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Rockford woman planting flowers to grow joy at River Bluff Nursing Home

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — How valuable is a smile?

For Karen Andrus, it's priceless.

With every flower she plants at River Bluff Nursing Home she knows its another smile growing on someone's face.

"It just touches so many people. It warms my heart that's for sure," Andrus said.

Now that she's retired, Andrus enjoys her beautification project alongside her friend Liz Asprooth.

Asprooth and Andrus went to high school together but were never close back then.

It wasn't until a reconnection years later when Andrus was working with the gardens that Asprooth reached out wanting to help.

"I told her this would be the absolute perfect thing for me. I loved the whole idea about it. We've been working here side by side since," Asprooth said.

The two women went from barely acquiantances as kids to fast friends in the garden.

Asprooth quickly found out how caring Andrus is.

"She has the biggest giving heart. I've been so impressed how giving and how selfless she is," Asprooth said.

This selflessness is tied to some sorrow.

Andrus would come to River Bluff to visit her cousin Bonnie, who was in hospice living with dementia.

Bonnie would spend her final days there.

Andrus would often come out to the courtyard to get some time alone after visiting Bonnie, which gave her the idea to renovate the space in her cousin's honor.

"Sometimes after you're in there with your loved one that's getting ready to pass on you just are looking for a place to meditate," Andrus said.

"I just thought this could be a place people could go to while with their loved ones and just say a prayer and have a time of peace."

Andrus has created not just a place to for visitors to find peace, it's growing joy for the residents themselves.

While the women are hard at work planting, residents will stop by and talk to them, thanking them for what they've done.

Andrus is fulfilled knowing the happiness its giving to the people in the nursing home, giving her more peace than she ever imagined.

"God makes the beauty come out once you plant something. Nothing's better than something homegrown."

If you know someone going out of their way to spread joy in our community, you can fill out a nomination form here or you can email

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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