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Adopt a Nursing Home - Part 2

Last week, we learned about Cherisa and her adoption of a local nursing home as a way to BE IN Lincoln. This week, we see that giving doesn’t only happen around the holidays – you and your family can give enjoyment all year long just by sharing your talents.

Lying in bed one night, I was trying to figure out what our next event could be for our newly adopted nursing home.  My goal was to coordinate an event quarterly so my children can get a real sense of connectedness to the residents and an understanding that service doesn’t just happen during the Christmas holiday.  Wracking my brain, I thought about how, when I was little, I put on singing “talent shows” for my family.  I would stand on the piano bench in our living room with a plastic green jump rope handle in my hand and would sing all the songs that I knew.  Perfect, a kid-friendly talent show!

So, I emailed and posted on Facebook that I was coordinating a talent show for the nursing home and listed several dates and asked for a response of who was interested.  I made sure everyone knew that this was not going to be a fancy event, but a way where participants could showcase their talents no matter how sophisticated, (case in point, my 7 year old was planning on hula hooping to the “Chicken Dance” song.)  I contacted the nursing home and coordinated a date.  I explained that this would be an extremely informal event and they were thrilled.

The kids were excited and many changed their talents several times.  Some kept their parents in suspense because they wanted to “surprise” them.  We coordinated with the nursing home to provide the piano and planned to bring a CD player, MP3 player, and a karaoke machine to use as a microphone.  As the talent show participants and talents themselves kept on changing, we decided not to have a formal program.

The big night arrived and there was excitement in the air.  My daughter had been practicing her “talent” for a few weeks and couldn’t wait to perform for an audience.  The kids looked adorable and were mingling with the residents.  Everyone wanted to be first!  We decided that we would go in alphabetical order by the family’s last name.

The talents were diverse.  We had two sisters telling jokes, a six year old clogging to the “Locomotion,”  a little girl signing AND singing “Jesus Loves Me.”  We also had  magic tricks, taekwondo and gymnastics demonstrations, kids playing the piano, violin, and clarinet.  We had three children beautifully dressed in native costume doing a “Rain Dance.”  We had two beautiful young women sing a haunting duet. As my daughter hula hooped to the “Chicken Dance”, the residents were tapping their feet and were literally doing the “Chicken Dance” with her.

Afterward, we had a “refreshment reception” as every family brought cookies and I provided the punch. The kids were complimented by residents and loved ones alike and relished the attention they received!  The Activities Director said that they would love have us come back and do another one.  The kids cheered with the idea of another talent show and were already planning their next talent!

On the way home, we talked with my daughter about the joy she brought the residents by giving just a little bit of herself.  She said she had a lot of fun and is thinking about singing a Hannah Montana song next time!

I posted on Facebook that the talent show was a success and several families that could not attend commented that they would be at the next one.  I have no doubt that talent show participants will grow in number each time and the talents will continue to be diverse.  Combining performing with service–it is a recipe that children and adults can’t resist!

Be Informed. Be Involved. Be Invested. Most of all… Be In Lincoln!

Adopt a Nursing Home

Today we begin a two-part series titled Adopt a Nursing Home. Many of you are familiar with Cherisa. Cherisa is a wife and mother who has a heart for others and a commitment to raising kids with a heart for others as well. She doesn’t stop there though, Cherisa uses her gifts and abilities to involve her whole family in the Lincoln community. And when she does, she takes other families with her. Cherisa recently had the idea to adopt a nursing home.

Here is the first part of her story. We hope it will encourage you to find what motivates you and put it into action.

My group of friends have informally “adopted” a local nursing home in town.  It all began back in December when we were looking for a way to help our kids understand that the holidays is not just about helping those who are in need financially but also those who are in need emotionally.
I called a local nursing home that I was familiar with from work and asked if we could come and do something with the residents.

The Activities Coordinator at the nursing home suggested that we make crafts with the residents.  Emails and Facebook posts went out and we coordinated a night in which the kids decorated cookies and adults and kids alike put together crafts for residents who would be unable to participate in the craft making event.

On the big night, we had a small plate of cookies for each of the 90 residents, makeshift songbooks of Christmas carols and foam crafts galore.  We met the residents in the dining hall and worked alongside them to create candy cane frames and stocking ornaments.  It was a great opportunity for my children to interact with the elderly as their great-grandparents live far away.

