couple has used their talents to donate more than $135,000 to the Semper Fi & America’s Fund. 

“It’s so cool to be part of something bigger than yourself,” Maureen says. “Tony loves to run and I love to create. We are lucky that we get to do what we like and really help people we want to help by dovetailing with a great organization.”

Their commitment to support Semper Fi & America’s Fund is a full family affair. The LaBoa’s two adult children, Jackson and Katie, a Navy nurse, can also be found at races and booths alongside their parents. Last October, Tony ran his seventeenth race for the Fund, the longest of any of the marathon team’s participants.

“Once we were connected with Semper Fi & America’s Fund, we realized how much good they were doing,” Tony shares. “They are very good stewards. They are incredible at finding out what’s needed and making it happen.”

“When military families ask, I tell them, ‘You served for me, without knowing me, so I can raise money for you without knowing you,’” Maureen explains. “We feel very strongly that we owe them. They go off and serve and make a thousand sacrifices and fight for us. When they come back less than whole, it is all of our responsibilities to do as much as we can for them,” she says. 

The LaBoas are already gearing up for this year's shows. Most of the organizations are still in the application and confirmation process, but they are looking forward to participating in the O.F.F. Markets at Summit Park in Blue Ash, Deerfield Handmade Market at Cottell Park, craft shows at various local high schools and the Brigade Holiday Market at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. 

They bring the bookmarks made from books beyond repair to each show and the selection is always changing so there's something new to see every time. “I'm always finding ways to give a second life to other bits of the tattered remnants,” says Maureen. “My goal is to bring something different to every single market.” 

Make a meaningful purchase that makes a difference—find Maureen’s unique handmade goods at local craft shows or online via Painting for Patriots on Facebook.com and Instagram.com.To learn more about Semper Fi & America’s Fund, visit TheFund.org.

“We feel very strongly that we owe them. They go off and serve and make a thousand sacrifices and fight for us.”

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