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The art of making people happy

Judy Sorensen shares her passion for art with an eager group of seniors
For the past five years Judy Sorensen has helped seniors at the Columbia View Lodge discover their artistic side. An exhibition of their work is planned for September.

They say that it’s never too late to learn something new.

For the past five years seniors at Columbia View Lodge have been learning new art skills through the teachings of volunteer instructor Judy Sorensen.

Two days each week Judy helps groups of three or four residents at a time discover their artistic talents in her classroom. She keeps the class sizes small in order to provide individual attention.

With gentle guidance and encouragement Judy inspires both new and returning students to uncover and expand their abilities.

“I like to keep things low stress and pretty informal.” she says, “I don’t teach color theory or anything like that. It’s just whatever they like… nothing is wrong.

“And I think it’s important that they can come in here and they don’t have to have any background or skills in painting.” she says. “Some of them I have to persuade a little bit, but in the end most of them can’t believe what they can do.”

One of the residents new to the class is Iole Cristofoli, who praises both Judy and her program.

“Judy is a wonderful teacher.” Cristofoli says.

“She’s got a lot of love and patience and she gets a lot of good art from the people who go there. She makes them feel good and that’s a really big thing.

“When I’m there the time just flies by.” adds Cristofoli. “It seems like I just sit down and it’s time to go. I really enjoy the class a lot.”

Margot Wright, director of  leisure time services and volunteer coordinator at Columbia View says volunteers like Judy are invaluable assets to the lodge.

“Without our volunteers this place would not be what it is.” she says, “They are so important to us and I can’t imagine doing some of the events we do without them.”

“Most are willing to do whatever they can but some, like Judy bring special skills that they offer to us.

She’s done a lot of research about working with elderly people and people with dementia and it’s not often you get volunteers who do research on their own like that. We‘re really lucky to have her.”

Judy sums it up this way, “If I end up here I’d want to be treated in a certain way, so I try to treat the residents the way I would like to be treated. What I do here makes them happy and it makes me happy and we all feel good.”

On Sept. 20 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., an exhibit and sale of 100 to 150 pieces of the residents’ work will take place at the lodge.

The event is open to the public and proceeds from the sale will be used to purchase more supplies. It will be an opportunity to meet some of the emerging artists, view their works, and show your support for Judy and her students.

And it might also be a chance to find out, with the help of the right teachers, how much all of us could still learn.

If there’s an unheralded person in our community that deserves recognition for their efforts contact Mike Hockley at