Decades Apart, Spreading Cheer Together

The Christmas season is over for another year.  Wishes for a prosperous new year have been handed out.  Meijer already has Valentine’s Day candy for sale.  But there’s still time for one last feel good story from the holiday season.

A Tradition Continues

Fifth grade students from Alto Elementary have been visiting residents at Schneider Manor leading up to Christmas for over 25 years.  Students are randomly paired with a senior unless there’s a special request.  The kids then prepare an invitation announcing a date and time for a gathering.  Jim White is the former principal at Alto Elementary and is currently a board member at Schneider Manor.  “These visits are a highlight of the year for many of the senior citizens who reside there, as well as the students!  This is a wonderful example of service learning that students and residents will remember for years to come.”

Ashley Powell, 5th Grader at Alto Elementary, with her senior counterpart

Students create a pop-up holiday card and decorate a basket filled with edible goodies for the seniors.  Auditions and subsequent rehearsals take place for a short program in addition to practicing for a holiday sing-a-long which take place when the two groups meet.  The week before Christmas students and seniors gather in the Schneider Manor community room.  Jacquie Dimmick, one of the 5th grade teachers at Alto Elementary, says, “Seniors love the connection with the students.  Many will write notes to them and thank you cards, along with a little gift.  Kids love giving back and seeing the joy on the seniors’ faces.”  Both groups enjoy their time together and have formed lasting friendships thanks to the experience.  

Kieryn Gruizenga with Schneider Manor resident Mary Geldersma

Giving is Better Than Receiving

Through the years Alto students have learned giving is better than receiving.  Both Kieryn Gruizenga and Owen McNaughton, current 5th grade students, agree this lesson is important.  The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is typically filled with friends and family, numerous gatherings, and a busier social calendar regardless of age.  But this isn’t true for everyone.  Part of the giving lesson is thinking about others.  Kieryn says, “… we can give the residents a good Christmas because they might not have a lot of visitors.”  It doesn’t take much effort to help those without a lot of social activities to feel active and welcomed.  Owen shares, “It’s important …  we visit them so they don’t feel lonely.”  A small gesture can go a long way.  

Pay it Forward
The holiday season is a time when people think about others.  It’s when those who are able give to those who are less fortunate.  But the giving season isn’t confined to an established set of dates on a calendar.  There doesn’t have to be a holiday or special occasion in order to give.  Start the new year off passing along something to someone else and continue until the close of 2017.  Even a simple a smile directed at a stranger or letting a friend know he or she is appreciated.  Giving doesn’t always have a cost.  The net gain always produces a positive value.

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