LEICESTER, Mass. — A group of young "angels in training" got their wings on Wednesday, as Strawberry Hills Junior Girl Scout Troop #30408 officially finished their year of scouting and volunteering at The Meadows with a ceremony and family celebration.
In addition to fulfilling requirements for junior level scouting, the troop of 15 girls from Leicester have completed a year-long multi-generational partnership with residents of Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation “The Meadows” – also located in Leicester.
This innovative partnership, called Angels in Training, was developed by Nancy Duhamel, Meadows Activity Director, and Cindy Ward, Girls Scout Leader and former Meadows employee.
Though the girls were originally nervous about spending time with older ones, worrying they might not have much in common, after a few visits they quickly were able to break through the barriers and form an inter-generational bond, according to Girl Scout Leader Justina Lachapelle.
"They realized, no matter how many years in between them, it doesn't matter and we're all the same," she said."So it's been a great experience."
Through planned activities and experiences, all involved developed deep and meaningful bonds with each other – understanding that they have a lot of similarities despite their difference in ages. Both groups really looked forward to their time spent together making crafts, learning about alternative communication, playing games, wheelchair dancing, cooking, and a wealth of other activities.
"For our residents, it's always important to have some young energy come into the building, and I think that it really brightens their days," said Tara D'Andrea, Executive Director at The Meadows. "And it sounds like all the girls were really impacted positively by the residents."
D'Andrea added that the program also gave the girls a different perspective on what a nursing home facility is like.
"It's not just a home where elderly people live, but we have some educated, vibrant, energetic residents that can give back to the younger generation," she said. "It's important for the younger girls to see that."
The parents of the girls were also very supportive of the program, seeing firsthand the change of perspective that volunteering at a nursing home offered their daughters.
"I liked that it was a mutually beneficial program," said Jennifer St. John, whose daughter Brenna was among the girls who visited the Meadows. "Both the children and the adults got something very beautiful out of this relationship that they forged."
St. John related how, just as the program was beginning, Brenna's great grandmother also entered a hospital in another state.
"So for her it was a matter of getting past that emotional feeling, and this really helped her get past that and see how her great grandmother was going to be okay, and that this was a good place and a positive environment," said St. John.
Furthermore, while Kristin Lamprey's daughter, Colleen, was originally skeptical, she too developed a connection with some of the residents, and "was able to become friends with many, not just one."
Because the residents had so many memories and experience, having "lived life to its fullest," Lamprey hoped her daughter would take away an understanding of the importance of valuing and respecting elders.
"Sometimes it's not always the case in our society," she said.
Additionally, the program also gave the scouts another opportunity to volunteer in the community, setting the stage for a lifetime of serving the community.
"I want my daughter to learn that it's not always about getting, but giving, so whether she's volunteering in a nursing home setting or at the food bank, you get more out of giving than getting."
St. John agreed, adding that "this program has taught them very well the importance of giving back. No matter what we have in our life, there's somebody who needs what we're able to give - whether it's time, friendship or companionship."
Though the program has come to an end, those intergenerational friendships have not, and many of the girls have expressed interest in coming back to visit throughout the summer.
To close the program, on Wednesday the girls participated in a special ceremony, where In addition to being awarded five patches representing completion of areas of Scout learning, the girls were also presented with their special Angel Wings.
Given by the Meadows, the wings recognizie their compassionate care and dedication to the program and residents involved.
Girl Scout successfully completing all program requirements are: Maari Axelson, Laryssa Dagostino, Hannah DiPilato, Stephanie Drew, Juliana Golemo, Emma Knight, Olivia Lachapelle, Samantha Lambert, Colleen Lamprey, Olivia Macaruso, Emily Moughan, Brenna St. John, Gabby Thebeault, Rosa Velez, and Natalia Ward.
Other adults assisting with program were Mary Lambert and Justina Lachapelle, Girl Scout Leaders and Shirley Smith, Activity Assistant at the Meadows.
Below are some of the thoughts the girls had about their experience as Angels in Training:
Maari – When we started going to The Meadows I thought it wasn’t going to be that fun going to an old folks home but after a while it started to get really fun and I couldn’t wait to come back again. I love all the residents at The Meadows and this whole experience has been very interesting and my resident Patty has been, too. Adding this to the fact that it’s in Girl Scouts makes this double the amount of how awesome it is now.
