Stick Together and Look Forward
Linda, Barb, Dorothy and Ann were worried. Despite lockdown restrictions having been lifted at CBV which allowed the women and fellow residents to resume socializing and communal living with one another, many residents were choosing to stay in their rooms.
Participation at community gatherings and activities was dispiritingly low and CBV’s main dining room was not quite the hive of conviviality it had once been. “Some residents preferred to take their meals in their rooms,” explained Mary O’Connor, CBV’s Director of Culinary Services. “We were finding it so hard to break that habit.” She knew they risked losing all the benefits that socializing and communal living offered. “The pandemic was taking us back 30 years to when the industry norm was in-room tray service for all meals.”
Surges in COVID-19 cases and the appearance of new variants like Delta undeniably contributed to some residents’ fears about getting the coronavirus, but like the rest of the world, many residents had simply settled into new habits and routines after so many months of lockdown.
The pandemic, the women knew, was still casting an isolating shadow. Linda, Barb, Dorothy, and Ann, who all sit on CBV’s community service committee, turned their concern into action with a resident-to-resident effort that encouraged their fellow residents to reenter community life. Creating something together seemed like the best way to bring people together. The women knew they didn’t want to dwell on the past year and a half, but focus on the future. They decided to ask residents to write what they were most looking forward to on small, bright pink, yellow, blue, green, and orange pieces of paper.
Enter the ubiquitous office supply found in every desk drawer: the Post-it note. Easy to write on, and easier still to stick onto a surface, the colorful notes also had an unintended effect—residents could see the artwork growing and transforming before their eyes, which encouraged even more people, including staff, to join the fun. Lauren Flaaen, CBV’s art coordinator, helped the committee make it happen. “I started working here during the pandemic, so I didn’t know what life at CBV was like before COVID,” Flaaen said. “The women kept telling me how incredible life was in their community. They described yard parties, holiday celebrations, movie nights, and all these gatherings. These were just some of the things people wrote on the Post-its.”
“The goal was to bring people back together.”– Lauren Flaaen, Art Coordinator
First, the committee kept the nature of the artwork a secret. Essig suggested using a puzzle to heighten the mystery. She made a flier with all of the information about the project, and then each day for a week, the committee distributed a different piece of the flier until the residents had the whole picture. And it worked.
The committee successfully drew residents out of their rooms and back into re-engaging with the community. Ultimately, residents filled a large, 6’ x 4’ area with a heart and floral motif. The messages residents wrote were primarily simple ones: no masks, the return of the ‘Bees Knees’ program with local children, seeing the beloved CEO fall into a dunk tank at one of the outside festival days, making art outside, and eating lunch beside a river.