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On Hand and in Print

After seven months of planning, writing, drawing and organizing, the big day finally arrived Saturday at Teutopolis Junior High as Madison Magee and others debuted their book, "Handprints," a collection of stories and photos from Community Support Systems.

"It really feels amazing," said Magee, a senior at Teutopolis High School. "I’ve been so excited. It’s just been a really great thing to see all of this coming together."

The book includes 25 stories and photos detailing the lives of CSS's consumers. The book first came about as Magee's Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities project through the CEO program.

"She’s had me in tears a lot throughout this process," said Ron Mietzner, one of Magee's mentors through the CEO program. "She told my wife about the project and I said, ‘Holy cow.’

"She’s bringing a community together," added Mietzner. "She’s making a community understand that people with special needs have lives."

Saturday's reception was an opportunity for the public to buy the book. Authors such as Kevin Kinkelaar, who wrote about helping his cousin farm each fall, were also there to sign copies.

"I thought it turned out real good," said Kinkelaar. "It’s good to raise money for CSS."

Fellow co-author Karissa Bean, meanwhile, wrote about her love of making cakes and other baked goods.

"I enjoyed doing it," said Bean, who mentioned she much prefers white cake over chocolate.

Many who came out to support the book release thumbed through its pages, taking in each unique drawing and story, which was compiled by Magee, who also enlisted in the help of 50 other volunteers.

"I think it’s amazing what they all put together here," said Sean Zerrusen, whose brother-in-law Scott Deters was also featured in the book. "I think it gives him that kind of independence. Instead of feeling like you’re constantly having to have someone help you, you’re doing something on your own, which gives them pride."

Beaming with pride Saturday was Russell Dulgar, joined by his wife Beth. Dulgar wrote about his job cleaning the Hodgson Mill facility.

"Today is good," said Dulgar, who with a smile ear to ear, energetically signed book after book.

In addition to the participants' joy, Magee's family, who was in full force to help serve snacks and drinks, was also elated.

"It’s heartwarming and exciting and it’s for such a good cause," said Magee's mom, Deb. "And she’s had a lot of support from a lot of people that care about her. When she makes up her mind to do something, she gets it done. Not only has she done something for such a nice cause but she’s also learned a lot along the way and met some valuable people."

Within the first hour of the reception, more than 50 books were purchased with 100 percent of the proceeds going to CSS. And Magee says there will be other public events at which "Handprints" can be purchased. She will have them on hand on March 17 at an open house at Mette's Distinctive Lighting and at the annual CEO Trade Show May 1 at the Keller Convention Center. They can also be purchased by calling CSS.

"She’s had a great turnout," said Barb Kessler, the developmental training coordinator at CSS. "It’s going phenomenally. She just has the biggest heart and is the most amazing person. It shows in the book and it shows in her everyday reaction with the consumers."

Effingham High School special education teacher Lori Mette couldn't agree more. She's known Bean and fellow participant Todd Willenburg for several years and says what Magee and others put together was nothing short of "awesome.

"There need to be more connections like that in the community," said Mette. "And I think Madison has done an awesome job bringing this together.

"I’m just so shocked," added Willenburg, who drew a vacuum cleaner to represent one of his favorite activities. "I didn’t know how many people would be coming."

And as many described on Saturday, "Handprints" serves as yet another example of how lives can be further enriched through CSS.

Sue Wood certainly thinks so.

Her son Josh has long been involved in the annual CSS golf tournament, which also served as his inspiration as he drew a golf tee in the book. Sue purchased six books on Saturday so that each of her son's uncles would see his creation firsthand.

“I cannot imagine what his life would be like without (CSS)," said Wood of her son. "He would be sitting at home with headphones on. And he does that now but only in his spare time."

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