Reunited friends’ latest project at LaFontaine Center designed to show different people can get along

LaFontaine Center residents Lorraine Dunford (left) and Rose Hawkins spearheaded the creation of the “Fantasy Gnome and Fairy Garden” in the center’s lobby.
LaFontaine Center residents Lorraine Dunford (left) and Rose Hawkins spearheaded the creation of the “Fantasy Gnome and Fairy Garden” in the center’s lobby. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published April 3, 2017.

Lorraine Dunford and Rose Hawkins were childhood friends who, over the years, lost track of each other.

While Hawkins stayed close to home, Dunford spent years overseas as a member of a military family.

Then, last December, both — coincidentally — moved into apartments at the LaFontaine Center, in Huntington.

“It was just a total surprise out of the blue,” Dunford says of reconnecting with her old friend.

“I was sitting in the Brick Room coloring, and she walked in,” Hawkins says.

Hawkins says she recognized Dunford immediately. It took a few minutes for Dunford, who hadn’t been in Huntington since she was 16, to place her old friend.

But it didn’t take long for the pair to reactivate the friendship and, with a shared love of crafts, become the unofficial social organizers at the center.

Their latest project is a fairy and gnome garden in the LaFontaine Center lobby that they say proves that even people who don’t see eye to eye — including people who live in a large apartment building — can get along.

“Historically, gnomes and fairies never got along,” Hawkins says. “Here, everybody gets along. We have some fairies, we have some gnomes.”

The gnomes and fairies are even playing together in the garden, Dunford points out.

They’re calling the creation a “Fantasy Gnome and Fairy Garden.”

The fairy garden was Dunford’s idea, but Hawkins joined right in. They say they mapped it out in their heads, and Dunford spent a couple of weeks removing and rearranging the existing silk plants, then shaping the bark chips into hills and valleys. Hawkins, with an allergy to the bark chips, sat that part out.

“Rose helped me out with the fairies,” Dunford says. “And a bunch of the women got together and painted the birdhouses we used for fairy houses.”

“A couple of guys helped, too,” Hawkins adds.

“They went out and bought all the stuff and painted all the bird houses,” says LaFontaine Center Manager Rose Meldrum. “I would stay and work late and there would be six to 10 people painting and putting stuff together at night.”

They bought some of the fairy and gnome figurines to populate the garden, and others were donated. When it came time to situate the fairies, gnomes and accessories in the garden, Hawkins managed to trap herself and her stool in a corner of the garden — providing a bit of levity to the project.

“Everybody was tiptoeing through the fairies to pull me out,” Hawkins says, laughing.

Dunford says she’s not sure how many fairies and gnomes ended up in the garden.

“We lost count after 30,” she says. “You have to look at it three or four times to see everything that’s in there … We did that for a reason. It helps the residents concentrate.”

“That’s one of my main goals, to get them out of their apartments,” Hawkins adds.

“When we came here, nobody wanted to do anything,” Dunford says.

Hawkins and Dunford have more than just the fairy garden going on to remedy that situation. They organize adult coloring sessions and crafts of all sorts.

“People walk in just to see what we’re doing,” Hawkins says.

“I’m hoping this will be an ongoing thing,” Dunford says. “We instigate, they follow.”

“They just need somebody to take an interest, get them interested in something,” Hawkins says.

“We’re going to be instigating more,” Dunford says, including organizing slow tai chi classes and a pet rock painting session.

“We have 15, 20 people who can’t wait until we do pet rocks,” Hawkins says. “That’s April’s project.

Along the way, Hawkins and Dunford have discovered they’re not only friends, they’re family.

“We’ve known each other since we were kids, and then we found out we’re related,” Dunford says. “Her aunt married my uncle.”