Metro-East Living

These women paint, enjoy wine — and help cure cancer

Painting for a cancer cure

Four women from Trenton and Belleville, Illinois, known as the Painting Bs, have donated more than $16,000 for cancer research and education in the past six years. They raise money by selling hand-painted wine glasses, along with a few wooden sign
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Four women from Trenton and Belleville, Illinois, known as the Painting Bs, have donated more than $16,000 for cancer research and education in the past six years. They raise money by selling hand-painted wine glasses, along with a few wooden sign

Four women who like to paint while drinking wine didn’t start out as do-gooders. They just wanted to relax and have a good time.

But in the past six years, the Painting Bs have donated more than $16,000 for cancer research and education.

They raised the money by selling hand-painted wine glasses, along with a few wooden signs and decorative rocks, and by teaching classes and leading private painting parties. Along the way, they became close friends.

“We’ve all had struggles — dealing with cancer, losing a son, health issues — and we just deal with it together,” said Judy Kapp, 68, of Trenton, former owner of a beauty shop and a frame shop.

Judy was chief instigator of the Bs, as she hosted the first painting party at her house. She also is responsible for the name.

At one point, the women were trying to figure out what to call themselves. Thelma Litteken suggested the “Painting Divas,” but Judy thought she said “Painting Beavers.” The rest is history.

The other two Bs are Judy’s sister, Gerry Zika, and a friend, Annie Duing. They recently gathered on a Thursday in Thelma’s garage.

“We normally don’t paint in the garage, but since we’re doing these big windows, it just made sense,” said Thelma, 75, of rural Trenton, a retired beautician and Jim’s Formal Wear accounting clerk.

The women were working on a commission from a local pharmacist, who wanted some old windows decorated with winter scenes for Christmas gifts.

The women met about 10 a.m. to set up folding tables with enamel paint, brushes and other supplies. By lunchtime, they were coloring snowmen and popping corks.

“We always think our painting looks better after we’ve had a little to drink,” said Annie, 72, of Trenton, a retired customer service representative at Jim’s.

The Bs recently got recognized for donating $10,000 to Washington University in St. Louis for cancer research since 2010.

They also have raised more than $6,000 for the American Cancer Society through the Relay for Life team Kapptain Chemo, named for Judy’s husband, Duane Kapp.

Duane was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1994 and multiple myeloma in 2011. Annie’s husband, Dave Duing, died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma seven years ago.

“Everything we sell goes to cancer research or Relay for Life,” said Gerry, 73, of Belleville, also retired from the hair-styling and framing businesses.

Roots of the Painting Bs go back to 2008, when Judy decided to have a sleep-over for girlfriends while Duane was out of town. She ran into Thelma at a nail salon and asked for advice on how to paint wine glasses.

At that time, Thelma had a part-time home-decor business, Country Comes to You, that involved painting on wood in people’s homes.

“It was a very special day,” Thelma said. “We started talking, and it just blossomed. We always say, ‘God put us together.’”

The Bs started out with simple designs, painting daisies, ladybugs and grapes on wine glasses. Then they graduated to butterflies and big-haired divas.

Today, the women offer classes about once a month, mostly at businesses in Mascoutah, Highland and Breese.

“We have done quite a few parties in homes, too, like people want a girls’ night out type of thing,” Judy said. “We furnish all the supplies, and they go home with a finished product. We provide everything, except the wine.”

Drinking isn’t required, but the Bs see it as a way to help students relax and explore their creativity without being overly critical or perfectionist.

The women get ideas for images to put on wine glasses from magazines, greeting cards, even napkins. Sometimes they write clever sayings such as, “In wine, there is truth. In water, there is bacteria.”

Their next painting class will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 11 at Windows on Broadway in Highland. The cost is $25 with a limit of 20 students.

“Women are always amazed and excited when they leave,” Gerry said. “They can’t believe how good their glasses look.”

At a glance

  • What: The Painting Bs class on making winter welcome signs
  • When: 6 p.m. Jan. 11, 2017
  • Where: Windows on Broadway, 401 Broadway in Highland
  • Cost: $25 (includes supplies)
  • Limit: 20 students
  • Information: Call Judy at 708-831-0083 or Thelma at 618-224-9360 or email to duju@att.net
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