Sapphire residents Margaret Rhodes, Jackie Scriver, Vi Chays, Clara Miller and Celeste Murphy, with the guidance of Activities Leader Josh Gulli, created masks and entered them into the “Residents of Long Term Care Facilities” category at the Ravalli County Fair and brought back ribbons and medals.

Creating artistic masks was more than just something to do for five residents of Sapphire Lutheran Homes senior living facility in Hamilton.

It did, indeed, give them a chance to socialize and show off their creative streaks, but it was also an opportunity to compete at the Ravalli County Fair.

Dominic Farrenkopf, community engagement director at Sapphire Lutheran Homes, said the residents competed in an age-based category called “residents of long-term care facilities.”

“We were able to enter our projects in that, so they were competing against their peers in the community - not just against other adults,” Farrenkopf said. “The fair created that category a couple of years ago as they started seeing that there was a need. We used to compete against everyone else, but our hands aren’t as nimble as they once were.”

Josh Gulli, activity leader at Sapphire Lutheran Homes, has connections in community theatre. He thought masks would be the perfect project for residents, so he made a sample and found participants.

“It’s a good way to be creative and keep your hands busy,” Gulli said. “It is fun and something to show off to the community. We’re here, loud and proud. I thought it was a fun thing for everyone to do. We focus on artistic outlets.”

Blue-ribbon winner Celeste Murphy said she didn’t know what to do, but with Gulli’s help she found a design to work on. She crafted a white mask face with red feathers for hair, sequins for eye shadow and red paint for lips.

“It was fun and creative,” Murphy said. “I liked it.”

Jackie Scriver received a red ribbon for her mask, which was made with purple feathers and purple paint.

“My mask is very decorative,” Scriver said. “I feel that living here helps me bloom out and do whatever is possible. You’ve got to get the art that’s inside of you out. I’m thankful for Sapphire. I enjoy being able to express myself artistically. I picked purple because it is exciting and I like everything exciting.”

Margaret Rhodes completed her project with the help of a 10-year-old volunteer.

“She is 10 years old and knows everything,” Rhodes said. “I just went along with whatever she wanted.”

Rhodes’ mask may be the most colorful, with blue, purple, green and tan paint, and plenty of gold glitter.

Vi Chays painted her mask black and also used gold glitter. She also had a hand in making the mask that won first place.

“The gal in the wheelchair had only one arm, and I said ‘Let’s see what we can do’ and I helped her out – and she won first. I’m glad. I’m glad for her,” said Chays, who was a seamstress most of her life. “I like doing and making things. I used to make wood hearts that I padded and decorated to use to hang jewelry. I had a whole bunch of them done, but I gave them to admirers. I have none left.”

Chays said she also does water-color painting, which is a frequent activity at Sapphire Lutheran Homes.

“I like to do anything that is active,” she said.

Chays and Clara Miller received white ribbons for their beautiful entries.

“An interactive art project like this stimulates the residents on many levels,” Farrenkopf said.

“They can express themselves creatively in a group setting,” he said. “They produce a high-quality piece of art they can display in their apartments or give as a gift. Competing in the Ravalli County Fair allows the residents to maintain their independence and offers an opportunity to participate as active members of the greater community. Winning a ribbon is great fun too, regardless of your age.”