By JEFF BUYDOS
For 11 years, Macomb’s Kathy Jeffries has run Tonkatinkers Kreations, and she’s done so while battling the effects of multiple sclerosis.
Her business, started as a custom furniture supplier for cats, now sells environmentally friendly products for people and pets. The change came last year after Jeffries was diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), a condition in which the person may have a reaction to anything from household cleaners to hand lotion.
“If somebody’s doing laundry with fabric softener, I’ll be walking crooked for the next hour and a half,” said Jeffries.
Because of these types of reactions, she had to modify her business.
“The last year has probably been the biggest change in things. Since last February I’ve had to do a bit of shaking, making a lot of phone calls, accept(ing) accounts for wholesalers for things which I didn’t have before,” said Jeffries.
And with all of those changes, new merchandise has sprung up as well. Tonkatinkers Kreations sells just about any organic item imaginable. From chocolate to cotton T-shirts, organic is the idea. Jeffries’ products aren’t typically found in a store. Because of her MCS, she cannot handle artificially made products. Even the pesticides used to grow the cotton for an average T-shirt may set off an allergic reaction.
And so she, by herself, strives to get environmentally friendly products to the people who want and need them, even though at times it seems hard.
“Just being able to function, to walk right now, is very difficult. My mobility is limited. About 10 minutes of walking and I sit. So I try and carry everything and (think), ‘OK, what do I need to get done?’” said Jeffries. "It does get frustrating at times, it really does.”
She’s currently working on getting more flavors for her "lip smoochies," which are like lip gloss. She does all the work to make sure that the products fit her guidelines, including contacting manufacturers and checking to make sure all of the ingredients are natural.
“When I try to do a product ... I want it all the way down the line. So people who have allergies and that, they know what’s in there,” said Jeffries.
Her business also sells organic foods and herbal teas that are made without the synthetics and sugars found in most prepackaged foods.
“(It’s) sort of an outlet for those who have started to have some allergies and reactivities to things they can’t deal with,” said Jeffries.
One of her more interesting products is organic chocolate.
“The chocolate, the cocoa and that, is raised without the application of pesticides and herbicides,” she said. "I have one company I deal with that uses organic Belgian chocolate. They get the raw bulk chocolate and they make chocolate bars out of it. When they do that, that’s the point where more of the sugars are added. Then they can put the ratio of cocoa to sugars (and create) different ratios for that.”
Jeffries also spends a lot of time trying to tell others about the benefits of organic products. She singlehandedly arranged and, for the most part, funded the Alternative Resources for a Healthy Environment Expo 2000 at WIU.
“I got together an organic luncheon, I got speakers, I got the solar race cars from Lincoln Land Community College and Iowa State University,” said Jeffries.
She also designed the T-shirt, made from organic cotton; printed and designed the program and ads; and got door prizes. All in all, Jeffries made over 600 phone calls to arrange the event.
“I was a busy little camper. And people say, ‘Oh, I just can’t do anything.’ I’m like, ‘Ya know, honey, get off your fat butt and move,’” said Jeffries.
It’s that tenacity that keeps her and Tonkatinkers Kreations moving.
For more info. on Tonkatinkers, log
on to the Internet at http://www.tonkatinkers.com
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