March 29, 2023 at 10:34 p.m.
Johnson teaches crafting at Fairway Pines
March is crafting month, but for Deb Johnson and Fairway Pines Senior Living residents every month is crafting month. Deb has been volunteering twice a month at Fairway Pines for about six months, helping engage the seniors’ creativity through a variety of decorative crafts.
“I’ve always been a people person,” Deb said. “When I’m working with them, I can bring something in, but it won’t look like mine when (the seniors) are done with it. They are so creative. I can bring something to them, but they are more creative than I am.”
Ashley Amelung, Deb’s daughter, is the Community Life Director at Fairway Pines, and she has seen how much the residents look forward to crafting day.
“They just enjoy it,” Ashley said. “Every month, they’re (asking), ‘So, what are we crafting?’”
Deb and her husband, Keith Johnson, lived in Sauk Centre for about 32 years, starting in 1989. Keith worked at CentraCare and served on the Sauk Centre City Council for 13 years, and Deb worked as the Program Specialist for CentraCare Health-Sauk Centre Hospital, coordinating the hospital’s volunteers in Sauk Centre and Long Prairie, and she also managed the gift shop at CentraCare Health-Long Prairie Hospital.
“I loved being a Volunteer Coordinator,” Deb said. “I always wanted to volunteer when I retired.”
The Johnsons retired a couple of years ago and, when they could not find a Sauk Centre apartment after selling their house, they moved to Alexandria. Their Sauk Centre ties have them returning all the time, though, and they still consider the town their home. Deb started volunteering in various ways at Fairway Pines with Ashley’s assistance, and it was not long before Deb settled into teaching crafts, starting in August 2022.
Deb has always enjoyed crafting. She also used to own the business Out of the Attic, where she refinished furniture and sold the items in downtown Sauk Centre.
“Crafts have always been my big thing,” Deb said. “I always made crafts for Christmas, and when I was younger, we had this craft of the month that would come in the mail, and (my mother and I) would do crafts together. It’s always been a part of my life.”
At Fairway Pines, Deb comes to teach once every two weeks. She begins by preparing a sample before she arrives, both as practice and as a showcase of how the final product might look.
She sometimes brings the sample a little early to allow residents time to give feedback on potential changes.
So far, crafts Deb has made with the Fairway Pines seniors have been seasonal and holiday-themed decorations, including a welcome sign, a Valentine’s Day candy box, a reversible sign that can say “Joy” or “Boo,” a flat hanging pumpkin, a 3D pumpkin and an Easter decoration of a rabbit in a carrot garden.
“Sometimes, they like what their neighbor likes more than what they do,” Deb said. “They’re all so creative.”
The craft Deb brought to Fairway Pines March 23 was a rabbit silhouette which could be adorned with flowers and a cotton tail.
“I try to do different mediums to give them a chance to do different things than just paint,” Deb said. “This (rabbit) is a crackle finish. We’ll use a heat gun to make the paint crackle.”
After Easter, Deb plans to focus on decorations with spring and summer themes.
“They love working with flowers,” Deb said. “The projects have to be fairly simple because, if they have a lot of gluing to them, we have to do that because we don’t want to let (the seniors) use the hot glue gun, so I try to make it so they can do most of it themselves. They like painting projects.”
Deb does not really have a favorite kind of craft, as she enjoys learning about new and different kinds and figuring out original things to make.
For beginner crafters, Deb knows it is easy to get ideas off of the internet, but she encourages people to make the creations their own.
“It’s so easy to make it your own,” Deb said. “That’s what I do. I love looking at what everybody else does, but then I make it my own. Put your own perspective into it, and make it simple.