Women support local nonprofits with watercolor art

Some paint-for-a-purpose designs (clockwise) include: Big, Bright, Light Show Snow Globe Greeting Cards; downtown sign and Rochester City Park coasters; and the Rochester Grain Elevator and Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes shoreline greeting cards.

Photo courtesy of Paintings with a Purpose

        A couple of Paints for a Purpose greeting cards feature the sign for downtown Rochester, Central Train Depot (now Catching Fireflies), Rochester City Park, and a lead dog for the blind pup.

A couple of Paints for a Purpose greeting cards feature the sign for downtown Rochester, Central Train Depot (now Catching Fireflies), Rochester City Park, and a lead dog for the blind pup.

Photo courtesy of Paintings with a Purpose


ROCHESTER — Armed with a paintbrush, a little creativity and a bit of free time, two Rochester-area women are giving back to their community in a big way.

It all started two years ago, when friends Cheryl Gambaro and Jackie Snell decided to retire.

In discussing the visions they had for their future, the women discovered that they shared a desire to learn to paint in watercolour.

“All my life I’ve wanted to do watercolors and never had the time,” Snell said. “When you’re raising kids and working, I never felt like I had time for it, so it was one of the first things on my to-do list.”

“When I was working full time, I always envied people who had a passion or a hobby they could pursue, because I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m so exhausted when I get home, how do people do that?’ Gambaro added, “Once you retire, you can focus on it…because then you can really focus.”

Without formal artistic training, the duo decided to meet once a week to learn the new skill together, honing their craft by watching watercolor tutorials on YouTube.

“We were training and helping each other,” Gambaro said. “The more we paint, the better we get. … We like to learn, so we always learn something new to make it better.

After receiving rave reviews from family and friends, it was time to share their craft with the community by turning their hobby into a business, called Paints for a Purpose.

The company offers greeting cards, postcards and coasters adorned with a variety of watercolors, which are sold locally to generate funds for local charities.

The artwork includes iconic Rochester area landmarks and businesses such as Lytle Pharmacy, Home Bakery, Rochester Grain Elevator, Rochester Hills Public Library, Lipuma’s Coney Island, Rochester Train Depot, Leader Dogs for the Blind, The Royal Park Hotel and more.

“We kind of went there, and it took off,” Snell said. “It surprised us.”

“None of us really felt like a natural performer, but there must be something there because the work comes out well and people love them,” Gambaro added.

Paintings for a Purpose merchandise is currently sold at Bordine Nursery, The Cheese Lady, The Framer’s Workshop, Lytle Pharmacy, Piechniks’s Greenhouse, Premier Pet and The Royal Park Hotel. A special dog design is also sold on the Leader Dogs for the Blind online gift store.

In 2021, thanks to the success of card sales, the company was able to make charitable donations to the Rochester Area Neighborhood House Food Pantry, the Salvation Army, and the Southeast Michigan Relief League.

“Even though Rochester is a very wealthy community, there are people here who are poor, so we decided that was where we were going to start (donating),” Snell explained.

The day the women gave their donation to the Community Center was a highlight of their journey.

“Our check wasn’t really big – I think we gave them $500 – but they said they matched that with Meijer funds. Twice a year Meijer does a triple match, so $500 $ becomes $1,500. They then buy gift cards with that, and they give them to families who need perishables that they can’t keep in stock on their shelves,” Snell said. “While we We were going out that day, I said to Cheryl, ‘So two people can make a difference. To think that we could make such a difference for something as simple as a greeting card was pretty exciting.

This year, all products sold by Paintings for a Purpose will benefit Leader Dogs for the Blind, the Rochester Area Neighborhood House Food Pantry and the Clinton River Watershed Council.

For more information about Paintings for a Purpose, visit www.paintingsforapurpose.com or email [email protected]


Dora W. Clawson