South Charlotte

Creativity comes easy for 91-year-old

Betty Myers has always had a creative streak, and at 91 years old, she uses it every day.

Myers, a resident at Atria MerryWood Senior Living on Park Road, has made more than 600 picture books for hospitalized patients in the past several years. She was inspired when noticing pet magazines at her son Robert's home. The pictures of cats, dogs and other animals were so cute she decided to cut them out and make a little booklet.

Her daughter, Cheryl Saylor, worked at a hospital in Myer's home state of New Jersey and started bringing the books to Alzheimer's patients where they were loved and appreciated by recipients and staff.

Myers moved to Charlotte more than seven years ago to be near her granddaughter and to be settled in the place where Saylor planned to retire. Besides sending her books up to New Jersey, Myers also contacted Levine Children's Hospital to ask if they would like her pet books.

"They've sent me several thank-you cards," Myers said.

Tucker Summerville, the Child Life Assistant at the hospital, said in one of her thank-you cards that the kids really enjoyed these gifts and they appreciated all the time Myers spent on her books.

But pet books are not the only creative endeavor Myers has worked on to help the less-fortunate. When she moved to Atria MerryWood, Myers started a knitting club where she and other members knitted caps and baby blankets for Presbyterian Hospital. She also made more than 300 lap blankets that she gave to her daughter for the patients in New Jersey.

Myers now focuses on pet books and MerryWood's "Touching Hearts" program. The program's participants use old cardstock to create new greeting cards for a group called Friendship Trays (a nonprofit that delivers meals to people in need similar to Meals On Wheels), which delivers the cards to meal recipients. This gives the meal recipients, who often live alone, the feeling of connection to other Charlotte residents.

"With April being national volunteer month, Betty is the first one who came to my mind," Rebecca Lynch, the Engage Life Director at MerryWood, said.

Lynch said they try to encourage artistic expression at the center, but Myers needs little encouragement.

Sitting in her apartment covered in handmade crafts and displays, she talks about an idea for a collage about the MerryWood community and points out her shell collection and a homemade Cabbage Patch doll.

"The other day I went to a play that my granddaughter was in and when she came on stage, she was wearing a dress I'd made for her mother years ago," Myers said with a smile.