Interview With Cart Creators

Since my post highlighting creative activity carts, I’ve gotten lots of questions about how to create said carts.

Thankfully some very wonderful Activity Professionals from Connecticut reached out to me and accepted my offer of an interview.  

(interview was conducted via video call, answers to questions have been summarized/paraphrased and approved by all participants) 

Meet Kathleen, Jordana and Sharon from Glen Hill Center in Danbury, CT.

Kathleen – Director of Recreation at Glen Hill Center.  She has 23 years experience working in recreation and a total of 35 years working in the senior population!  She began her career, working as a CNA for 12 years in a skilled nursing facility. She was approached by close friend and Assistant Administrator, about a position in the Recreation Department knowing how creative Kathy was and what a caring heart she had for her elderly residents. She decided to go for the change in career and went back to school for Therapeutic Recreation. She remained at that facility for the next 3 years as a Recreation Assistant. She came to this facility when she offered the position of Director of Recreation and will be celebrating her 20th anniversary here in June!

Jordana – Recreation Assistant with a total of 4.5 years experience in Senior Activities.  Her prior career was in daycare services.  She really enjoys the planning process, especially for big events and decorating.  She loves working in the elderly setting and finds a lot of fulfillment in bringing joy to her residents.

Sharon- Recreation Assistant with a total of 27 years experience in Senior Activities.  Believe it or not, she was a bank teller in her former career.  She really wanted to follow her creative compass and help people.  After seeing a help wanted ad for a caring and creative person to work with the elderly, the rest is as they say, history.

LLB (LoveLaughandBingo) : How long have you been doing these activity carts?

GHC (Glen Hill Center) : We started in April of last year, 2020, about a month or so after the Covid lockdowns started.  

LLB: What was the first cart you designed and created? What was your inspiration?

GHC: Our first cart was Spring Time in Paris.  Our company sometimes sends us ideas or themes and that’s what sparked the idea.  Sharon sewed some berets and we added snacks to fit the theme.  The residents just loved it and it inspired us to really push ourselves creatively.  

LLB: Let’s talk about the planning process, walk me through where you start and how you manage your time.

GHC: We come together a month prior to plan as a group.  We get a lot of ideas and inspiration from The National Days Calendar (*link), Activity Connection (*link) and Pinterest (*link) of course!  We are especially inspired by the National Days, for example March 14th is PI Day, so we will do a themed cart with a play on word for pie or a St. Patrick’s Day cart, or a Star Wars Cart (May the 4th, May the force be with you). 

We always add some themed snacks and plan out our decorations in advance.  If we can dress up, we plan our outfits or costumes also.  The themed snacks and costumes really add to the “experience” of the carts.  We order everything we may need to create all aspects of the cart ahead so we have plenty of time to assemble.  We try to plan 2, no more than 3 carts each month.  We are Skilled Care, so we have other programs, assessments, progress notes, care plans, etc to do regularly.  While it does take time, planning in advance and doing a little at a time has made making these carts possible for us.  

LLB: What are some tools or methods you’ve learned along the way?

GHC: First, we have an very supportive Activity Director, which helps so much.  We definitely like to see how far we can push it creatively, so we use our creative strengths.  Sharon sews, so she makes a lot of the awnings and some accessories, ie. Oktoberfest/Lemonade cart.

Pretty much every cart begins with a tablecloth (plastic ones from the dollar store https://www.orientaltrading.com/pleated-table-skirts-a2-13601695.fltr?categoryId=553743&rd=Table%20skirt great!) and a table skirt as a base.   (You can find table skirts at www.orientaltrading.com) We use lots of packing tape to secure everything.  We use foam boards to give a wider top so we have a little more surface area (foam boards can be found at most dollar storeshttps://www.dollartree.com/readi-board-white-foam-boards/809955  We have also taken some images, enlarged them and printed them to create character cut outs.  We just glue them to the foam board and cut them out.  We did this on the Wizard of Oz cart. 

LLB: Can you tell me some specific examples of materials you’ve used?

GHC: For the Wizard of Oz cart we used cardstock to make the yellow brick road.  We used tissue paper to make the poppies in the poppy field.  

For the Valentine’s Day cart we used foam board to make the candy box.  We painted coffee filters and tissue paper to make the candy wrappers.  

We use a table top awning frame we purchased from Oriental Trading as a skeleton for most of our carts.  We just change out the awnings and decoration for each cart. https://www.orientaltrading.com/black-and-white-awning-tabletop-kit-a2-13958562.fltr?keyword=AwningWe mostly shop for supplies at the dollar store and www.orientaltrading.com

LLB: What would you tell other Activity Professionals wanting to try adding carts to their programs?

GHC: Use your team’s strengths and let each other shine.  Start small, check Pinterest for inspiration, plan ahead, even copy someone else!  Do a little each day.  The residents really deserve the extra pizzazz.  Any effort made is so appreciated.  The smile it brings to their faces is so worth it.  It breaks up the monotony Covid can bring.  It’s even a morale boost for the staff too!  It makes us see each resident each week also which is helpful for progress and care planning.

LLB: Will carts continue after Covid lockdowns are over and things are back to “normal”?

GHC: Oh yes, definitely!  After seeing how happy it has made them, we have to keep it going.  It’s now another asset to a great activity program. 

Thank you so much to Kathleen, Jordana and Sharon at Glen Hill Center for taking the time to share your process and resources.  It was so wonderful to come together and share with Activity Professionals who clearly have such passion and pride in their careers. 

Feel free to show them some love and like their facebook page! …..https://www.facebook.com/Myskillednursingcare/

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