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HandsOn the Community: “Bringing Sunshine” and Smiles One Craft at a Time

January 19, 2012

Christina (left) and senior Linda show off a lantern Linda crafted to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Ask any hobbyist to describe the value of arts and crafts in society and a number of valid points will inevitably emerge. Some praise crafts for allowing crafters’ creativity to be expressed in visible form. Others credit art for strengthening the left half of artists’ brains, bolstering their visual and motors skills in the process. When Christina Hallberg thinks about arts and crafts, however, she sees a much simpler but equally amazing use for them: bringing sunshine and smiles into the lives of senior citizens.

Each month, Christina and a group of fun-loving volunteers meet at the Portofino Villas Senior Apartments in Pomona to lead a two-hour arts-and-crafts bonanza they call “Bringing Sunshine to Seniors.” Each month features a different theme, often highlighting a specific holiday that occurs during that month. But, as its title shows, the goal of the program is always the same—to bring smiles to the faces of the complex’s many active seniors. Since 2006, the program has offered approximately 120 hours of arts and crafts to the residents at the complex, inspiring an immeasurable number of smiles in the process.

Volunteers Tricia and Ann help seniors complete their Chinese New Year lanterns and bracelets.

One of the most popular features of the program is that it allows everyone involved—Christina, the volunteers, and the seniors—to use skills they already have and hobbies they already enjoy to make a difference in the lives of others. Christina, a certified activity coordinator for convalescent education, has always enjoyed working with seniors. As such, when she discovered “that [she] could use the skills that [she] learned in school to do a project at Portofinos,” she jumped at the opportunity. Similarly, volunteers who enjoy crafting to begin with often find volunteering with the project incredibly fun. “This was my first time volunteering for any program at all, so I wanted to pick something I already knew I could do and liked,” said newcomer Amanda in January 2011. “That was a really good choice.”

Likewise, the seniors routinely have a blast at the events. “What I like is that sometimes you build things that you can take home and put up on your shelves to make the place look better,” says Marcel, one of the complex’s most active seniors. For other seniors, the arts and crafts celebration serves as a time for family bonding. At the January 2011 gathering, for example, senior Gloria brought her granddaughter Andrea to participate in the crafting.

Christina helps senior Gloria work on her lantern while granddaughter Andrea looks on.

New volunteers are always welcome to join the program, and will almost assuredly be greeted in enthusiastic fashion by the energetic Hallberg. As for individuals who might be interested in Bringing Sunshine but aren’t certain—Christina’s message is one of encouragement. “Imagine the impact you make on a person’s life just by spreading kindness,” she says. “It doesn’t take much to bring a smile to someone’s face, and this program’s goal is just that. I hope people are inspired by that and that they decide to try out our program. We’d love to see them here!”

For more information on the Bringing Sunshine to Seniors program, including its exact meeting dates and location, please see the calendar of events on the HandsOn Inland Empire website:

http://www.handsoninlandempire.org/HOC__Volunteer_Opportunity_Calendar_Page

For information on how to to transform your own passion into a volunteer program, please contact Bryan Nakawaki [bnakawaki@ieuw.org].

This article is part of an ongoing series of posts highlighting volunteer opportunities in the Inland Empire. Stay tuned for many exciting future installments!

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