At the beginning of this year, #BetterTogether kits were distributed to all Presbyterian Homes and Services (PHS) communities in Iowa, Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. These kits included 40 coloring pages that fit together to form one beautiful mural. The mural is called “Happy Sun and Moon,” created by Prestine Cartera Turkus. The project resulted in residents and staff collaborating on an art project together, across all PHS communities. The idea originated when Eastern Wisconsin communities started this, as part of Active Aging Week in 2019. Everyone enjoyed the experience and the murals turned out beautifully, so the Life Enrichment team worked diligently to get this project out to all other PHS communities.
Once all the pages were colored, each site sent one completed piece to the home office, in Roseville, MN, to be put together in one mural. The home office also sent a piece to each community, supporting the idea that we are all connected. When the home office mural was done, it included pieces from all over Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin! PHS communities also received wood frames to hang their completed murals. The frames were designed and built in the Johanna Shores wood shop, by the JS Sawdust Gang. Residents Neal Rathjen and Bernie Conlin led the way in ensuring these were top quality for every site.
When asked what the experience was like, Ahna Lloyd, Life Enrichment Director at The Farmstead, said, “I thought it was a neat experience to see how people interpret abstract art and their choice of colors … After the initial ‘what are we doing?’ phase, residents embraced a project that other residents at PHS communities were also participating in … It gave us motivation to do our best and to show what we can offer here at The Farmstead.”
The kits went out on January 8, 2020, and communities worked on them for a few months. At the time this project started, no one had any idea the impact this would have, considering the upcoming social distancing and stay-at-home orders that were put into place. In the first few months, some communities were able to gather together for “coloring parties,” before sharing their work with other communities. For other sites that waited until later to complete the project, staff were able to color with residents individually before sharing their work with other communities.
One resident, Joyce K., reflected on what it was like to participate in something that would be shared across all PHS communities. She shared, “It was really nice to work with other people, especially knowing it’s not just our site doing it. I thought it was a good idea!”
Through this project, each community has been able to understand the beautiful work that we can all do together, while being apart. This is a lesson that has been well learned over the last couple of months amidst COVID-19. We are all thankful for the opportunity to be able to share our hard work with others and see what we can accomplish when we all work together.