By AMY HEGGEN
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Nature Club at Meadowbrook Healthcare offers a place for residents to learn and express themselves through wildlife and art.
Marian Atkinson, a receptionist at Meadowbrook and the creative mind behind the Nature Club, coordinates the arts and crafts as well as the wildlife that comes to the facility each month.
“She brings these little techniques that just wow the residents every month,” said Laurie Marvin, community relations coordinator at Meadowbrook.
For a few years now, Atkinson has been entertaining residents by wearing unusual hats to each meeting, as well as by bringing in wildlife and other creatures, and a crafty project.
“When I do the Nature Club, it’s to bring the outdoors inside to the people who can’t get out anymore,” Atkinson said.
She said she thought the residents would enjoy the opportunity to be with nature, especially since many of them have spent a lot of time in the Adirondacks.
In the past, residents were able to see and learn about an owl and a sugar glider. The club has also brought in rabbits, puppies and cats, as well as a fox from the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge.
In the future, she has plans for raptors and miniature horses to visit.
“I’m always out in the woods with my camera and always painting wildlife,” Atkinson said. “If I couldn’t do it, I’d be devastated.”
Residents enjoy working on crafts as well, as Atkinson isn’t able have an animal come to every meeting. They’ve created Mardi Gras masks, bowls made with yarn and glue, pinecone wreaths for the holidays and mailboxes for their rooms.
“Someone donated all these flowers (in the past) … and we did a still life of the bouquet,” Atkinson said.
At the last meeting, Sydney the cockatoo from the Animal House Pet Shop in Plattsburgh visited club members while they each painted a cockatoo drawn by Atkinson.
“I give them guidelines to go by, just as a reference,” Atkinson said. “Usually they do their own thing anyways.”
About 20 residents attend the Nature Club. There’s an air of excitement before the activities start because the residents don’t know what to expect; Atkinson doesn’t announce her plans for the meeting ahead of time.
“The residents that come to it are looking forward to it,” Marvin said.
The Nature Club is an escape for the residents, she added, and often it brings back memories.
Marvin said some of the residents’ families also look forward to the meetings because it gives them an opportunity to do something new as a family.
“Something like this, they can have real quality time with their loved one,” she said.
Atkinson said it often brings the residents out of their shells.
Nancy Ellsworth of Plattsburgh recently attended the Nature Club with her mother, Pearl Forgette, a resident of Meadowbrook Healthcare.
“It’s a new experience for them,” Ellsworth said of the meetings.
She said it creates a way for residents to express themselves, and she’s amazed to see how talented they are.
“I think it brings happiness,” Ellsworth said.
Forgette spent her time at the last Nature Club meeting talking to the cockatoo.
Ellsworth said she hadn’t seen her mother talk that much in awhile.