YVC’s Marketing and Communication Intern Micaela is working to tell the YVC story this summer. Here is the story of one of her first Youth Volunteer Corps project visits.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Rose Estates Assisted Living Community in Overland Park, Kansas, where Youth Volunteers were serving on a project with Youth Volunteer Corps of Kansas City. The youth had been volunteering all week by visiting the residents and doing activities with them, such as playing bingo and balloon volleyball, taking them to a movie, and helping with their exercise classes. Pamela Luna, Rose Estate’s Life Enrichment Director, took us through their facility as she applauded the impact that YVC had had on the agency that week. She introduced me to the Youth Volunteers, as well as many Rose Estates residents and staff members who had interacted with the volunteers during the week.
Planting Seeds for the Future
As we walked to where the Youth Volunteers were preparing to do their service-learning activity for the day, Pam commented on the benefits of having Youth Volunteers at Rose Estates.
“I am all about Youth Volunteer Corps. I enjoy the chance to watch the children grow so fast,” Pam said. “They are totally different now than when they first came at the beginning of the week.”
The youth are often inspired by their interactions with the residents and the stories they hear about their lives, and Pam characterized their interactions as “planting seeds.” Pam noted that one volunteer had talked to a resident who was a psychiatrist, and afterwards expressed that she may enjoy being a psychiatrist someday too.
Captivating Life Stories
As we waited for the service-learning activity to begin, one Youth Volunteer named Cooper told me his favorite story that he had heard during the week.
“I heard a really cool story from a woman named Marie who used to own a trucking company that supplied gasoline to places like QuikTrip and 7-Eleven,” Cooper said. “Then one time one of the gas trucks exploded!”
When Cooper told me about the explosion, all of the other boys nearby chimed in, conveying the amazement they felt when they, too, heard the story.
“There were a lot of stories in my life that the youth wanted to hear about,” Marie said, when asked about her interactions with the youth.
We had the opportunity to observe the youth’s service-learning activity, an elderly simulation, during which the youth wore goggles designed to limit their range of vision, ear plugs to imitate hearing loss, and popcorn kernels in their shoes to imitate bunions.
An Appreciation for Youth Volunteerism
When the service-learning activity had concluded, we went to visit some of the residents that had interacted with the Youth Volunteers during the course of the week. Among the residents that the Youth Volunteers met were many with careers that the youth found fascinating, such as Chummy, a World War II nurse, or Cecil, a former Kansas State football player. When asked what the Youth Volunteers have done for Rose Estates, Chummy, was surprised that we didn’t already know.
“How can you not know how much the youth have accomplished?” said Chummy. “I love children, and I like having them here.”
Residents throughout Rose Estates shared a similar appreciation for having the youth in the facility, and recognized that not only do they benefit from having the youth there, but they also contribute to making each youth’s volunteer experience eye-opening.
“It’s a good experience for them and helpful for us. It gives them a chance to see how us folk get by,” said Cecil, who played volleyball, ate pizza, and watched a movie with the volunteers.
Making a Big Difference through Small Gestures
The Youth Volunteers discover that they can make a difference in the lives of the residents, even through seemingly small acts of kindness.
“The youth were great. They lined up all across my room and sang me happy birthday,” said Sheldon, a Rose Estates resident. He had forgotten it was his birthday that week, and was glad the youth reminded him in such a thoughtful way.
“They fall in love with you,” one resident named Lola said. She reflected on her interaction with a girl who shared chips with her during snack time, an act Lola thought was kind and adorable.
The youth often form relationships with the residents during their time volunteering, and many have a certain resident that they make a point to visit with each time.
“One boy always talks to Lola when he comes,” Pam said. Lola loves sports, and talking to Lola time after time helped him discover that he wants to be a sports announcer when he grows up.
Benefits Youth Volunteers Bring to Assisted Living Homes
The volunteers also bring a new energy to Rose Estates, an aspect that some residents find reinvigorating.
“I like to see the kids around here helping out. It makes me feel warm inside,” said Carol, a Rose Estates resident. “Just being around them makes me feel younger.”
The residents have also learned the value of having an organized group of youth volunteer at their assisted living home.
“I found that I enjoyed the volunteers tremendously. They were intelligent, fun-loving, and very considerate,” said Ida, a Rose Estates resident. “A volunteer program is one of the greatest things you can do to help these kids learn to relate with us. They are an asset to our activities, and they really are adorable and fun to be with—these kids make a difference.”
Tammy, Rose Estate’s Wellness Director, was also impressed by the Youth Volunteers’ performance that week.
“These kids have been awesome,” said Tammy. “There’s been a lot of laughter and playfulness around here, and they’re a big help to the nursing staff.”
Positive Change Through Partnership
These many stories are a testament to the importance of having youth volunteer at assisted living homes, as well as YVC’s success at Rose Estates. Rose Estates’ partnership with Youth Volunteer Corps of Greater Kansas City has become more than just a great opportunity to give back to the community. It empowers both the youth and the residents, allowing them to form bonds and learn life lessons in a unique atmosphere.
“We’ve never been the same since the youth started coming. They do so much for us and you can tell that their heart is really in it,” Pam said. “They have such an impact on my life as an Activities Director. They make me love my job more because I see the joy they put in our resident’s hearts.”
Youth Volunteer Corps would like to thank Pam and the Rose Estates staff for all that they do to ensure that the YVC Youth Volunteers are welcomed, celebrated and appreciated every time they serve at Rose Estates.