Partnership uses art to provide inspiration during COVID-19

‘Chalk Squad’ goal is to cheer vulnerable seniors and essential workers.

On May 15, members of The Chalk Squad — a partnership between Barclays/Laurel Manor Healthcare And Rehabilitation Centers and Rothkoff Law Group who are trying to spread joy, inspire hope and create positivity through quotes and drawings on the pathways of senior living facilities across the region — marked a message outside Symphony at Cherry Hill on Brace Road in recognition of residents and their caregivers as they take on coronavirus. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Solitro/Special to the Sun)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults — particularly those sick or otherwise infirm — are under a greater threat from COVID-19 than the general population.

Per the CDC, an estimated 31 to 59 percent of those between the ages of 65 and 84 have been hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 4 to 11 percent of that age group having died from it.

Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and residential care facilities have been hit hard in Camden County — and especially Cherry Hill — over the last two months. The physical and emotional toll exacted in caring for seniors while dealing with limited protective equipment has also hit health- care workers hard. 

But a small band of community activists is trying to give the at-risk population and its caregivers a reason to smile. Calling themselves The Chalk Squad, participants in a joint venture between Barclays/Laurel Manor Healthcare And Rehabilitation Centers and Rothkoff Law Group are  spreading joy and positivity through quotes and drawings on the pathways of senior living facilities.

“I’m in the health care marketing business, and when this whole thing hit,  we had to figure out how to keep in contact with these communities:  assisted living, home care, elder care, rehab facilities,” said Elizabeth Solitro, co-founder and director of business development for Barclays. 

“We had to identify how to break down barriers among ourselves. 

“I had this chalk, and thought it would be a good idea to start spreading some good news and good words.”

According to Solitro, the facilities chalked so far are: in Cherry Hill, Barclays Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center; Arden Courts and Symphony (memory-care assisted living); Cherry Hill Senior Living; Atria Cherry Hill Assisted Living; Premier Cadbury; in Voorhees, Lionsgate; Voorhees Senior Living and 

ManorCare of Voorhees; and Laurel Brook Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Mt. Laurel. 

“We started out with just two people,” Solitro noted. “When we created our hashtag, #yougotchalked, we had so many people reaching out to us on Facebook. And today, we had six people out and doing the chalkings. Two of the women even got their children involved since kids are off from going into school.” 

Having called the Sun following one of the group’s chalking runs on a warm and sunny May 15, Solitro said the squad intends to keep up the good work on a steady basis for the near future.  

“We’re going to be doing it twice a week, and we’re looking for anybody, whether you work in health care and even if you don’t,” she implored.

“We want to expand this across South Jersey to any other hospitals who want to do it. We’re looking for anybody with an art background to join up, to create beautiful artwork and words to offer encouragement to the community.”

Solitro has been amazed that the greater health care and business worlds have put their differences aside in a time of urgent need.

“It really shows that community was more important than anything else,” she added. “We’ve gotten away from advocating for ourselves and from being in competition with each other.

“We are truly all in this together, and solidarity in our community of senior facilities is a bond that cannot be broken by COVID.”

To learn more about the Chalk Squad, contact Solitro at (856) 298-7183 or visit Barclay’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/barclaysrehab/