Nancy Blizzard has been volunteering in the Bessie’s Hope Family and Elders Program at Chelsea Place in Aurora.
She regularly visits several women, and she also tries to introduce herself to new residents while she is there. When asked how the volunteer experience has added to her own life, Nancy says, “Making new friends is always a blessing. You can’t have enough friends.”
“This program provides the elders with someone to talk to and connect with on a personal level. Whether you are just talking with them or playing a game, they appreciate your kindness and friendship.”
For several years, Bessie’s Hope has been honored to receive funding from St Gabriel the Archangel Episcopal Church. Bessie’s Hope Board member, David Geras, introduced the church to the work of Bessie’s Hope. We are very grateful for the financial support from the church, and we are also so grateful that Nina Stasser was interested in initiating a monthly group visit with Bessie’s Hope to a nursing home.
Nina and Dana Thompson are the Group Leaders, and they have gathered other fun, compassionate women to join them in bringing joy, music, hugs, crafts, friendship, dancing, laughter each month to residents at Orchard Park Health Care Center. Nina and Dana are hopeful that the group from St Gabriel will grow and will continue for years to come.
Every nursing home is filled with wonderful people who have wonderful stories. Bessie’s Hope would love to have more groups of volunteers like this to go listen to the stories and share joyful times with the elders.
Gethsemane Lutheran School has partnered with Bessie’s Hope for many years to provide the beautiful experience and joy gained from service to others, and to give the youth the opportunity to cultivate mutually rewarding relationships with the elders. During the course of each school year, students from 1st through 7th grades participate in the training and in the visits with the elders.
From preschool through high school, youth groups are educated and trained by Bessie’s Hope to enable the cultivation of mutually rewarding relationships. Youth learn about aging, dementia, and life in the nursing home world. They gain insights, understanding, and skills that can be used in every area of their lives. They recognize that the elders in the care facilities, although isolated from the community, have vast wisdom, knowledge, and experiences to share with all younger generations. The youth gain patience, respect and compassion and are able to have meaningful interaction with elders of all levels of cognitive functioning, including advanced Alzheimer’s Disease. The elders feel needed, valued, seen and heard. They are given a sense of purpose. This has happened for Priscilla.
Having raised her own grandson, she has desperately missed him since he went to California a few years ago. “He doesn’t have time for me now. He is 18, and I know he is a fine young man, because my husband and I gave him guidance and values for living a good life. We didn’t have much, but we had love, and he felt that. Bessie’s Hope has given me Jeremiah. He is 18, and I feel like I have another grandson to love and help with life’s ups and downs. I’ve told him that I want him to graduate from high school because he needs that to get a job, and I want to get him a graduation present. I also told him he should work hard and go to college. This year that I’ve had with Jeremiah has meant a lot to me. I’ve watched him grow into a more confident young man.”
The teenage boys and girls at Third Way Center, a Denver residential treatment center for teens with behavioral issues, began visiting Briarwood once a month. Then, one day, they went to the counselors and reminded them of what they had learned. When they were trained about the elders, they were told that most of the elders didn’t have visitors. The boys said, “Really?!! Once a month?!! That’s all they get?!! That’s not enough, and we want to visit twice a month.” The past few months, they have visited their “grandpartners” at Briarwood every other week. Jeremiah has also requested permission to visit Priscilla on his own. He will be graduating from high school this month, and he thanks Priscilla for being such an inspiration to help him do that.
Living Water Unity, a church that understands service, has worked through Bessie’s Hope for an elder care service program. A group of the members gather monthly at Greenridge Place in Westminster to share their joy. Each month, the volunteers and elders laugh, create, dance, sing, share stories and hugs, and the promise to “to see you next month.” Thank you, Living Water Unity.
“True happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” Helen Keller
Thank you to the Fipps and Sartan families for sharing time, love, fun, hugs and joy with the elders at Juniper Village at Louisville. There is no measurement for the depth of joy and contentment experienced each time each of these families visit the elders. The holistic benefits for the elders are plentiful, and the glow shines brightly from their eyes and faces.
And, on the other end of the age spectrum—What compassionate, empathic, understanding adults these children will be.
From John Lennon: “When I was 5, my mother told me that happiness is the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down HAPPY. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life.”
The students from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College have a wonderful opportunity getting to know the fabulous residents of Chelsea Place during their monthly visits.
The students have enjoyed learning from the residents and hearing about their life experiences.
Some students were surprised to hear from people who had lived through Word War II. Others enjoyed sharing about their high school experience and getting some interesting career advice from the residents.
On June 8th , Alisha Rice began visiting Mary Louise at MorningStar of Littleton, and a beautiful friendship was formed. Alisha visits Mary Louise and her little dog, Sandy, every two weeks. They enjoy taking walks, reading through a novel that Mary Louise wrote, and telling stories. When asked about the visits, Mary Louise says, “Alisha brings me happiness. I love her bright outlook, and she listens as I relive memories from times gone-by.”
“I originally found Bessie’s Hope in 2001 when it was called Rainbow Bridge…I wanted to volunteer, but found it difficult with a toddler.
“Fast forward to 2017…I never forgot about that organization, and finally felt free enough to volunteer again. I was happy to find Rainbow Bridge still around as Bessie’s Hope!
“I met Mary Louise at my introductory visit to Morningstar. She had such a quiet, thoughtful air to her, intelligent and kind and old fashioned. And she loves animals! Always a plus in my books. Visiting her has been wonderful, I love learning about her family, her past and her many accomplishments. She was quite the horse woman in her day! I love her dog Sandy, too and take him for walks when I visit.
“I hope that my time brightens her week, but she also does things for me…I’ve never had a close elder in my family to show me the beauty and grace of old age…I am learning to accept all phases of my life, and Mary Louise is teaching me how to look at our sunset years with dignity and humor.” Alisha Rice
On December 20th, Christmas came early for the residents of Health Center at Franklin Park, as iHeart Radio’s “Gifts for Grands” brought in dozens of gifts and a lot of love and fun during a Bessie’s Hope visit. Bailey, an iHeart Radio personality, and the heart behind “Gifts for Grands,” along with her team of amazing volunteers and listeners, provided 30 residents with several personalized, wrapped gifts straight from their wish lists. During the visit, volunteers and residents bonded over live music performed by Bessie’s Hope Co-Founder, Linda Holloway. There were lots of hugs and vibrant conversations shared by all. Joy filled the hearts of everyone involved. A huge thanks to Bailey, Kym Ford and the entire Franklin Park team, and all the volunteers who made this special day happen.