Carolyn Caniglia of Red Bridge offers senior artists a program for printing their artwork on greeting cards. Photo by Jill Draper.
Greeting Card program for seniors brings them happiness and a bit of income
By Jill Draper
Making art brings happiness and a sense of accomplishment for older adults who may not have had the chance to be creative in the past. Carolyn Caniglia recognizes this and helps arrange art teachers at local community centers and senior living communities. And she takes it a step further. She encourages seniors to publish their artwork on greeting cards that can be sent to and ordered by friends and relatives.
Her program, called “Seniors Who Paint,” includes a website that showcases greeting cards by some 40 local artists she met through connections at the Jewish Community Center, Belton Community Center, Brookdale Wornall Place, Kingswood, Claridge Court, The Forum, Bishop Spencer and others around the country. Some order just a few cards, while others order hundreds. Custom messages can be added, and the back identifies the artist.
She started the program through her business TLC Greetings about five years ago after researching the legal aspects and acquiring a high-end Xerox printer. Initial interest from the senior community was promising, and when someone from the Mid-America Regional Council invited her to talk about it, she immediately followed up.
After driving downtown to the office of MARC staff member Cindy Terryberry, she began her presentation. She remembers sitting at the conference table and Terryberry saying nothing. Oh well, she told herself, there will be other presentations. But then Terryberry commented.
“How in the heck did you think of this?” she asked. She liked the idea so much that she arranged for Caniglia to present it to representatives from senior centers throughout the area and put her in touch with the National Council on Aging which communicates with 11,000 senior centers across the country.
At Terryberry’s suggestion she’s now collecting evidence on how art activities encourage social connections, happiness and pride. The greeting card option also provides a bit of income—Caniglia pays a 10 percent commission to the artists if others order their cards. In the fall she hopes to partner with a UMKC gerontology student to help collect data that she can use to market the program nationally.
Meanwhile, 99-year-old artist Betty Belle inspired her to create a related program. “Can you come to my room?” Bell asked when Caniglia visited her at The Forum. “I have so many treasures that I like.” Caniglia offered to take photographs and put those on cards as well.
“By the end of the day and a glass of wine, I came up with “Treasures of Your Time,” Caniglia says. Since then she has produced cards for individuals featuring an antique baby gown, a handmade quilt, old family photos and needlepoint pictures. A short history of each item is listed on the back.
She currently runs the greeting card business out of her Red Bridge home, however, she already has identified a local printer who can produce single cards at a time when orders increase. The price for a set of 10 notecards with envelopes is $16 while a set of 12 larger-sized greeting cards with envelopes is $19. When she visits an art class she provides one free card for each artist and an order form. There’s a start-up membership fee of $45 and an annual renewal fee of $25 if the cards are featured on her website, tlcgreetings.com.
Caniglia, 78, says she has no plans to retire. A longtime entrepreneur, she has written a workbook on marketing, hosted a weekly radio show, taught college seminars and was a delegate to a White House Conference on Small Business.
“Ninety percent of seniors didn’t even start painting before they took senior art classes. They love it when they see their original art on greeting cards that they can order one at a time,” she says. “I think of these cards as a gift to the next generation.”