As the elevator door opens on the third floor, Chloe Iliff steps out and assists Rita Miller into the activity room. It’s around 10 a.m. on a Monday at Hillebrand Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Cheviot, where each week, Iliff teaches pottery to the residents.
She’s been volunteering at the center since spring, a gig she found with help from Ann Myres, integration specialist for Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services.
Iliff has been making pottery for three years — working with clay is part of the family business – and was looking for a way to be more active in her community. Myres reached out to Hillebrand to make the connection and a few weeks later, Iliff started her class.
“It’s something fun to do and I like visiting with them,” she said.
Miller has been attending the classes since Iliff started, often making trays, garden rocks and other pieces for her family. “I’m very proud of anything I make here because I was never very crafty,” she said. “Chloe is very good and helps me a lot.”
Eloise Remar has also been coming to pottery class since it began and likes watching what other people create.
For both Miller and Remar, who are roommates, working with the clay also helps with arthritis in their fingers. Ellen Peter, activities director at Hillebrand, said it’s been great to watch the residents be creative. “Chloe is wonderful, and she’s a big asset to us,” she said.
At the beginning of class, Iliff, who has a learning disability and a mild form of Asperger’s syndrome, places a ball of clay at each station. During the hour she’s chatting with students while also concentrating on rolling clay between her hands, this time to make tentacles for an octopus figurine. Part way through the class, Miller, who had almost finished her spoon rest, turned to Iliff for help forming the sides. She demonstrates how to shape the clay, and Miller notes with a smile, “That’s why she’s a good teacher.”
After each session, Iliff collects the finished pieces on a tray and brings them home. Her family fires the creations in the kiln and glazes each one. When she returns to class, she’ll have the finished pieces for everyone.
“I like passing on new skills,” Iliff said. “If you find something you really like to do, you should share it with others.”
Chloe’s story originally appeared on our website July 17, 2017 as part of our series highlighting people we support giving back to their community. See more stories like this here.