BENNINGTON – The temperature outdoors was freezing, so it wasn’t surprising summer was on Olivia Reed’s mind.
On a mini canvas that can be cradled in a person’s palm, the 21-year-old painted a lighthouse overlooking the ocean. The scene was something she imaged, Reed said, “somewhere warmer than here.”
Beside her, Ashley Hutton, 25, had turned her canvas into a purple-and-yellow world of a dandelion basking in the sun.
The women, employees of United Counseling Service, were participating Tuesday in the nonprofit organization’s Self Care Day for staff and their clients. The event, which was back for a second year, offered about 20 activities aimed at showing people how to take better care of their minds, bodies and spirits.
Reducing stress is particularly helpful to the nearly 300 employees of UCS, an organization that provides Bennington County residents with support and guidance to improve their lives. Its services include infant care, youth education, support for people with developmental disabilities, substance abuse treatment and emergency assistance.
The organization, established in 1958, serves some 3,000 people across 16 offices in the county.
“If staff can take care of themselves, they can take care of clients better,” Sarah Church, UCS worksite wellness coordinator, explained the reason behind Self Care Day.
Reed and her colleagues at the nonprofit’s Developmental Services program, for instance, assist their clients with everyday affairs such as going to medical appointments and accomplishing household chores like cooking and doing laundry.
The work is fulfilling, Reed said, but each day can also bring unexpected challenges.
The Self Care Day activities, held at UCS offices in Bennington, Manchester and North Bennington, included working on a coloring sheet, getting a manicure, doing jigsaw puzzles, getting financial wellness information and playing with a sand box.
Some 200 people participated in the event, Church said, with the most popular activities being beading demonstrations, as well as the staff-only essential oils workshop, chair massage and a bento box workshop.
Another one that visitors enjoyed was “Hug a Pug,” held at the UCS main office in Bennington.
Laurel Evans, the daughter of a UCS employee, brought her two female pugs – nearly 4-year-old Pugslee and Bear – to offer people hugs. Some even got doggy kisses as a bonus.
A pet, Evans said, “gives you something that loves you unconditionally.”
Tiffany Tan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.