Arts Organization Brightens Lives of People in Nursing Homes, Hospitals with Creative Care Packages

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The Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance worked with community partners to prepare art care packages for individuals living in care homes, assisted living facilities or in hospitals. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • The Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance worked with community partners to prepare art care packages for individuals living in care homes, assisted living facilities or in hospitals.
When assisted living facilities, memory care homes and hospitals began limiting visits and shutting their doors to the public amid the outbreak of COVID-19, the creative minds at the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance knew there was a need to fill.

Not only would friends and family no longer be able to visit, but SAACA could no longer supply its programming. The nonprofit provides regular art therapy, and the Music and Memory program puts mp3 technology in the hands of retirees who could use a blast from the past.

Now, that support comes in the form of care packages compiled with help (and donations) from the creative community.



SAACA Executive Director Kate Marquez said the new program is the result of brainstorming with her staff.

“Most of us have the capacity to go outside into our backyards or front yards, take a walk and enjoy our surroundings and get a little bit of respite, but that’s genuinely not the case for so many people here in Southern Arizona, and they happen to be the most at-risk,” Marquez said.



With a goal in mind, Marquez reached out to some of her community partners to gauge their interest in creating care packages for those facing long-term isolation.

All it took was an email, and the community responded with overwhelming support.

Some of that support came from Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, which donated books, CDs, poetry kits, origami packets, coloring pages from local artists, art supplies, and more.

According to Bookmans Community Manager Coordinator Stephanie Engs, the company has a standing partnership with SAACA and was more than happy to lend a hand.

“As Bookmans, we want to help our community out as much as we can, even if our doors are closed right now,” Engs said. “I see a lot of older folks that come into our stores, and we wanted to reach out to that part of the community.”

Engs said the company is always looking for opportunities to aid the local community, and considers SAACA’s project serendipitous as she spent quarantine cleaning out her craft closet and organizing the stores. She found plenty to donate.

In addition to the supplies from Bookmans, the care packages included greeting cards, jewelry, journaling kits, and hands-on craft materials. Roughly 50 artists, musicians, and organizations contributed materials, ranging from Tucson Art Lab to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Donated supplies were sanitized multiple times, Marquez said, in addition to safety precautions taken by recipients.

Marquez said the wide array of donations speaks to the diversity of the makers and artists in Southern Arizona.

“Not everyone who donated would consider themselves a professional artist, but they had materials and supplies and time to be able to give and help assemble these packages,” Marquez said.

Care packages were dropped off to local assisted living communities and healthcare facilities on Monday, April 27. The first to receive care packages included the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Campus, Catalina Springs Memory Care in Oro Valley, and the Joey and Annette Medina Aguilera Home. Additional drop-offs took place at Fountains of La Cholla and Foothills Place.

The care packages not only included supplies and arts and crafts ideas for residents, but meals for healthcare workers and caregivers.

Supplying food for the first round of drop-offs was The Lodge at Ventana Canyon
Golf & Racquet Club, which prepared lasagna, fresh pecan pies, caesar salad, and stuffed eggplant, according to VP and Clubhouse Manager Clayton Robideau.

The Lodge has partnered with SAACA in the past, Robideau said, and wanted to provide aid for people “that are often overlooked.”

“I think our goal is to always be a great community partner to Tucson,” Robideau said. “Obviously we love Tucson...and we’re all tied to the community, whether it’s local charities or helping SAACA in the past. It’s even in our strategic plan moving forward, to maintain and find new avenues for community involvement.”

Robideau said the Lodge was impressed with SAACA’s “out-of-the-box” strategy to provide aid and thought it was a great way to help out.

“I think any time the community can pull together at times like this and show that we’re all one instead of keeping each other in silos all separate,” he said. “We’re all one big community. Either we’re all successful or none of us are successful. Times like this are the best time to come together. We might even be competitors, but we’re all rooting each other on to be successful.”

Whether it was food or arts and crafts supplies, the donations make a huge difference in the lives of those who receive them, according to Southern Arizona VA Voluntary Service Chief Mandy Martell.

A donation was dropped off at Southern Arizona VA Health Care System on South Sixth Avenue Monday, April 27, and given to patients at the Community Living Center, an extended care facility which provides medical, nursing, rehabilitation, and other support services for a limited and long-term stay.

With a lack of visitors due to COVID-19, Martell said the care packages keep veterans engaged.

“Right now, they’re not even allowed to get together for group activities because we’re practicing social distancing here,” Martell said. “A lot of the art in the care packages were individualized, so the patient can do them right at the bedside...I thought it was very thoughtful and generous of them to think of our patients.”

SAACA was able to make its first round of donation thanks to immediate support from the local community, but they’re not done yet. Marquez said the organization plans on continuing the care package program as more and more people reach out to help.

If you’re interested in getting involved, contact Marquez at kate@saaca.org.

“We definitely are going to need some sustained support from the community,” she said.

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