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831 rocking chairs and counting given to North Georgia children, including those served by Hall-Dawson CASA
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John Siegel hand-paints chairs for newly adopted children in Northeast Georgia. He has painted over 800 chairs for donation. - photo by Scott Rogers

Sitting at his dining room table, John Siegel of Clayton paints vibrant colors on rocking chairs, transforming the bare wood into gifts for kids across North Georgia. 

Over the past 25 years, he has painted, numbered, signed and dated 831 rocking chairs. 

“It’s my joy,” he said.

Siegel said he began this artistic journey nearly three decades ago when gave his first grandchild a rocking chair. This gift became a birthday tradition in his family for his 21 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Siegel said he eventually ran out of grandchildren to present with painted rocking chairs, and turned his gaze toward local groups, organizations and individuals who serve children in need. He started working with Head Start programs, churches, Court Appointed Special Advocates and hospitals across five counties in North Georgia.

Siegel said Hall County became his most popular area for chair requests. And, for the past eight years, he has been working with Hall-Dawson CASA to provide chairs for children who are being adopted. 

“I love doing them for CASA because I know that these kids have been through a lot by the time they get to be adopted,” Siegel said.

Siegel buys unfinished chairs from any place he can find them and paints them at home. He said his husband, who is also named John, and two dogs enjoy sitting nearby while he works to provide encouragement.

“I paint every day.” Siegel said. “I put my iPod on and get my paints out, and I’m in heaven. It’s just fun.”

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John Siegel hand-paints chairs for newly adopted children in Northeast Georgia. He has painted over 800 chairs for donation. - photo by Scott Rogers

Over the course of several days, Siegel said he’ll paint the chairs carefully with 21 different colors and around 1,000 dots. Each is chosen by size to fit its recipient, whether a toddler or teenager. 

Despite painting hundreds of chairs, Siegel ensures people that they are all different.

“I don’t think that there are two chairs out of those 800 that are the same,” he said.

Siegel paints most of the chairs before a request is made. Once CASA notifies him about a child in need, he paints the kid’s name and signs the bottom of the chair. 

Although many adults know him in the area, Siegel said he stays anonymous to the children he serves, many of which only know him as “Granddaddy John.” 

Every now and then, Siegel said he’ll receive photos of children with the chairs he painted. Those memories now cover the pages of six giant scrapbooks. 

Some kids will reach out years later to thank Siegel.

“I feel good about it,” Siegel said. “I feel like they’re going to children that wouldn’t normally have something like that, and that it would be hopefully something that gave them a little joy.”

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John Siegel hand-paints chairs for newly adopted children in Northeast Georgia. He has painted over 800 chairs for donation and keeps photos and records of his work. - photo by Scott Rogers

Siegel’s work has also benefited kids outside of the country. His 800th chair was auctioned off at his church and sold for $3,000, which was donated to an orphanage in Honduras. 

Looking back on his years painting chairs for kids, Siegel said he never expected his artwork to be shared the way it is now. He is already on his way to finishing 1,000 chairs, and he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“I’m going to keep going,” Siegel said. “As long as I can.”

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