Neighborhood resident Laura Collins, 34, never outgrew her childhood love of teddy bears. There are teddy bears in every room or her house from the kitchen to the bathroom to the bedroom. In fact, her guest room is solely devoted to her collection.

“I’ve always loved teddy bears,” Collins says. “One of the first Christmas gifts my husband bought me was a teddy bear. My mother used to call me ‘Pooh Bear’ when I was little.”

But Collins doesn’t collect only for herself; she collects as a business.

Specifically, Collins buys and sells VanderBears, a five-member teddy bear family made by the North American Bear Co. based in Chicago. These stuffed animals can sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars each based on their condition, Collins says.

Collins also publishes a newsletter, “Bear Prints,” for other VanderBear collectors. She publishes four times a year for about 300 subscribers in the United States and Canada. She even has subscribers in Australia and Singapore, she says.

The newsletter, which costs $10 a year, and the Internet keep Collins connected to the bear-buying market and her bear-collecting friends, she says.

Collins began collecting in earnest several years ago while accompanying her husband, who owns a home-grown investment company, on a business trip to San Francisco. While he was in meetings, she went shopping.

She was in FAO Schwarz toy store when she was drawn to Muffy bear, the baby and most popular member of the VanderBear family, Collins says.

After her initial purchase, she discovered that her Muffy bear, like a Barbie doll, had its own wardrobe. And that there were several other versions of the Muffy bear for sale.

Today, Collins owns every Muffy bear made, except for the original Christmas Muffy released in 1985, which sells for more than $14,000 in mint condition, she says. That bear sold for a retail value of $18, Collins says.

Her husband, Craig, has encouraged her to invest in the VanderBears by buying bears to keep and then identical ones to save and sell when the market value increases, Collins says.

Collins can be reached at 214-340-8874.

News & Notes

HEALTH & FITNESS

Free Health Screenings: The Dallas County Medical Society and Alliance will offer free health checks for adults and children from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 22 and from noon-6 p.m. Feb. 23 at NorthPark Center. Bilingual assistance will be available. There also will be entertainment, including gymnastics, dance, jump-rope teams, magic shows and music. Call 214-948-3622.

Low-Cost Workout: The Exall Recreation Center, 1355 Adair (near Baylor Medical Center), is offering free low-impact aerobics classes Feb. 3 and Feb. 5, led by instructor Alison Bonham, for residents who wish to try its workout program. Classes meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 6-7 p.m. New members can try their first class free at any time after those dates, Bonham says. The classes cost $35 a month, and Exall also has a weight room, which charges a minimal membership fee. Call 214-824-4269 or 214-670-7812.

Tennis Lessons Offered on Renovated Courts: The Tennis Center at Samuell-Grand Recreation Center, 6200 E. Grand, recently renovated 20 of its courts. The center is managed by Babs Givens and Becky Pohlen. It offers leagues and lessons for all ages and ability levels. Call 214-670-1374.

The Latest in Hearing Aids: Debbie Schirico of Total Hearing Care, 4130 Abrams at Mockingbird, recently attended a seminar about computer-programmed hearing aids. These hearing aids change volume automatically to adjust to soft and loud sounds, Schirico says. Schirico received continuing education credits for attending the seminar, which was sponsored by Siemens, a hearing-aid manufacturer.

THE LAKE

Lake Clean-Up Efforts Honored: The nonprofit group For the Love of the Lake recently received Keep Dallas Beautiful’s Environmental Excellence Award in the category of recycling and solid waste reduction for its efforts to clean up White Rock Lake. The group conducts monthly “Second Saturday Shoreline Spruce-Ups” to remove lake litter. This month’s event is Feb. 8. Registration is at 8 a.m. at the Bath House Cultural Center off Buckner at Northcliff. Participants should wear old clothes, shoes that can become wet and gloves. Call 214-622-7283.

RELIGION

Grace Finishes Sanctuary Restoration: Grace United Methodist Church, 4105 Junius at Haskell, re-dedicated its 94-year-old sanctuary last month after completing a $100,000 restoration project. Grace is in the midst of a capital campaign to renovate the church.

HELPING OUT

Volunteer Gardeners Landscape Post Office: The Swiss Avenue Homeowners Association and Redenta’s Garden Center, located on Lower Skillman, recently teamed up to landscape the post office at Swiss and La Vista. The association purchased the plants and materials, and Redenta’s supplied the labor. Volunteers are needed to maintain the gardening effort. In addition to flower bed improvements, organic improvement of the lawn turf is planned, as well as removal of two diseased hackberry trees along Swiss. Members of the post office landscaping committee are Chairwoman Mary Jane Beaman, Willetta Stellmacher, Justice of the Peace Fletcher Freeman, Larry Offutt and Gary Ahr. Call Beaman at 214-824-6833 for information.

Fighting Child Abuse: Family Outreach of East Dallas, a child abuse prevention service, will begin training volunteers Feb. 20. Hours are flexible. Call 214-321-6292 to help out.


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