Laryssa – I really love going to The Meadows and getting to see my resident Joann. I learned so much about Joann, Braille (communication) and other things. I had a lot of fun with all of the projects like Braille, clay, Mary Kay, and everything else. When the troop stops visiting whenever I can come I will come and visit all of you with my family. I will miss all of you!
Hannah – I loved my experience with my resident. I am a lot more confident here now than when I first came here. My resident has been really nice to me and I want to thank her for doing everything she did with me like learning about Braille, health and doing arts and crafts. My favorite activity was making things out of clay. I really loved my experience at The Meadows – it is one I won’t forget.
Stephanie – I like The Meadows because the people that work there and the residents have very interesting stories about their childhood. It’s fun to do stuff with the residents and it’s very nice for the Girl Scouts to visit the residents because they don’t get many visits from people and the resident are happy when the Girls Scouts visit them. So it’s fun to do everything with the residents.
Juliana – I have enjoyed the experience at The Meadows. I have enjoyed spending time with Agnes doing crafts, cooking, learning about skin care, and more. We had lots of fun and I wish I can be able to come again. At first I was shy but when we got to know each other I became less shy around her.
Emma – I have had a wonderful experience. It’s great to be able to meet all these wonderful people. Today I just want to thank you all. I have learned that everyone is same and different and older people are so kind. I will never forget coming here.
Olivia L. – I had a great experience and loved Dot. When we did the clay activity, she tried to help me think of things to make. Dot was shy at first and so was I. We both opened up after a while and I enjoyed the Meadows and Dot!
Samantha – At The Meadows I had many residents and I have learned so much. We did many activities and crafts together and I enjoyed them all. The one I enjoyed the most was when we baked cookies. We worked on earning our badges while having so much fun. We earned our wings, but all we have to do is have fun.
Colleen – At first I was skeptical about what my experience at The Meadows would be. But I learned that I love all the residents here and I enjoyed all the activities we did here. My favorite activity we did here was probably Bingo. I miss Dave now that he is living with his family. I LOVE MY EXPERIENCE HERE!
Olivia M. – My experience at The Meadows has been very fun. I realized that I can help out the elderly more than I knew I could. I learned how to write in Braille for another way to communicate with others. Also I though it wouldn’t be fun doing arts and crafts and other activities with the elderly but I was wrong. My experience has taught me to help out as much as I can with others around me. I loved coming to The Meadows and I hope to come back!
Emily – Everyone has been so nice here. Especially Dorothy – or Dot. I’ve learned that doing stuff with the elderly can be fun, I never thought it would! Now about Dot, she is amazing and she has a nice sense of humor. Being here has reminded me of tragic things in my life but I pushed through and Dot has been so nice that I forget it all when I’m there.
Brenna – I have had a great experience at The Meadows. I loved Irene – she was really generous and gave me her clay purse (that she made). The Meadows was amazing. I would like to thank Nancy and Shirley for allowing this to happen. The Meadows has inspired me to help out more and once again, thank you.
Gabby – My experience with Janet was so wonderful because I thought I would be terrible at taking care of Janet but it was really fun and easy. The fun part about it is when I do arts and crafts with her. One more thing I love coming here because Janet loves when Natalia and I come to see her and I enjoy coming. I am sad I have to leave and I hope I can come back to visit soon.
Rosa – I had a great time with Carol and I love going there most of the time. I love the activities especially the one we did with the clay and also love the Bingo games that we played.
Natalia – (note: this was drafted by her Personal Care Assistant – Natalia is our ‘special Scout’who is severely challenged with cerebral palsy) – My experience with Janet has been absolutely great. She has made me feel very comfortable week after week. She holds my hand, plays with me and helped me do some fun crafts. She is very caring. She always asks if I am ok and if I need anything. If I need something that she can’t help me with, she gets someone who can. We are always so happy to see each other. She has taught me not to be nervous about meeting new people and I have learned that we have a lot in common. My overall experience here has been great and not just Janet has been wonderful but everyone has. I always feel so welcomed here. Thank you for everything.