UWGB students choose arts and dementia program to receive $10,000 grant

Posted at 10:41 PM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-03 23:41:06-04

Senior citizens that are struggling with dementia are finding a creative outlet at Curative Connections. The adult day services provider offers an arts and aging program.

"It leads to a happier person, a more content person, a person that's enjoying life," said Diana Brown, Vice President of Program Services.  

While there's no cure for dementia, Brown says hands-on art projects give those with Alzheimer's.disease, and related conditions, a way to communicate.

"It's fun to see somebody who you didn't think, maybe wasn't saying anything, or was very quiet, all of a sudden enjoying an activity and expressing themselves or singing or dancing," said Brown.
Denis Rehn of Suamico, who has early stages of dementia, praises the center's programs for stimulating his mind and providing an opportunity  to socialize.  
"I'd be lost without it. It's really something to look forward to each week." 
With the Wisconsin Department of Health Services predicting that 242,000 people in the state will have dementia by 2040, Brown say it's important to expand services. Now, her center is able to do that., thanks to a $10,000 grant from UWGB.
"We're very excited," Brown said.
As part of their Strategic Philanthropy class, Katelyn Krantz and Amy Niemuth were part of the group that examined the results of the Life Study which identifies areas of need in Brown County. After considering issues of hunger and poverty, childhood obesity, and youth empowerment, the students voted to support art and the elderly. 
"As a college student, I don't have $10,000 just in my pocket, so to be able to have this grant from the Learning by Giving Foundation, is just a way that I can learn hands on and make a really good impact on the community," Niemuth explained.
Niemuth says the class considered how far the money would go, the level of impact it would have, and the sustainability of the programs, before selecting the grant recipient.
"This is a class that really motivates the students, and they really care about what they're doing. They're very diligent," said Lora Warner, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Public Affairs.
Curative Connections will use the money to pay for its Arts Activity Specialist to spend more time working with the seniors, as well as receive more training from a national arts and dementia group. They'll also purchase art supplies and expand arts programming with the grant.  
If it really makes a difference in one person for the rest of their lives, I think that will be enough for me to be happy with what we've given," explained UWGB Junior Katelyn Krantz. 
Niemuth says students were inspired by their own grandparents when deciding to support bringing the arts to more seniors.
"They've shaped Green Bay to what it is, and I think we need to give back to them and make sure they have adequate care."
Through Curative Connections' successful arts program, Brown says the seniors they serve are unleashing their inner artist. that many never knew existed. Numerous researchers say dementia does not steal a person's creativity and, in some cases,  it's even enhanced so programs  like this can boost mood and self-esteem. 
This is the fifth year that UWGB has handed out a grant to benefit a local non-profit.