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From Moldova to Lakota, a Good Samaritan Society employee uses her art to add beauty to local nursing home

Grand Forks Herald - 5/18/2024

May 18--LAKOTA, N.D. -- Even during the winter months, there is a splash of spring at Good Samaritan Society-Lakota. Up on the high walls of the common room are paintings of blooms, birds, bees and other vegetation. In the front lobby is a painted tree, decorated with handprints from staff members. Each Christmas, there's a tree carefully decorated.

It's all the work of employee Maria Danil.

Anna Halvorson, the facility's administrator, said she trusts Danil to run with her creativity. It's paid off, she said, because Danil's creations are beautiful.

"We're really glad to have her artistic presence here in our facility," she said.

Danil, a certified medication aide at the facility, has liked art since she was 5 years old. She was born and raised in Moldova, a small country in Europe, and attended an art college in Chi inau after high school, where she earned a degree in fashion design, then a master's degree in fine arts.

She worked as a professor teaching jewelry design and history of fashion design, before she moved to the U.S. with her husband. The two decided to raise their family in Lakota, and Danil began to work at a local daycare.

During the pandemic, she heard the Good Samaritan Society was having difficulties with staffing, and she decided to become a CMA and help out.

Halvorson knew Danil from her work at the daycare and knew of her artistic talents, so she asked her to paint something for the common room. Danil chose acrylic paints as her medium and decided to depict imagery of plants, flowers, bees, birds and mushrooms. In between her regular work as a CMA, she would get on a scissor lift and paint while residents watched and made recommendations.

"I just let my hand do the job," she said.

Danil has also painted a tree in the facility's lobby, which staff members have adorned with handprints. She decorates the Christmas tree each year, has done face painting for residents and is Halvorson's go-to person for decoration and art questions, such as when the front lobby's bathroom was remodeled.

"She's always there to offer her two cents, which I really appreciate," Halvorson said. "She's got a really good eye for it."

Halvorson and Danil both said residents and staff often talk about the art. When visitors come, they often introduce her as "our artist." Residents also like to listen to stories of her time in Moldova and learn about the country.

The friendliness she's experienced from residents, staff and the community is one of her favorite things about living here, she said.

"It's wonderful to come from a different part of the world with nobody around you, no relatives and stuff, and people from this community treat us awesome," she said. "They accept us and we are like family, and I really love it. ... Everybody knows everybody. Really kind people. I'm really grateful to be part of this community."

Outside of what Danil has done at the facility, she also has her own personal art, which she likes to sell. One of her favorite things to depict are eyes and faces. She'd like to hold an exhibition of her artwork in the future, but is also considering becoming a nurse to further help Good Samaritan Society-Lakota.

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(c)2024 the Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.)

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