LONGMEADOW — People are smiling as they visit Sosin Center for Rehabilitation at JGS Lifecare in Longmeadow. Carefully placed in the stone beds lining the walkway into the building, and carefully balanced on exterior window sills, are splashes of color and glimmers of light, in the form of brightly colored painted rocks. Rocks of all sizes and shapes are decorated with painted images of hearts, birds, faces, and silly bugs.
These painted stones are the handiwork of long-time JGS Lifecare volunteer Janice Lawrence, a resident of Genesis House, located on the JGS Lifecare campus. “With COVID-19 and the protective restrictions on entering the nursing home, I am no longer able to visit and volunteer. I miss it terribly,” she said. “This is my home away from home. Painting these stones was a way for me to keep giving back.”
Lawrence began volunteering at Ruth’s House Assisted Living Residence 15 years ago, offering manicures to the residents. For the past 10 years, she has been working in the volunteer-run gift shop at the Leavitt Family Jewish Home. Unable to perform her volunteer duties due to COVID-19, she found herself with a lot of time on her hands. To help her pass the time, her daughter Michele bought her some painting materials. Lawrence gave them a try, but didn’t see herself as an artist or someone who could paint with proper shadows and perspective. It was during one of her daily walks on the JGS Lifecare campus that she got an idea.
Lining the sidewalk to the entry of Sosin Center for Rehabilitation are tumbled stones of all shapes and sizes. “I enjoyed looking at the stones, and all of a sudden I found that they started to speak to me,” she said. “I see images in the patterns and shapes of the stones. I see a face, a bird, a heart, or a cute bug. This I knew I could paint.”
So started her retrieval of stones — three, maybe four at a time — which she walked back to her home at Genesis House, with her walker. She would find her inspiration from their shape and pattern, paint an image, and then return them to their original place. This was her way to give back and brighten someone’s day.
“When people are going in for rehab, they have likely experienced a great deal of trauma. I want them to see something that makes them smile and tells them that someone cares,” Lawrence said. “I want them to be happy and feel good, knowing that they are entering a caring place and will soon be returning home to their families. I hope my painted stones help them do that.”