Hope in the Heartland

A community on a cashiered military base is transforming the lives of foster kids--and seniors

In her neighborhood recreational center, Esther Buttitta, 74, a retired schoolteacher, is drawing on years of carefully honed teaching skills to engage a handful of local kids whose parents are out running errands. "Finger painting with chocolate pudding is pretty easy if you just dive right in, see?" she says chirpily, before unloading a Jell-O container onto the white paper in front of her and digging in. As her creation takes shape, Andrew Boatright, 3, is quiet, wide-eyed, awed. Soon his primitive portraits cover the table, and many dollops of brown glop adorn his newly animated face.

Buttitta is careful not...

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