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Woman with autism uses artwork for good causes

November 19, 2018

MERIDEN, Conn. (AP) — Morgan Morenz’s first attempt at serious drawing, a Pokémon character at age 11, wasn’t as good as she wanted.

But Morenz didn’t get discouraged, spending her teen years perfecting her sketching.

“Eventually, I started doing more profound stuff,” she said.

As a 25-year-old with autism, Morenz uses her artwork to raise money for a variety of causes, including hurricane recovery. Her latest effort helped American Legion Post 45 in Meriden raise money for a memorial to prisoners of war. She raised $400 of the $1,800 needed.

Morenz said she decided to help because she “knows it means something to” the Legion, even if she didn’t fully understand the significance of a memorial to POWs.

“I am close friends with many of the people at Post 45,” Morenz said. “They are really nice to me.”

Morenz’s father, also named Morgan Morenz, takes her to the club regularly. She chats with members and sells her sketches.

“I’m very proud of her,” her father said.

With some transportation help from her mentor, Mellissa Byron of the Chippens Hill Group, Morenz visits parks, coffee shops and bars in Middletown and Meriden selling her sketches. Chippens Hill helps people with autism find volunteer and job opportunities.

“I am a very spiritual person,” Morenz said. “I can’t learn a thing unless I take it to heart. I am very empathetic.”

Byron wants to enroll Morenz in a community college art class. She first met Morenz at an art show at Klekolo World Coffee in Middletown.

“I am honored to know her,” Byron said. “Morgan is the most empathetic and compassionate person I ever met. I wish more people were like her.”

Morenz struggled to find the right school but finally graduated from an ACES, Area Cooperative Educational Services.

After age 21, there is no government educational support for those with autism and the state Department of Social Services has a six month waiting list for services. Private insurance doesn’t cover programs.

The Chippen Hills Group is paid for privately by parents and individuals. As diagnoses of autism increase, the need for services is expected to rise. Morenz has strong opinions about that.

“There is more and more people being autistic and the state should accommodate that,” she said.

Byron meets with Morenz once a week to get her involved in the community. They visit parks, museums or places with animals. Morenz is a certified master of Reiki — a form of alternative medicine — writes poems and delivered a speech for the Post 45 annual Watch Fire in June.

The POW memorial is expected to arrive at the American Legion soon, said Don O’Byrne, a member of the Sons of the American Legion.

“For a gifted child, she’s very outgoing,” O’Byrne said. “She’s a great artist. When she said she raised $400, we said ‘wow, that’s great.’ We’re going to probably wait until spring to do a dedication. She’s going to get recognition for helping. It’s phenomenal.”

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Online: https://bit.ly/2FvKSZk

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Information from: Record-Journal, http://www.record-journal.com

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