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Globe West People

Help Fill a Backpack

Artists (from left) Lucy Arrington, Lynn Waskelis, Adrienne Wetmore, and Lola Baltzell at work in Baltzell’s East Boston studio. Artists (from left) Lucy Arrington, Lynn Waskelis, Adrienne Wetmore, and Lola Baltzell at work in Baltzell’s East Boston studio.
By Cindy Cantrell
August 14, 2011

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HELP FILL A BACKPACK: As a mother of four children under the age of 15, Cherylann Lambert Walsh of Hopkinton is well aware of the expense of school supplies. As president of Hopkinton-based Project Just Because Inc., she also understands the financial need of many families in her hometown.

“I was brought up to help your neighbor,’’ said Walsh, recalling the example set by her grandmother, who knitted afghans and made chicken soup for those who were cold, hungry, and sick. “If you’re doing well, you might not realize that the person living next to you is in need. And believe me, in every single community in the state of Massachusetts, there is unspoken need.’’

Since she founded Project Just Because in her basement 14 years ago, Walsh has expanded the organization into a 7,000-square-foot warehouse to keep up with growing demand. The organization provides for families in need year-round with food, clothing, career items, toiletries, furniture, bedding, housewares, and special requests through 19 programs, including the Hopkinton Food Pantry at 86 South St.

Last year 448 turkeys were distributed to local families for Thanksgiving and 15,129 children benefited from blankets, clothing, and toys during the holidays.

In support of Project Just Because’s “Fill a Backpack’’ drive, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Grace United Methodist Church are collecting items at their shared facilities located at 61 Wood St. in Hopkinton through next Sunday. Walsh said the goal is to supply and fill 2,000 backpacks with one-subject notebooks, three-ring binders, calculators, scissors, book covers, rulers, pencil cases, index cards, highlighters, glue sticks, lunch boxes, and pencil sharpeners. Gift cards for Walmart and Target also are welcome.

Collection hours are Sundays, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to noon; and Thursdays, 9 to 11 a.m. For more information, call 508-435-6511 or visit projectjustbecause.org.

HELP WITH AUTISM: Psychologist Albert Cotugno (above) of Needham, who has 35 years of clinical experience treating children with autism spectrum disorders, said a dichotomy exists in individuals whose behavior does not reflect their craving for social relationships.

“Social interactions are necessary and important,’’ said Cotugno, who is in private practice in Natick. He is also an instructor in Harvard Medical School’s psychiatry department and a consultant to group programs at Massachusetts General Hospital/YouthCare, a treatment and consultation program for children with autism spectrum disorders in Wellesley and Charlestown.

“When an individual is missing a piece,’’ he added, “the question is how do we help fill it?’’

Cotugno has written a new book, “Making Sense of Social Situations: How to Run a Group-Based Intervention Program for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders.’’

This is a follow-up to his 2009 book on his speciality area, “Group Interventions for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders.’’

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, one in 110 children in the United States have been diagnosed with a disorder on the autism spectrum.

The list of symptoms includes missed social cues, communication difficulties, repetitive behaviors, and other physical or medical issues.

Cotugno’s new book addresses the need for a cognitive-developmental approach in a peer group-based, interactive, and therapeutic program.

“In the world of an autism spectrum child, the bridge to communication is only partially constructed,’’ he said. “With the enormous increase in the number of kids being diagnosed, we have to learn to do our part to help them.’’

For more information, visit www.drcotugno.com.

TO RUSSIA, WITH LOVE: Brookline resident Laura “Lola’’ Baltzell and three fellow artists will travel to Russia on Saturday to visit the Tolstoy Estate Museum, the venue of their upcoming exhibition.

Their collage collaboration, “The War and Peace Project,’’ will be exhibited from June through September 2012. The project is composed of 750 7-by-5-inch collages incorporating the Russian text from Baltzell’s 1970s edition of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,’’ fashioned from hand-me-down books, maps, pamphlets, letters, thread, dried flowers, wax, ink, and acrylic paint.

Baltzell will be joined on the “Traveling Tolstoy Team’’ by her husband, Mark Natale of Brookline, and Trish Crapo of Leyden, Mass. Other core members of Team Tolstoy include Lucy Arrington of Cambridge; Adrienne Wetmore of Boston; and Emma Rhodes and Lynn Waskelis, both of Jamaica Plain, as well as a German artist, Otto Mayr.

The group works around a table at Baltzell’s East Boston studio, pulling from the same scrap box. A new collage is posted each day on the team’s blog, along with reflections on the piece, the process, and the book.

“Working on this project since December 2009, initially alone and then with my beloved team, has been one of the best things in my life,’’ said Baltzell, who majored in Russian studies at Grinnell College 30 years ago. “Combining my lifelong interest in art, language, culture, literature, and most importantly friendship, has really brought it all together.’’

A BETTER BOAT: Team project manager Jeremy Cahill of Ashland and Meera Alanoly of Groton were on the 31-member team of University of Massachusetts Lowell students who recently paddled to third place in the New England Regional Concrete Canoe Competition.

Teams from a dozen universities competed in the annual event at Burlingame State Park in Charlestown, R.I. The winning team, from Laval University in Quebec, went on to place third in the national competition.

Sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the concrete canoe competition encourages students to apply practical engineering and project management skills. The results are determined by an oral presentation, written report, races (men’s and women’s endurance and men’s, women’s, and coed sprints), and the canoe’s design and quality.

The University of Massachusetts Lowell entry, the 20-foot-long “Green Monster,’’ was molded from a lightweight concrete mix and reinforced with fiberglass mesh. At 182 pounds, it was 70 pounds lighter than last year’s entry.

MOVING UP: Michael Geary (above) of Milford has been named marketing manager of Enter Stage Left Theater of Hopkinton through a grant from the Foundation for MetroWest.

A 2010 graduate of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, he is a graphic artist, sculptor, actor, costume designer, set designer, and director.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@ globe.com.