Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 16, 2014

Elementary students ‘adopt’ grandparents

By ANDY HALLMAN | Mar 15, 2013
Washington Elementary third-grader Delaney Breen, left, makes a beaded bracelet with Margaret Cooper, a resident at SunnyBrook Living Care Center.

Local elementary schools have begun to meet with residents from SunnyBrook Living Care Center on what they hope is a monthly basis.

The program is known as “adopt-a-grandparent,” which had its inaugural event on Thursday, March 7. Children from Washington, Pence and Libertyville elementary schools helped the residents make bracelets from beads. Kayla Calvert, a staff member at the center, took the bracelets with her to distribute in Guatemala, where she has been the past week.

SunnyBrook employees Sheri Lowe and Sheila Clubb organized the “adopt-a-grandparent” program. They said they want kids to visit the center at least once a month if not twice a month.

Clubb said she would like the same elementary class to visit the same residents month after month so they can bond.

“We want them to get used to each other,” she said. “We want the residents to become like a grandparent to them.”

She said each child will be paired with one adult, although a couple of children will share a grandparent.

Clubb said she got the idea after talking to Washington Elementary Principal Jeff Eeling, who wanted kids to be involved in a community service venture.

“The residents just love to see children, too,” she said. “Even if they don’t do anything. Just being here with them is special.”

Eeling said Clubb approached him in December about the idea. Frequent snow days in January and February delayed the start of the program to early March. Eeling said he liked the idea of the students spending time with adults, particularly those who do not receive many visitors.

“We as a school ask the community for a lot of things through fundraisers,” he said. “My philosophy is that sometimes you need to give back without expecting anything in return.”

Eeling said the “adopt-a-grandparent” initiative is an ideal project for his third grade students.

“It’s not going to cost them a lot of money and it’s a way for them to be cognizant of another part of the community they don’t see all the time,” he said. “The program shows them other people out there who need to be valued.”

As Eeling watched his students gather around the tables at SunnyBrook and put together bracelets, he was pleased with the care they showed toward the residents.

“I was pleased the kids didn’t sit back and act afraid,” he said.

Eeling said the plan is to send Washington and Libertyville elementary students to SunnyBrook next Thursday and then once in April and once more in May. Eeling plans to continue the program next year with a new crop of third graders. He said he hoped this year’s third-grade class would continue its interactions with the SunnyBrook residents.

“The residents will have someone to look forward to seeing and they’ll feel greater self-worth,” he said.

Ashley Flynn, a teacher at Pence Elementary who is involved in the “adopt-a-grandparent” program, said school principal Christopher Welch and the nursing home agreed to send her class to the home once a month to read to a group of 25 senior citizens.

“We will spend an hour with them once a month practicing our reading,” she said. “We are also going to create an activity we can do with them if we finish our stories early. My students are so excited about doing it!”

Clubb said it was a nice coincidence that a co-worker needed to make bracelets for a mission trip, which gave the kids and residents something to do.

“We’re making bracelets of different colors to give to kids in Guatemala,” she said. “Our goal is to make 100, which I don’t think should be a problem.”

Clubb said one of her dreams is to have the students and adults make gifts to feature in the center’s gift shop.

“We’d like the money to go toward a pizza party for the kids and residents,” she said. “Who knows? We could be doing that next month.”

Clubb thought it would be nice if Calvert gave a presentation on her trip to Guatemala the next time the youngsters and the “grandparents” got together.

Calvert said she would be in Guatemala for nine days beginning last week. She, along with a dentist and a doctor, will help kids and adults in a rural village. The trip also fulfills a collegiate requirement for Calvert, who attends Indian Hills Community College. The requirement is that Calvert has to follow a nurse around for 92 hours and perform her job.

“Instead of doing 92 hours in random places, I’m doing 92 hours in Guatemala,” she said.

Calvert wanted to take 200 bracelets to Guatemala, but she knew that was a daunting task considering the time that goes into each one.

“I called Sheila and asked her if she had any intentions for those beads,” Calvert said. “She said no, and I asked her if we could make them into bracelets.”

Not only were the children and residents entertained by Calvert’s beads, they also had fun with her dog, Dee Dee.

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