The proceeds from the Hawkesbury woman’s work form a fund for students entering the trades or apprenticeships after school. As Studio “R” Crafts, Rutgers’ Christmas decorations, cards, knits, and other items go toward a scholarship for a trades-oriented student each year at Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute.
The scholarship was set up in honour of Rutgers’ husband Harry, who died of stomach cancer in 2015. As production manager at Home and Garden in Saint-Isidore, Harry had mentored many of the younger employees since the couple moved from Alberta in 2010. Those workers reached out to Rutgers after her husband’s death.
“Quite a few of the young people he worked with came up to me and said how much he had taught, how much he had given them opportunities when no-one else would, how he believed in them, how he gave them experience and confidence to go on to a better job,” she said. “He wasn’t a teacher, he wasn’t a sports guy or anything. I thought, what better way to pass on that legacy of helping kids that he worked with in the trades than to start a scholarship for the trades.”
Rutgers combined her love of crafts with that desire to honour Harry’s memory and established Studio “R” Crafts, and worked with the Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute to set up a fund to benefit a different student each year. The scholarship is handed out at the school’s graduation each June and is made up of the proceeds from Studio “R” Crafts sales at Christmas stalls and online commissions through the previous year.
Recipients had gone on to careers in avionic mechanics, carpentry and other trades. The scholarships, which ranged in value from about $600 to $900 each year, are available for those students actively planning to enter a trade, whether through an apprenticeship or college.
“Even if you get into an apprenticeship, you need to buy your own tools, and if you’re going into a school, you still have to buy books, you still have to pay tuition,” Rutgers said. “It’s not cheap, so the recipients have been very appreciative.”
Despite COVID, the scholarship will go ahead at the coming graduation. Smaller Christmas markets, combined with a boost in commissions and online sales, has helped Rutgers build up the funds to assist another student.
“It won’t be as much of a scholarship this year, but it’ll be a decent amount,” she said. “I’m trying to branch out more than Christmas and I try to learn something new every year so there’s something different at the markets.”