Jesse Crew: Recreational Therapist

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(The paintings in between the paragraphs are samples of Jesse’s own artwork. They are watercolors or tea dyed paper that’s been pierced. It’s based on tin poking from colonial times.)

Jesse Crew is a ball of artistic energy at Saunders House, where my mother-in-law Lena resides. After watching her in action and the results of her efforts, I knew I wanted to interview her for Profiles. Jesse arrived at Saunders House soon after my mother-in-law chose to live there for long- term care. Jesse has made a huge difference in Lena’s life as well as the lives of other residents.

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An artist through and through, Jesse brings a wealth of information and artistic creativity to the older residents at Saunders House. Graduating with a degree in Education and Art with advanced classes in Therapeutic Recreation, Jesse has spent most of her career learning and creating in the field of arts and crafts, with an emphasis on colonial arts. She can spin, weave, do rug hooking, dye fabric, and make pottery, all of which she demonstrated at the Delaware County Bicentennial in 1976-1977.

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Then, Jesse plied her artistic endeavors to horticulture therapy, another way to get people involved in the art of gardening and flower arranging. From there, Jesse worked with seniors in Chester Towers, a center for seniors outside Philadelphia. During this time she also hand wrote a 50-page craft booklet.When one of her jobs ended, she taught aerobics in order to support herself and her two daughters. As a single mom, she has always watched out for her girls. Her younger daughter, Aurora, works weekends at Saunders House while finishing her degree in the same area as Jesse, Therapeutic Recreation.

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At Saunders House she is everywhere: running a café in the afternoon, creating wonderful art displays in the lobby with the help of residents like my mother-in-law, planning art appreciation and painting classes with Carole Hayes, designing mind games for the residents, including Jeopardy, word-building, Bingo, and Trivial Pursuit. All of these are intended to stimulate the residents to use their minds, keeping their brains active.

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Why does Jesse love to work with older people? “Older people are the sages of society. We learn from them.” She loves to engage them in conversations and listen to their life experiences. For example, during current events, she might talk about the economy today and ask them to compare with to The Great Depression of the 1930s. When I asked Jesse what gets her up every morning, she said that she is not a “church goer,” but she’d like to think that she’ll get into heaven because the work that she does means something to someone, making a difference in older people’s lives. She’s got my vote!!!

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