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Everyday Hero: Denise Kintz

This is the car Denise Kintz made from cardboard for the SEAS play this year.

Early one Monday morning, Tom Kintz and his two sons, Dob and John, were quite the spectacle in Hastings. They had a special delivery to make, and there was no way to fit their package in a vehicle.

So, at about 7 a.m., the three picked up the handiwork of their mother and walked it across four lanes of traffic on Highway 61 and another three blocks to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School.

Their delivery?

A car.

It wasn't quite a full-sized vehicle, and it certainly didn't weigh as much as one, either. It was made of PVC tubes and cardboard, and it was for the eighth-grade play at SEAS.

"My children call me the cardboard queen," said Denise Kintz. "This past summer, I had made a 12-foot long airplane for vacation Bible school. I figured I could make a car, too."

The play, "The Phantom Tollbooth," needed a vehicle, and that's where Kintz came into play.

"They were looking for something they could use on the stage that could be moved around easily," she said. "They had initially considered using a golf cart, but there was no way to use that on a stage without driving off. The idea was to do it as cheaply as possible and still be able to have it hold several people and move around the stage."

She got to work and came up with the perfect solution - a lightweight car on a set of casters, making it easy to move around.

"It was made of nothing more than cardboard, duct tape and PVC pipe," she said.

It was about four feet wide and was built in the family's detached garage, which made it even more of a challenge. With the temperatures dropping, Kintz set up a space heater and hung a variety of blankets up around the work area to keep the heat in.

She said it took her about three days' work to build the car.

The car wouldn't fit into any of the Kintz vehicles, so the three guys hauled it to the south side of the school, where they were told that a set of double doors existed.

They found the doors, but a bar erected between them prevented them from getting the car into the building.

"Fortunately, one of the maintenance personnel was there," Kintz said. "He was able to look at it and say, 'I think we can fix this.'"

The man removed the bar and in came the car.

During the day, Kintz works with spreadsheets and computers in the financial industry. Exactly how she stumbled upon the fact that she was gifted at cardboard creations wasn't readily apparent. It all started a few years ago when she built a 14-foot tall Eiffel Tower for a book fair at SEAS school.

Of course, an artist is only as good as her tools, and that's where her husband Tom comes in handy. He is well known around town as a cardboard seeker, frequently visiting places such as Sears and Judge's Appliance to find big refrigerator boxes and the like.

"He's learned what days they put things out, and when it's picked up," she said. "Some people recognize him now and don't seem to mind that he's hauling away cardboard."

For Kintz, the cardboard projects are her way of helping out at the school.

"I'm the quiet one," she said. "I don't volunteer for a lot of things at school, but this is something that I can do. It's my way of giving back."