Tags: Featured Story, Party and Entertainment
Annette Eggleston, Bakersfield entrepreneur, nurse, and mother of eight, knows about compassion. Her caring nature has found an unlikely expression that brings others joy and just might give some back to her, too: balloon art, as a form of community outreach.
“I am a balloon artist and I make balloons to help people create joyous memories, like if they’re having a celebration,” said Eggleston, owner of Nette’s Creative Balloons ‘n Custom Tees. “There is no celebration without balloons.”
2018 was Eggleston’s first year in business. When she could not find a service to decorate with balloons for her daughter’s graduation party, she decided to do it herself and start a business. Her children now lend her a hand when necessary. Before the pandemic, she worked with schools, the NAACP, and other organizations, in addition to private gatherings.
Valentine’s Day is an important date for services like hers —and she’s still taking orders —but the need for social distancing has brought attention to the unique ways Eggleston has found to continue doing what she loves and helping others feel loved.
She recognizes that there is a small amount of profit but the payoff is really in the joy the work brings. The life she breathes into it seems to give her a kind of lightness similar to her preferred medium.
“Why I love the balloons so much is that, first, they bring so much happiness to people,” she explained. “Second, I lived in and out of foster homes throughout my childhood, so I never had a birthday party with cake and presents and balloons and all the usual things birthday parties have. In the process of regular activities, daily living, it is parents and people that love you who make those things happen. I’m not faulting the foster care system, but you miss out on those moments. So it’s like me getting back to something I missed and celebrating happiness again. A balloon is not just a balloon. A balloon is happiness, joy, and kindness.”
Bouquet-style deliveries are a part of the business that helps Eggleston spread cheer. Parties, graduations, baby showers, weddings, and other family celebrations are also an important part of her business. With seven to 10 days notice, Eggleston can transform a celebration, with theme colors, centerpieces, balloon arches, customized t-shirts, and more. Less notice, just a few days, are required if customers use a more generic theme instead of specialized ones.
“We create what you imagine” is one of the slogans Eggleston embraces. However, she rises to each and every occasion. Although COVID-19 has restricted indoor gatherings and put something of a damper on personal and community celebrations, Eggleston has focused on the human element of her business to keep moving forward.
Despite being unable to engage with the community through mass events, she has brought a community campaign to some of those who need it most.
Eggleston’s Loving Balloon Buddy campaign focuses on bringing the community’s affection to elderly people living in convalescent homes. Her goal is to have sponsored deliveries at all 22 convalescent homes in Bakersfield, one facility at a time, one donation at a time. When all residents are sponsored, Eggleston makes deliveries en masse on one special day. Any person, company, church or other organization can sponsor a balloon delivery for $25 as an Adopt-a-Grandparent gesture of kindness. Every balloon is a smiley face, purposefully.
“I worked the convalescent side of nursing for more than a decade. It was difficult and lonely for the residents then. Now, I can only imagine how it is with COVID. Sometimes, they’re wondering ‘Where’s my family?’ Loneliness only adds to dementia. As working people going through the COVID crisis, we understand this new reality includes masks. The dementia or Alzheimer's patient may not understand it all. What they do know is someone out there is thinking about them and they are so grateful for that.”
Although Eggleston’s nursing career is now in the corrections system, she understands that staff could use the cheer, too.
“The patient got the balloon buddy, but staff see them, too. From one nurse to another, the morale has changed in the places we work. We can’t see anyone smile all day either. This is a way to spread kindness and joy and some of what we lost due to COVID,” said Eggleston. “I want to bring happiness.”
Her home deliveries do just that. Eggleston looks forward to connecting with more community organizations, including support of foster care when the pandemic ends. For now, though, she is focused on deliveries to private parties, mostly at home, and to convalescent homes.
“When you are at the end of your life, you go back to that child-like state, that infancy stage. It is so important to have something special right then. That’s why I care so much. It’s the end of their life and before they go on, you have to tell them ‘You meant something in this life,” said Eggleston. “There is so much wisdom you can get from them. Many have needs that cannot be met by their families but they were veterans, community leaders. So we have to say ‘Thank you for what you’ve done for our country. Thank you for loving us.’”
Adopt a grandparent at https://nettescreativeballoonsnmore.company.site/ or call 661-817-9233 to plan your next event.