A Picture Says a Thousand Words for our Veterans

By: Suwannee Valley Times

Volunteers and staff members from Community Hospice & Palliative Care in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau St. Johns, Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Putnam, Suwannee, and Union counties, are taking part in painting sessions which requires the colors of paint to be red, white and blue.

“The goal is that every Veteran in our program will receive a patriotic art peace by the Fourth of July,” says Betsy Miller, Volunteer Coordinator at Community Hospice & Palliative Care. “The paintings are our way of saying thank you to the men and women who have served our country.”

Betsy Miller, project coordinator of the veteran painting project, explains what lead up to this unique way to honor our veterans.

Betsy shared that her Manager, Dan Batty, “always asks what can we do special for our veteran patients?”. Dan’s son has served in the Air Force 15 years and he is passionate about honoring veterans in our care. Dan explained, “This year is unique because we can’t visit our veterans on July 4th, but we wanted to do something tangible for each veteran in our care and that is how it all began.”

Last Christmas, Betsy put up an exhibit of showcasing volunteer experiences and some of these were of our veteran pinning ceremonies in which we honor a veteran by giving them a pin and certificate and thanking them for their service. Betsy shared “seeing our veteran patient’s faces in those photos and how they were so appreciative of receiving the pin, certificate and being acknowledged as a veteran touched me.”

“I’m always trying to think of artistic ways to reach people.” The start of the Creative HeARTs initiative was the product of this thinking. Creative HeARTs is a comprehensive initiative designed to enhance the lives of our patients, families, volunteers, staff and organization as a whole through multiple forms of art. “Before social distancing, I would give some of our volunteers an assignment to visit a patient and they would take an art kit and paint with a patient. I had many volunteers tell me about how the patients just loved the paintings being in their rooms. I realized that the impact was much more than just that one experience. The wonderful thing was having a painting or piece of art work that was created for them or with them and it also speaks to the family. “

“So I started thinking, since we can’t be there now with COVID, the same concept could be relayed to the patient by them receiving a personal painting and knowing “this painting was painted for you and here it is in your room to enjoy.” So the missing piece of that “painting session” when the art was created was just the tip of the iceberg of what some of these paintings meant to both the patients and their families.”

“I had one volunteer that was visiting a patient and was painting with her each time. As the patient’s disease progressed, the patient could no longer participate so the volunteer would just paint while she was watching. The patient was able to smile and point to the painting even though she could not interact like before. That patient ultimately was in our inpatient facility and I went to visit her and tearfully Betsy said “she had all of her paintings in the room with her”. One of the paintings was of her dog and the family and said “I love it…it is perfect!” “So these pictures followed this lady all through her life until then end and then her family treasures them forever. So art is very impactful and can last more than one lifetime.”

This challenge to paint 200+ personal paintings for veterans is becoming a reality and we have had volunteers, community members and employees paint some at home, small groups of 10 are painting in our facilities in Gainesville, Nassau, and St. Augustine. We also have a group of children painting who are part of the St. Augustine Children’s Entrepreneur Market lead by Kendra Turley. Each painting will have a note from the artist that created the work. It has been fun watching everyone work together to honor our veterans this July 4th! Art is alive and touching the lives of our veterans at Community Hospice & Palliative Care.

For more information on all volunteer opportunities at Community Hospice & Palliative, call 904.608.3159 or visit: www.Volunteer.CommunityHospice.com

About Community Hospice & Palliative Care
Established in 1979, Community Hospice & Palliative Care is an innovative national leader in palliative and hospice care, as well as providing programs and services to meet the diverse needs of the communities it serves. During its 40-year history, Community Hospice & Palliative Care has served nearly 200,000 adults and children in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties, and recently expanded its service area to include 11 counties in north-central Florida. Through the support of more than 900 employees and 1,000 volunteers, the organization helps approximately 1,600 patients per day to live better with advanced illness – at home, in long-term care and assisted living facilities, in hospitals and at its eight inpatient care centers. The organization is committed to improving the quality of life for patients and their families and to be the compassionate guide for end-of-life care in our communities. No one is ever denied care due to an inability to pay. To learn more about the support and services of Community Hospice & Palliative Care, visit CommunityHospice.com.