JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Sarah Cichirillo, a student at Pleasant Acre Day School in Natchez, stretches out a long strand of Mardi Gras beads at the school on Tuesday morning.

Pleasant Acre queens rule with beads galore

Published 12:03am Wednesday, February 6, 2013

NATCHEZ — In the kingdom that is the Beads Galore Room at Pleasant Acre Day School, three queens of beads rule over all.

The queens, Haley Freeman, Sarah Cichirillo and Susan Ellis, work year around to sort and organize old Mardi Gras beads donated to the school.

JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Natchez resident Tangela Sullivan picks out two bags of pink beads while shopping on Tuesday morning at Pleasant Acre Day School.

As bags of beads are brought in by familiar faces or left on the doorstep by anonymous donors, the queens take charge of their kingdom to prepare for the upcoming parade season.

Once the beads are sorted by color, size and length, they are put on display for sale in the Beads Galore Room, a large room in the back of the school.

The queens are continuing a tradition that Mary Ann Foggo-Eidt, Pleasant Acre director, said the school started almost 20 years ago when she heard about a similar project on the gulf coast.

“There was another school similar to ours on the coast that would get all the beads from their parades, sort them and sell them back the next year,” Foggo-Eidt said. “We thought it was such a good idea, we decided to copy it and start doing it here.”

Pleasant Acre Day School is a learning center for special needs adults.

And while all of the school’s students help with the project in some way, Foggo-Eidt said the three queens just have a knack for the beads.

“I call them my queens of beads because they’re so good at it,” Foggo-Eidt said laughing. “They look forward to seeing everyone come in all year around to see all their hard work.”

JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Haley Freeman, left, and Sarah Cichirillo, both students at Pleasant Acre Day School in Natchez, share a laugh while sorting through a bin of Mardi Gras beads together on Tuesday morning. The school accepts donated beads throughout the year, which are then resold after students at Pleasant Acre have sorted them by color and length.

The bead project, Foggo-Eidt said, helps the students get a sense of accomplishment by seeing the entire process through from start to finish.

“They go from sorting the beads when they’re brought in to watching all the people come in and buy the beads,” Foggo-Eidt said. “The students are very professional through the whole process, and they just get so excited to see the end result.”

Beads are packaged by size and color and most are in packs of 12, which cost $1 per package.

Beads are also available in 12 dozen or 16 dozen bags and specialty beads, which vary in pricing.

The shop also offers other Mardi Gras favorites like cups, stuffed animals, jewelry, feathered boas, flags and doubloons.

And just when the students begin to worry about running out of beads, Foggo-Eidt said a donation always comes through at the last minute to save the day.

“We’ll all start panicking because we’re getting low on beads, but then all of a sudden someone will drop off a bunch of bags, and we’ll be all set,” Foggo-Eidt said. “It’s like Christmas for all of us when we get to see the different kinds of beads inside the bags.”

All the money raised from the sale of the beads is put aside and saved for an annual summer trip the students take to Biloxi.

During that trip, the students use the money to eat at local restaurants, go shopping or visit the tourist attractions.

But most of the students, Foggo-Eidt said, like the simpler pleasures of being on vacation.

“They just love being able to walk down from their rooms and be by the pool,” Foggo-Eidt said. “We’ll go to the beach and play in the sand and all that, but most of them just like to stay at the pool.”

The Beads Galore Shop is open from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is located at the Pleasant Acre Day School, off of Liberty road behind the National Guard Armory in Natchez.