Once the crafts were finished, we went to each room and gave those that could not participate their craft, cookies and sang a kid-friendly carol.  The kids loved the singing–they each had jingle bells and assorted plastic instruments that enhanced the fun and the noise! The residents kept asking, “What organization are you with?”  We replied that we were just a group of friends that wanted to give back to the community.

At the end of the evening, my six year old asked me questions such as “Why do they live here?” and “Where is their family?”  It was a perfect opportunity to talk about why it is important to connect to our aging community not only during the Christmas holiday, but throughout the year.

I posted our caroling video on Facebook the next day and received several comments from those who participated sharing how the event impacted their family and how excited they were for the next event!

Adopt A Family

Though Chirstmas was several months ago, we thought this article by Cherisa was as timely as ever (especially with the impending snow).  We are reminded that families face needs all year long. We hope that after reading this story you will be motivated to gather your friends and family to spread some Chirstmas Spirit throughout the year. Here is Cherisa’s story…

Although there are many ways to give during the Christmas season, it can be difficult to find meaningful activities that connect families with those who are in need, whether financially or emotionally. I wanted to be able to provide my children with a way to connect to the true meaning of the season and found that several of my friends were looking for the same family experience. So, for the last several years, a group of our families have gotten together for a high-energy, giving frenzy.

In past years, we adopted a family who was struggling financially. We contacted a local non-profit for a name and obtained information such as the children’s ages, needs and wants. I sent an email to my friends with a “wish list” of items.  Each family picked a few items to buy. We bought items such as gift cards to restaurants, grocery stores and some pampering items for the parents that were not on the list. I contacted the family to ask permission to personally deliver the presents to their family.

On the “big night” everyone arrived at my house with their gifts. Several adults and older children wrapped and labeled the gifts. The younger children decorated sugar cookies. Christmas music played in the background. Everyone took part in the Christmas spirit.

We arrived at the house and took note of the run-down apartment buildings and sparse furniture in the home. The children silently noticed the small Christmas tree with no presents underneath. We presented the gifts to the parents and asked permission to watch the children each open one gift. The parents agreed and then everyone’s eyes lit up (and for some, tear up) with the children’s squeals of delight and gratitude as they opened their gift. We wished them a Merry Christmas and got back into our cars as adults and children alike thought of the family who had so little and allowed us to be a part of their Christmas.

For my friends and I, this is a Christmas event. However, it does not have to be. Families are in need year-round and non-profits and churches can help you identify families who are in need. The activity does not need to be large, it can be very small. Have your child pick a few items at the store or buy a gift card to the grocery store or gas station. Be anonymous or not. Adopt a family or just donate the items to a local non profit. Involve your children as much as possible, talk about how your actions can have a financial and/or emotional impact on others. Don’t make it complicated, just give a little..

Choosing to BE INvolved (part 2)

This is Part Two of a two part post titled, Choosing to BE INvolved. Cherisa is talking about how she chose to get involved in the Toyland for Kids Christmas event at the Center for People in Need in Lincoln, Nebraska. In the first post she talked about how she coordinated getting her family and friends involved in the event. This time she is talking about their experience while volunteering. To read the first part of the post, click here.

Finding Meaning in the Event

The email I received from the Center for People in Need asked that all volunteers park at the Home Depot parking lot and a shuttle would transport us to the actual event. My daughter and I climbed into a large shuttle van with several young high school students that were volunteering for the event for their school sports team. My daughter recognized the school name and was impressed that teenagers were volunteering too!

We arrived at the event and at first sight it was overwhelming. There were literally hundreds of people waiting to go through Toyland. Although the Center is a large place, signs clearly marked where we needed to sign in as volunteers. We met our friends in the Volunteer Room. We signed in and were given a quick tour by a Center staff person.

We were assigned to a booth that gave out paperwork for free Children’s Museum passes The booth was set up in a large room where people were waiting for their name to be called to access Toyland. We were told that due to the large volume and unprecedented numbers, people had been waiting for hours. We quickly recognized that it was even more important that we make this the most positive experience we could for those waiting. After a few minutes of setting up the table, the kids became restless. We quickly learned that we needed to keep our kids engaged and assigned them the task of affixing stickers to the paperwork. The kids sat on the floor behind the booth and put stickers on hundreds of applications while the adults handed out the paperwork and recorded pertinent information on a log sheet.

