Talking is the favorite pastime of many teenagers – chatting in the halls at school, discussing homework over the phone or speaking with friends at football games.
Wendi Plotnik and Meredith Blessing have turned talking into a volunteer job at Doctors Health Care Center.
The two Lake Highlands High School seniors often can be found visiting with residents of the center Sunday afternoons. Some residents have no family in the immediate area, so Plotnik and Blessing stop by to see how they are doing.
“Their days can go by so slowly, and it makes me feel good that I can help break up that time,” Blessing says.
Plotnik says the center residents enjoy talking about a variety of subjects – families, friends, books and school. Many times, the girls just listen as the residents talk about their lives.
“Some young people seem to be a little fearful of seniors, but Wendi and Meredith don’t hold back. Both of them are friendly, and they smile constantly,” says Sandy Holacka, assistant administrator at the center.
“They’re very secure about talking to the seniors and talk to them in an adult way.”
Plotnik and Blessing have performed volunteer projects at the nursing center since they were sophomores at the high school. Both are members of the student council and Girls’ Service League, and both groups do monthly service projects. The girls agree their attitudes toward the seniors have changed since becoming volunteers.
“I didn’t know to expect the first time we went to the center, but I really enjoyed it,” Blessing says.
“I thought I was going to be depressed, but it makes them so happy to talk to someone,” Plotnik says. “Talking with them gives you a great feeling because it makes you feel like you’ve made someone’s day.”
The girls helped decorate doors to residents’ rooms for the holidays and served meals to patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Last spring, they coordinated a prom for the residents.
Blessing is service chairman for the Lake Highlands student council, which is planning a “Chocolate and Cheers” party for the center in January, she says. The students will bring hot chocolate and spent time visiting with the residents.
Holacka says more than 100 students volunteer at the center each year. She appreciates the hours Plotnik and Blessing have given to the center and knows the residents appreciate them, too.
“The seniors really enjoy the girls. Their visits are like a ray of sunshine,” Holacka says.