Pittsford Sutherland High School student creating intricate ‘garden homes’ to decorate nursing homes

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — “I was looking for medical opportunities to volunteer, so I figured I’d make my own opportunity.”

Dara Lau is on her way to becoming a junior at Pittsford Sutherland High School. Like many students who had to learn from home, and no longer had the same amount of extracurricular activities, she was looking for something extra to do.

She decided to volunteer and donate her time making “garden houses” for people who might their day brightened.

Lau was inspired to make these houses by a Rochester treasure; the fairy houses that used to live in Tinker Park.

“As me and my family were walking through the trails, we were always delighted to see them, and I figured that if we made some, that they would make a lot of people happy,” she said.

Lau decided that nursing homes would be a perfect fit for her garden homes. Nursing homes were at one point a hotbed of COVID-19 activity at the height of the pandemic in New York, and visiting grandma or grandpa can still be difficult during these times.

Her first delivery was to Aaron Manor in Fairport, and today she delivered more houses to Woodside Manor in Rochester.

The “houses” themselves are incredibly intricate. While some are more familiar in structure to the beloved fairy houses, Lau’s range from gazebos, to lighthouses, and even a ship with leaves for masts and strings for rigging.

Many of the materials that are used in the houses — besides some of the decorative frogs or chairs — are taken from family walks in the area, from pine cones to rocks. That ship is even made from a piece of old firewood from her home.

While she sheepishly admits that she has a little help from her dad, this is entirely her project. She even has put together a little team to help her deliver the houses, called “Project Garden House.”

“I want people to know that it’s not too late or to early to find an opportunity to help the community and make an impact,” she said. “A lot of people are waiting, and they should take the opportunity and go for it, and try to make their world better.”

Lau has also gone out of her way to establish further connections with the nursing homes she’s worked with; she even says that she’s working with a group of Eastman School of Music students to play a concert for those homes.

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