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'Oh, it is a miracle,' Volunteers paint Christmas scenes on nursing home windows

Connie Leech and her husband, Thom, are reflected

Connie Leech and her husband, Thom, are reflected in the front door of Peak Resources Outer Banks in Nags Head as they evaluate her painting of a snowman.  Credit: Virginian-Pilot / TNS/Jeff Hampton

About 30 people gathered at a Nags Head, North Carolina, nursing home in mid December to paint snowmen, stars, Christmas trees, reindeer and even a crab named Santa "Claws" on the windows.

The volunteers wanted to bring a little extra cheer during a year of fear and isolation, especially in nursing homes, due to the pandemic. About 70 windows and doors served as a canvas for Christmas and winter scenes.

Resident Iris Whetzel watched from her room at Peak Resources Outer Banks as someone painted a wreath on her window. She looked forward to going to the lobby afterward to see other designs on the big doors.

"Oh, it is a miracle, what they did," she said in a phone interview. "It was wonderful. Please tell them all, thank you so much."

Kill Devil Hills resident Katelin Kight organized the event after her parents did something similar last week at a nursing home in Barco, North Carolina, where her grandmother resides. Kight, 31, who works in public relations for Dare County’s government, had never done such a thing before but said she wanted to lift people’s spirits. She chose Peak Resources because she had a friend who used to work there.

All of the painters wore masks to avoid turning a good deed into a spreader event.

Community comes together

Among the group was a graphic designer, a lifeguard, a photographer, a hospital accountant, a bread baker and a digital media marketer. There were families with children, single young adults and a few who had seen many Christmases come and go.

About 11 a.m., just as the sun broke through what had been a rainy morning, Kight placed on a table an array of water-soluble paints and foam brushes. Volunteers poured an assortment of colors into the compartments of a metal muffin pan like artists with their palettes.

Then, each of them found a blank window on which to create their masterpiece.

"I just get so much pleasure out of making others feel joy and happiness," said Kelly Shelton.

Penelope Brewer, 7, stood on a ladder to reach an upper window where she painted a brown reindeer with bright eyes and a smile. Her dad, Stephen, and mom, Katie, painted nearby.

She told her mother later that she made four new friends of residents who waved at her from inside while she painted. One even blew kisses.

Bri Young painted a snowman and then flicked her wet brush at the window to create realistic snowflakes around it. She looked around at all the people concentrating on their art.

"It’s nice to see how everyone has stepped up," she said.

'It's definitely fun'

Brett Anderson painted a large, green Christmas tree. Then he stepped back to review his work.

"I’m not the best artist, but I’m trying," he said. "It’s definitely fun."

Connie Leech hesitated a moment before beginning to paint a big snowman on the front door.

"Should I do it facing in or facing out?" she said.

It was a perplexing problem, one that drew laughter and some advice from those close by.

Her adult daughter, Emily Leech, recommended she paint the snowman facing out so people entering could see it well. Plus, it was a less complicated task. And mother agreed.

Later, the finished snowman sported a large top hat, a carrot nose and a big, cheerful smile that reflected the feelings of the day’s work.

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