When the stickers were completed, the kids grew restless again. We invented a new task, for the kids to be “Hosts” and to stand in front of the table and say “Would you like a free museum pass?” and hand out the paperwork. They weren’t afraid to talk to anyone–even those that did not speak English.The kids loved their new role (so much they asked to stay beyond our commitment time) and the recipients enjoyed their passion as well.

The kids wanted to be a part of the actual Toyland giveaway and we spent a short amount of time assisting parents in picking out toys for their children. The kids were amazed of the amount of toys available and did not understand why they could not pick out a toy to take home. We had the opportunity to reiterate to them the purpose of volunteer work and how blessed we were as a family.

The Center for People in Need staff told us that we gave more passes away during our time slot than they gave away for the previous day and a half! When our kids heard this, they beamed with pride. They understood how their specific tasks contributed to helping families in poverty go to the Children’s Museum for free.

By giving just a few hours of our time, we not only helped those in need, but also strengthened friendships, created memories and reinforced to our children the true meaning of the Christmas season.

Be Informed. Be Involved. Be Invested. Most of all… Be In Lincoln!

Choosing to BE INvolved

Our primary goal with our BE IN Lincoln page is connecting you with the community. Volunteering is a large part of that connectedness. We are pleased to introduce Cherisa. Cherisa is a regular volunteer. What makes her extra special is that when she volunteers, she takes others with her. Cherisa includes her family and friends and does a great job at both. Family is at the core of who we are. Cherisa helps us mix Family and Community. We hope that you will be as inspired and encouraged by her as we are.

Growing up in a large family, there was never much money for anything in addition to the necessities.  My mom taught me from an early age that one of the greatest gifts you can give is your time.  During my childhood and youth, we volunteered in soup kitchens on Thanksgiving, put small gifts on the doorsteps of the elderly for the ten days of Christmas, and tied quilts for the homeless.

All grown up now, with two small children of my own, how do I continue this legacy?  My six year old has more toys that my five sisters and I had combined.  She is oblivious to poverty and is sometimes downright ungrateful for her possessions. We are not connected to a church or a specific cause that organizes volunteer events.  It was clear that I would need to reach out to my community and discover volunteer opportunities on my own.

Living in Lincoln for most of my life, I have been fortunate to have a large, close-knit group of friends who are a lot like me.  In sharing my frustrations about our children not being cognizant of the blessings in their life, my friends were also looking for a way to expose their children to helping those less fortunate.

Get Connected

As part of my desire to become more connected to the community, I asked to be on the mailing list for the Center for People in Need.  The Center for People in Need is an amazing organization who assists thousands of families in poverty to meet their basic needs.  I received an email that volunteers were needed to help with their Toyland for Kids Christmas event.  I contacted the Volunteer Coordinator, Kristi to make sure that I could bring my six year old to volunteer with me.  She stated that she could as long as I supervised her.

Get Others Connected

I knew some of my friends may be interested in volunteering, so I emailed the volunteer flier to my friends asking if they wanted to participate in the event.  I also posted the event on Facebook.

Preparing for the Event

I wanted my daughter to be informed of what she may be doing and what she may encounter.  We discussed if she saw a parent of a child at her school, the importance of confidentiality.  We talked about how not all jobs are fun ,but they are necessary to achieve the larger goal.  I encouraged questions and engaged her in critical thinking about how our efforts contribute to helping families in need experience a rewarding holiday season.  I also made sure my friends knew where to park, where to meet and the type of work they may perform.

The day prior to the event, I sent out a reminder text to my friends.  In the car, I reiterated basic ground rules with my daughter–staying by my side at all times, being respectful by not asking questions that may be offensive to others and to be polite at all times.

Tune in next time…(I always wanted to say that) when Cherisa talks about Finding Meaning in the Event. She’ll discuss what they experienced, how it felt and what it meant to those who volunteered.

Be Informed. Be Involved. Be Invested. Most of all… Be In Lincoln!