Get your Mardi Gras beads by the Acre

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, February 8, 2012

ROD GUAJARDO | The Natchez Democrat Sarah Cichirillo sorts Mardi Gras beads in size and length for the Pleasant Acre Day School’s Beads Galore Shop. The school repurposes donated Mardi Gras beads and sells them to the community to raise money for class trips and other activities.

NATCHEZ — One man’s old Mardi Gras beads are Pleasant Acre Day School’s treasure.

Students at the school are continuing a tradition, which started with one donated bag of Mardi Gras beads almost 15 years ago.

All year long the students take donated bags of beads from around the area and sort them by color, size and length.

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Mary Ann Foggo-Eidt, Pleasant Acre director, said the program is a win-win situation for everyone.

“The fun of the Mardi Gras parades is catching the beads, but once you catch them it’s kind of like ‘What am I going to do with these?’” Foggo-Eidt said. “We’re helping the environment by taking the debris, helping people get rid of their beads, and it’s very rewarding for the students.”

Pleasant Acre Day School is a learning center for special needs adults and Foggo-Eidt said the bead project gives the students instant gratification.

“The students have really responded because they get to see an instant reward with people coming in to buy them after they’ve worked hard to get them ready,” Foggo-Eidt said. “Everyone appreciates the work the students have done.”

Foggo-Eidt said the beads are donated to the school by people in the community, but also come from as far away as Galveston, Texas.

“We get a lot from Natchez and of course New Orleans, but we also get them from other places like Mobile,” Foggo-Eidt said. “They never stop coming. Just when you think they’ve stopped coming, we’ll get another shipment or donation in.”

After the beads are tagged they are put on display and ready for purchase in the Beads Galore Shop, a large room in the back of the school.

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.

Foggo-Eidt said the school likes to offer different options for the different type of Mardi Gras fans.

“You’ll have a lot of the women come in and pick out different colors and specialty ones,” Foggo-Eidt said. “But the guys come in and just want a big bag.”

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

The money raised in the Beads Galore Shop is put aside and saved for special activities for the students such as their annual summer trip to Biloxi, where they use the money to eat out or go shopping.

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