Joe Ferris of Plattsburgh, New York thinks that every single person has something special to offer their fellow man during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
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As an artist, Joe has found a way to use his talent to give back to his community.
At the start of the coronavirus lockdowns, Joe says he felt lonely and separated from the world around him, both physically and emotionally. He missed regular social interaction, and he realized that if things seemed bad for himself, many others in the north country must also be suffering.
“I think that everybody has a lot to offer to make this pandemic easier on everybody and I think that if we all do what we can, we’ll get through it,” Joe explained. He started brainstorming ways to use his artistic skills to help other people feel less lonely, particularly the elderly in nursing homes who remain under strict quarantines even after the rest of the world has resumed some normal activities.
Since most nursing homes are only allowing visitors if they stand outside and look through a window at the residents inside, Joe decided to start doing “window caricatures” for contact-free interaction.
“It’s just a safe way to keep residents entertained and doing something during these tough times,” said Joe.
Joe travels around the north country to various nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Sometimes the facilities pay him for his services, but most of the time he does it on a purely volunteer basis. Staff members inside bring every resident who’d like to have their caricature done to the window and Joe meets them outside, ready to capture their essence in pastel and charcoal.
It takes Joe about 15 minutes to create each portrait, during which time he chats with the residents about their lives and does his best to coax a smile from each and every person he meets.
Rae Anne McLaughlin, the executive director of Pine Harbor Assisted Living, says the residents absolutely love spending time with Joe and seeing his artwork. “When he does the caricatures, they get so excited and they hold ’em up and we take pictures and it’s another interaction we get to have safely,” she said.
So far Joe has drawn about 500 seniors living in care facilities across northern New York. He says it’s not just the elderly patients who feel better after getting their portrait done; he gets a big mood boost from their time together, too. Joe says that at the end of the day, it’s all about making the most of the time we have on earth.
“I think that adding some joy to an elderly person’s life is like adding time into their life because you know I think life isn’t qualified by how many years someone has, but how much fun and how many smiles they have in those years,” Joe said.
Now this is a great idea! Joe is so right — there is always something we can offer others during this time in history. Using our unique talents to make others smile is a wonderful way to improve our own mental health too!
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