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Students Benefit from Visits with Senior Citizens

06/15/16

Last Mother’s Day, Allison Clark ’17, of San Jose, Calif., and Rachel Mills ’17, of Highland Mills, N.Y., could not be with their moms, so they did the next best thing: They went to celebrate with some of the women who live in the Williamstown Commons nursing home, who otherwise might not have enjoyed a visit that day.

Not strangers to the nursing home, Mills (pictured above, right) and Clark (above, left) knew most of the women from previous visits through the Keeping the Elderly Engaged Program (KEEP). Coordinated by Mills and Rebecca Godbout ’18 of Springfield, Mass., and run through MCLA’s Center for Service and Citizenship, KEEP was organized to integrate the lives of college students with those of the elderly.

“It’s truly is a blessing to be able to talk with and learn from these beautiful people,” said Clark. “We were unable to see our own mothers, whom we love dearly, because we were away at school. We wanted to give our love to our friends at the Williamstown Commons.”

“We just love visiting the men and women there,” Mills said. “Most of them remember us, and we learn something new every time we walk in there.”

In addition to the visit, the students delivered scarves and flowers to the residents, who were “overjoyed with excitement and gratitude.” Seeing their smiles, Mills said, “filled our hearts with so much warmth.”

The opportunity to visit with the women at Williamstown Commons helped to fill the void Mills and Clark felt because they could not be with their own mothers.

“We are so glad we were able to make these women smile, because they make us smile more than they could even imagine,” Clark said.

“Being able to learn from someone who has been living in this world for a substantial amount of time is like nothing else,” Mills said. “You can learn so much from the elderly. They enjoy sharing what they’ve learned over the years, and telling stories from the past, which we look forward to as well.”

Clark added, “Many of them are not visited often, so being able to be that person to make their face light up with joy is something very special for both of us.”

In addition to the Mother’s Day visit, Clark and Mills went to Williamstown Commons several times last year as part of their KEEP activities, which included “Be a Santa to a Senior,” “Be a Sweetie to a Senior,” as well as a small dance show event.

Students involved with KEEP and MCLA’s Center for Service also visit the Mary Spitzer Senior Center in North Adams, where they play bingo with seniors.

“Having worked with MCLA’s Center for Service staff, we can tell you firsthand that they inspire development and prosperity of MCLA students as individuals, and they project that into their work and involvement with students,” Mills said.

According to Clark, “They are always open-minded when it comes to community service projects, such as KEEP and serving our local elderly men and women. This openness fosters innovation and opportunity within MCLA.

“The Center for Service staff care deeply about the college, and it is evident from their work that they also care deeply about the growth of the community, and are passionate about integrating the two.”