Young volunteers bring tonic of love to nursing home

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 13, 2000

A group of young girls have been sacrificing their time thissummer to help make a difference at a Brookhaven nursing home.

“They may be little bit, but they’re dynamite,” said JennyScott, the recreation services director at Beverly Healthcare,where the four have been volunteering.

Rebecca Smith, 9, Anna Bishop, 12, Betsy Givens, 12, and BeckySmith, 11, began a special mission at the nursing home two monthsago. They wanted to spend their summer doing a worthwhile activity– making a difference in others’ lives.

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“It was fun, and we thought we could help someone at the sametime,” said Bishop.

She and her friend, Givens, began their good deeds in May whenthey would have their parents drop them off to visit with some ofthe patients.

The girls randomly picked rooms to visit and were on theirsecond trip to the nursing home when Scott noticed the positiveeffect they were having on the residents.

“I saw them visiting with people, and I stopped them one day andasked if they would like to be junior volunteers,” said Scott.

The girls eagerly accepted, and their parents agreed with thedecision. The decision, in fact, was not one that came from theirparents.

“The motivation is strictly theirs. It’s just them wanting to doit,” said Scott, who was impressed with their willingness tohelp.

The Smiths became junior volunteers after they saw the need tocheer people up while visiting with their grandmother, ElaineSmith, who is the dietary manager at Beverly Healthcare.

Becky Smith said she likes visiting with people, and the juniorvolunteer program gave her the chance to do so and help others,too.

The girls all come at least two days a week to participate in avariety of activities. Even though the girls have only been comingto the nursing home for two months, Scott has already noticed whata difference it has made.

“I think the volunteers make this place more lively,” she said.”These kids are just enthusiastic about doing things.”

Some of the volunteers’ duties are to bring juice to residents,assist in fingernail painting, play games with them, push residentsin wheelchairs, and most importantly, listen.

The girls have discovered how the skills of listening well andcaring about others’ problems are so valuable.

“I realized that all they want you to do is just to talk to themand for you to listen,” said Bishop.

The junior volunteers have also seen how just talking andlistening can cheer residents up. Some of the most memorableexperiences the volunteers have encountered have come from thesimple act of conversation.

“When I went into a room one time, there was a lady and she wascrying, so I started talking to her and she started smiling,” saidGivens about a resident who had lost a family member.

Singing has also become an important tool in creating a pleasantatmosphere at the nursing home. Residents often request songs forthe girls to sing. The most requested are “Jesus Loves Me”and “Amazing Grace”.

Volunteers have agreed that the thing that makes the biggestimpact at Beverly Healthcare is laughter.

“Knowing you can make someone laugh will make you laugh,” saidJennifer Zeh, 19, a volunteer who spends three days a week at thenursing home.

The junior volunteers make jokes or perform silly tricks tobring laughter to the residents.

The theory of Dr. Patch Adams that laughter is the best medicinehas been adopted by many of the employees and volunteers at BeverlyHealthcare, said Scott.

Simple efforts bring smiles and happiness, according to thevolunteers, who wish more people would realize how easy it is tomake a difference.

“If people would just come here and see the look on people’sfaces when you talk to them, they would come back and want to keepcoming back,” said Bishop.

Continuing to come back to the nursing home when school startsagain in August is the goal of the junior volunteers. They enjoyedtheir summer of volunteering so much that they didn’t want it toend.

For the residents, that feeling is mutual.