If you visit Veldonna Armstrong at The Bridge Assisted Living at Garden Plaza of Post Falls, Idaho, you will quickly be struck by her creative spirit.
Her apartment, besides being home to Veldonna and her two cats, is an art studio. Colored pencils, paints, markers and gel pens can be found all around, as well as pictures completed and in progress.
Veldonna has always loved art. But she only started painting a little more than two years ago.
“I was coloring in adult coloring books with colored pencils,” Veldonna explained. “I have so much arthritis that it was hard to press down and get the shading that I wanted, so I thought to myself, ‘Why not try some paints and see if that wouldn’t blend my colors better?’”
Veldonna taught herself how to paint with acrylics and oils and found that she enjoyed painting. She could achieve the blending result she was looking for, and she got some added benefits.
“Painting has been very relaxing for me,” she said. “It’s very fun.”
Veldonna’s favorite subjects to paint are animals – from fawns and puppies to birds, though she also likes to do landscapes and says she goes for a Bob Ross-style for those.
Perhaps her travels have inspired her landscapes, too. Her husband, Paul Armstrong, worked for the Union Pacific Railroad, which gave Veldonna the chance to see a lot of the country. She greatly enjoyed their trips together.
But fine art isn’t the only way Veldonna lets out her creative spark. She has also been writing inspirational poetry for about 15 years. She has a collection for just about every occasion, from holidays to funerals.
“I was under an awful lot of stress at the time I started,” she explained. “I wrote poems to kind of relieve the stress, and I just kept on with it.”
Most of Veldonna’s poems are inspirational, meant to help uplift people and remind them of God’s love. She has found that the other residents at The Bridge enjoy hearing her verses, especially when she leads out in the Poetry and Stories activity at the community.
Veldonna is, after all, not just an artist and poet – she is also a volunteer. She loves helping out with activities, whether it be teaching a painting class, leading the poetry group or calling bingo.
“When not calling bingo, she plays her cards and acts as a banker, keeping track of the quarter payouts,” shared Wendy Lebsack, activity director. “If a resident needs assistance, she has them sit by her so she can help them. I can count on her to be there helping and teaching.”
To Veldonna, such volunteering is second nature.
“Usually it’s things that I enjoy doing anyway,” she said. “It’s a pretty simple thing for me.”
The former nurse took her caring heart to a new level one Christmas, providing presents for every resident.
“So many of our residents here don’t get any Christmas, only as far as what Wendy puts out for them as far as activities go, but they don’t get a present,” Veldonna explained. “Nobody brings them a present. And so I decided, ‘You know, I think I’ll do that.’ But instead of just giving presents to the ones that needed it, I decided, ‘Well, I’ll give everybody one.’”
Thanks to her creativity, Veldonna had quite a few handmade items to give away, from paintings to ceramics to knitted pieces, though she did buy some gifts.
“The hardest part of the whole thing was getting everything wrapped,” Veldonna remembered with a smile.
She enlisted the help of her neighbor across the hall, and together, they wrapped all the presents in time for Christmas.
“Everybody was surprised because I hadn’t told them I was going to do it,” Veldonna said. “It made me happy to make someone else happy.”
In so many things she does, Veldonna spreads that joy.
“Veldonna doesn’t just create for her own satisfaction,” Wendy said. “She shares it with everyone she comes in contact with. She ignites those around her and sparks them to blaze with their own creativity.”
Veldonna is cherished throughout the community. In turn, she cherishes her fellow residents and the staff.
“This is my home and has been for about 10 years,” she said. “The people here are my neighbors, my friends and my family.”