Adopt-A-Wall program aims to feel ‘more like home’ to residents

Published May 27, 2018 at 9:00am

In memory of her dad, Theresa Girouard, with the help of fellow parishioners at Resurrection Life Church on Floyd Avenue, has created the Community Nursing Home Project Adopt-A-Wall program.

Naming it “Mr. G’s Drop Off,” in honor of Adrien J. Girouard, aka Mr. G., the Adopt-A-Wall program aims to collect donations of wall art and decorations to help brighten up the rooms and living spaces for residents at area nursing homes.

According to Girouard, her father was a long-time resident of the Betsy Ross Nursing Facility, 1 Elsie St., who passed away on Sept. 23, so it is fitting that Betsy Ross is among the local nursing homes to participate in this new program.

“My dad was a resident here, and he was taken care of very well, so I wanted to do this for my father,” Girouard said.

Right now donations may be dropped off at the Old City Hall located at 207 N. James St., and Girouard said she and volunteers are looking for other drop-off locations in Rome, Utica and other parts of the county.

Adopt-A-Wall is requesting donations of wall decorations, vinyl wall art, sconces, clocks, bird feeders, bird seed, crosses, shelves, dry erase boards, mobiles, shepherd hooks, radios, sports photos, command strips, soft tissues, Chapstick and quality bath wash. While Betsy Ross Nursing Facility is the first to host the program, Girouard is attempting to spread the word about Adopt-A-Wall so that other area nursing and rehabilitation centers will want to kick-start their own program. Those interested in participating may even choose to “adopt” a senior and decorate a room based upon the resident’s favorite colors, likes and hobbies.

Granddaughters Jhanelle Kirk, 12; and Trenee Kirk, 7, pupils at Denti Elementary School; and Octavia Kirk, 14, a Strough Middle School student, recently surprised grandmother Patricia Kirk by purchasing items and decorating her room at Betsy Ross. The girls chose a bird theme for their grandma, and even included a bird feeder where Patricia can watch and feed the birds just outside her room window.

All three girls agreed it felt “good” to surprise their grandmother with her room make-over, which included a new bird bedspread, pictures, photos and other wall art.

“We did this so she can feel loved,” Octavia Kirk said.

Mathew Varughese of YES Development at Old City Hall, said be believes in Adopt-A-Wall’s mission to ensure seniors in the community are not forgotten. He offered Girouard the space in his building as a drop-off location for donations.

“I’ve known Theresa for three years and we have mutual friends who attend our church. She approached me to see if I could help,” Varughese said. “When I was a young man, I worked in an Alzheimer’s unit” in a nursing home, “growing up.”

Because he learned to respect and appreciate the legacy left by seniors during his volunteer work, anything, like Adopt-A-Wall, that aims to honor the elderly and make them feel like active members of the community is “something near and dear to my heart,” Varughese said.

Having had a father who was a resident of a nursing home, Girouard said she knows decorating a room and making it feel more personalized — more “like home” — makes a big difference in an individual’s well-being.

“It feels like it’s theirs,” she said.

It’s also possible to “theme” a room around an individual’s tastes or hobbies, said Betsy Ross Activities Director Cindy Bohn.

“We know each of our residents individually, so we know who the New York Yankees fan is and who loves Marilyn Monroe or Elvis,” Bohn said. “We want to make their rooms individualized because it’s their home.”

Adopt-A-Wall is also looking for organizations, like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and the Community Service Probation program, to volunteer to make art to donate. Volunteers said the Boy Scouts have already said they would give some of their homemade bird houses.

Amanda Thomas said Adopt-A-Wall is also good for someone who wishes to give a little of their time and enjoys shopping. From money donated to the program, she was able to go out and buy special items that were on the wish-lists of residents and help decorate rooms.

“I bought some of the items and then hung them on the wall,” she said. “You can even come in and request to visit with a resident.”

Because many nursing and rehabilitation facilities have limited space, Girouard said Adopt-A-Wall is looking for some area locations to volunteer as “drop-off spaces” for the art and decorations. For those in the Utica area, items may be left with Social Worker Karen Appler at Heritage Health Care Center at 1657 Sunset Ave. in Utica.

Those wishing to volunteer as shoppers and/or decorators for Adopt-A-Wall may also contact Bohn at Betsy Ross at 315-339-2220 or Appler at Heritage at 315-797-7392.

Recently a “reveal” party was held for Patricia Kirk, who was completely surprised by her newly decorated room.

“I love it. I was so surprised,” Kirk said. “I love birds and now I can go to the other bed in my room and watch the bird feeder, and see what the temperature is on my thermometer. This just makes me feel more at home here.”