An Interview with Shelly Durham
“We didn’t get any funding for art supplies this year. There just wasn’t anything available in our limited budget.” Those were the words spoken by the director of American Senior Living, a nursing home in Clarksville, Indiana, close to where Shelly Durham resides. It was then Shelly decided to take matters into her own hands, providing nearly 300 coloring books and almost 250 boxes of colored pencils.
Color On!: What made you approach the director in the first place?
SHELLY DURHAM: My boyfriend, Dwayne, works at the facility as an aide, specializing in Alzheimer’s and hospice care. He would often come home, talking about how lonely the residents were. He told me a story one night about an Alzheimer’s patient and how he’d given her a coloring book. He told me it immediately calmed her down, when nothing else could. The next day, I gave him some more books to bring into work with him. After that, I decided to make it a mission to try and bring them a little joy.
Color On!: After deciding you were going to help these seniors, what steps did you take?
SHELLY DURHAM: I admin for a few different coloring groups on Facebook. The size of the groups ranges from 1000 to 35,000 members. On average, I receive 60 to 80 coloring books per month to review from coloring book artists. What we don’t use for giveaways in the groups, I donate to the seniors.
On top of the reviewing copies, I decided to start a GoFund Me account and hit up the members to see if they’d be interested in donating a few dollars to help out.
Color On!: How much were you able to raise?
SHELLY DURHAM: We were able to raise over 600 dollars through donations from Facebook coloring group members in just under two months. The money was then used to purchase crayons, colored pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, and candy canes. We also received over 150 Christmas cards that members colored. The coloring books came from books I reviewed and donations sent from coloring book artists and colorists. We were also able to pick up some children’s coloring books for the Alzheimer’s patients. It was truly incredible to see how much can be accomplished when people come together with a singular purpose in mind. [Editor’s note: Shelly posted a video on Facebook showing everything donated. Check it out!]
Color On!: All of your hard work is finally coming to end and you get to go and deliver all of those supplies you collected. Describe the experience.
SHELLY DURHAM: As the gift bags were passed out, you could just see the joy that the coloring supplies brought. One woman exclaimed, “Praise Jesus, you have no idea how much this means to me.” It makes your heart feel good to make so many people happy, and I can’t believe how many hugs I got that day. They were remembered and blessed by strangers…all of you that made this possible. As we walked out of the nursing home, passing the open doors of the residents, just about every one of them was sitting up and coloring. It brought tears to my eyes.
Coloring is relaxing, helps to alleviate pain, depression and so many other medical problems, plus it makes us happy. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to sit endlessly, for hours, when all I had to look forward to was my next meal, for someone to tell me when to wake up, go to bed, when to shower or when I could walk outside. Coloring will give the seniors a choice and a wonderful distraction. This is the first time that they have had books and crayons in their room and they can color whenever they want.
Before, coloring was a planned activity, where they met in a group. They all shared the colored pencils, markers and crayons. Now they have the opportunity to color whenever they want. I gave the director my phone number, so she could call when someone needs a new book. I don’t always have donations to get the colored pencils, but I always have books and if push came to shove, I could print off some of our free coloring pages.
Color On!: That’s really incredible, Shelly! What a beautiful accomplishment. Are you working on another project or is there a way people can donate to keep supplies coming into the home?
SHELLY DURHAM: Our next campaign is to provide coloring supplies to Veteran’s at the VA Hospital in Louisville and if we get enough donations, we will include the Veterans in Fort Knox, Kentucky. The GoFundMe account was just started: https://www.gofundme.com/gjhfze2s. It’s a great cause and we hope it is as successful as our Christmas campaign.
Color On!: We’re wishing you the best! Thank you for starting this project and making the world a little better for the seniors at American Senior Living.