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February 03. 2013 8:13PM

Visits to nursing home prove popular for Unity students

Unity Elementary School students Shania Nichols, 13, and Jazmyn Roy, 10, help write a letter for 92-year-old Isabelle Langner. (MEGHAN PIERCE PHOTO)

UNITY - Sullivan County Health Care & Nursing Home resident 92-year-old Isabelle Langner looks forward to the twice-monthly visits from Unity Elementary School students.

Friday afternoon Langner only had one letter to write, but two "happy, cheerful girls" to help her. While she dictated a letter that 13-year-old Shania Nichols wrote, 10-year-old Jazmyn Roy was ready to help with the wording of the message or read the address out of Langer's address book.

"I always need something written," Langner said.

Thanks to the Unity Elementary School visits, she gets some help.

"I can't always come up with enough letters to have written. I have two girls here, they could each be writing a letter. They take turns," Langer said.

Roy said she loves writing letters for residents.

"I think it's fun 'cuz you can hang out with the older people and see what they are like and help them do what they need to have done," Roy said. "I love writing. It's my favorite thing."

Down the hall, a group of residents sit around in a circle as 10-year-olds Michael Gasbar and Samantha Hagar engage the residents in a game, bouncing a big red balloon around the circle.

"I like helping out the residents, writing letters, playing games or singing," Hagar said.

Gasbar said he enjoys the visits; it's more fun than going home and watching TV.

Resident Carole Shaw, 65, said she enjoys spending time with the children whether playing a game or working on a craft project.

"They are very well-behaved children and helpful and fun," she said.

On another floor of the county nursing home, a group of students is singing to Alzheimer's patients.

At the end of the afternoon, Laura Love waits for her son Michael Love, 10, who is in the middle of an exciting game of checkers with 88-year-old Rudy Bruberube.

It is only Love's second visit to the nursing home. His first visit, he was surprised by a resident who beat him at Wii bowling, his mom said.

"He said, 'Mom this woman's an ace. She really kicked my butt,' " Laura Love said.

Jennifer Thompson, teaches language arts and social studies at Unity Elementary. She is also the community service coordinator who has organized the visits for fourth- through eighth-grade Unity students for years.

So many students have wanted to be involved this year that the trips to the nursing home were bumped up from once a month to twice a month, she said.

"The students often develop relationships with these older folks and in a way it helps them understand the life cycle," Thompson said. "I think it exposes them to the concept that life is fragile, but these people have had a great last few years."

Eighteen students visited the home Friday, a big number for a school of only 110 students, Thompson said.

"I'm so proud of them and I'm so proud of the outreach of these students at such a young and I'm so happy they get the concept of paying it forward and doing good for others on a consistent basis," Thompson said.


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