By Amanda Paterson
When Charity Votary began working as a dining room server at Royale Place Retirement Residence in Kingston, she didn’t expect that her love of art would make its way into her everyday work. But when she saw a chalkboard menu in the dining room, she couldn’t resist the urge to add drawings around the menu items.
“Eventually, I just took over and started taking up the whole board with drawings, and the residents really enjoyed it,” she said. Her drawings are often seasonally-inspired, with sunshine, flowers and birds for summer, and pumpkins, leaves and holiday images for fall.
Charity’s love of art and music began at a young age. After experiencing mobility and health challenges for all of her life, she discovered art and music as a way to cope.
“Art and music helped me get through it all – painting, singing, playing piano, harp and the violin have all been outlets for me.”
This strong creative foundation motivated her to apply for a position as a Recreation Assistant, a role she began in September 2017. Now, she leads a broad range of art-based activities for residents. She shared that this work “is so fitting. I always wanted a career in art, but wasn’t sure I could make it. Here, I can connect with residents through art, helping them gain a new skill. They complete projects with pride, even showing off their paintings to their family.”
Residents have also asked her to paint special pieces for them. A resident asked her to paint two roses intertwined, to symbolize his upcoming wedding.
“He loved it so much that he placed it on his walker and took it on a tour around Royale, sharing it with his friends and the team members,” Charity said. She also recently painted a portrait in honour of a resident’s late wife.
“It was the 1-year anniversary of my wife’s passing,” says resident Gene, “it meant a lot to me that she would create this portrait.”
Charity is currently working part-time and completing a recreation and leisure studies program. She has truly found her calling in working with seniors.
“I love it. I can bond with residents because of what I’ve gone through and help them look beyond whatever health challenges they’re going through, so they can fully participate in music and art. We’re connected in that experience.”
Amanda Paterson is a Communications Specialist at Sienna Senior Living.