The reason for the season is commonly described as the gift of a child to the world. For some local nursing home residents, that was a present they received just this week.
Students from the Memorial Education Center brought some special treats to elderly members of the community on Wednesday as part of a project that they initiated, simply out of the spirit of giving.
Cassi Coffey, a preschool instructor at Memorial, said that her class had been talking about people in the community who help children, when members of the class posed a most appropriate question.
“They started asking who they could help,” said Coffey.
As a result, the youth decided to take on the task of helping the elderly. For three weeks, they collected blankets and treats, such as cookies and cakes, to give to older people who might feel a little forgotten during the holiday season
“One of our parents works at Cumberland Nursing and Rehabilitation Center,” said Coffey. “She gave us a list of 27 patients who don’t have visitors this time of year, so that’s who we visited.”
The children went to the facility on Norfleet Drive and made the rounds — and were a big hit.
“One of the older ladies requested they sing for her, so they did some Christmas carols around the building and sang in a large group in the cafeteria,” said Coffey of the children. “(The patients) were happy to see some young faces. They don’t get a lot of young visitors there. They were just overjoyed to be thought of this time of year.”
Memorial serves early childhood education for two demographics, noted Coffey — at-risk children who qualify through income-based services, and kids with special needs. Most of those involved were about 4 or 5 years old.
“I have a very advanced group,” she said. “They’ve learned a lot this year. They were very much wanting to do this and wanted to serve, and they got me on board as well.”
Coffey said there was concern that some of the children might be a bit scared, having not seen many people confined to a bed before, but the youngsters handled themselves well in this new environment.
“They did really well,” she said. “The kids had no adverse reactions. They went into the rooms and went right up to (the patients). Some of them got a little shy, but nobody cried.”
Hopes are already high that the students might return next year. That’s something Coffey would love to see happen.
“It was amazing and I’m just very proud of them,” said Coffey. “... I hope it plants a seed in them to help the elderly.”