PARSIPPANY — The festivities of Cinco de Mayo are too big to be confined to just one day. At least that is the case at CareOne at Morris Assisted Living, 200 Madzabrook Road. Instead of a one-day celebration, two nurturing staff members, with big imaginations, have transformed CareOne’s Harmony Village, a memory care community, into Fiesta de Mayo, a month-long staycation in Mexico designed especially for the residents of CareOne’s award-winning assisted living community.
Nancy Ochoa and Fatima Salcedo are Certified Nursing Assistants who have worked in Harmony Village at CareOne for ten years.
“There was a Cinco de Mayo party last year,” said Salcedo, “but it wasn’t a big enough celebration, so this year we thought we would really celebrate.”
Using repurposed everyday items, and a brightly colored palette, the two experienced healthcare professionals sculpted, painted, and transformed the halls and community areas of Harmony Village, into a slice of Mexico. Cardboard from delivery boxes, medicine cups, packing Styrofoam, bed sheets, bubble wrap, recycled bottles, and kitchen seasonings were combined with yarn, acrylic paints, crayons, pencils and tissue paper to become intricate ancient Aztec art, colorful sombreros, carved wooden signs, clay pots filled with blooming cacti, dessert scenery, festival flags, Corona hombres party favors, and vistas of Mexican sunsets.
A creative team of two, the pair worked on the scenery, paintings and decorations everyday for almost four months. Every detail, from “Poncho,” the hombre taking a siesta in the hallway, to the “Tequila” Cantina, was meticulously planned and decorated.
“Things were flowing in my brain,” explained Ochoa of the creativity Fiesta de Mayo inspired. “I wanted to show the Aztec civilization and the way that they expressed themselves. I wanted it to look like a piece of Mexico was here.”
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw it,” said CareOne at Morris Assisted Living Executive Director, Vincenzo Manzella. “The details and breadth of the decorations is amazing. It put a smile on everyone.
Ochoa said that she and Salcedo did not run out of ideas for the Fiesta de Mayo celebration. Instead, they stopped building scenery so they could begin displaying their creations in the hallways of Harmony Village. The decorations were completed in time for the community’s Ocho de Mayo party, a celebration which kicked-off early in the day and ran into the early evening on Friday, May 8, 2015. Residents entertained family and friends from CareOne at Morris, and throughout the tri-state area. Over one hundred twenty attended the El Azteca Restaurante feast of tacos, quesadillas, guacamole, “Margaritas” (lemonade and apple juice), and “Coronas” (white grape juice). There was dancing, singing, socializing and deep admiration for the artwork and scenery created by Ochoa and Salcedo.
“The joy Nancy and Fatima bring to our residents is truly touching,” Manzella said. “Fiesta de Mayo is a beautiful celebration that we are excited to enjoy all month.”
With the help of Salcedo, Ochoa created over thirty-five original paintings and sculptures for Fiesta de Mayo. Countless more decorations and favors were also constructed. Plastic medicine cups were decorated to look like colorful shot glasses, and tissue paper was folded into origami to make flowering cacti. Each piece of art depicts a different aspect of Mexico and Mexican culture from ancient times through today.
“Residents thrive in our environment as they, together with staff, run the gamut of sharing, learning, reminiscing and maintaining their creativity and abilities,” said the Director of Harmony Villages, Francine Gerber.
She noted that this type of dedication and attention to detail is not uncommon for Ochoa and Salcedo.
“These multi-faceted and creatively skilled ladies steadily handcrafted each intricate and delicately fashioned item and decoration,” Gerber added. “They used their time, patience, attention to detail and master craftsmanship for their residents.”-
“Our residents and their families are very grateful for Nancy and Fatima,” said Manzella. “Everyday, they put their heart and soul into providing our residents the highest quality of life. They put the same passion and creativity into everything they do here at CareOne of Morris Assisted Living.”
Come June, the Fiesta de Mayo celebration will be replaced by summer fun and down-the-shore themes. In the meantime, however, residents will enjoy another week in sunny Mexico.
The CareOne staff focuses on assisting residents in maintaining vibrant, independent lives, while providing them with the comfort of knowing that a helping hand is always close by. The wide variety of social activities, such as Fiesta de Mayo, contributes to the community’s health, happiness and continued well-being.