The fifth and sixth graders who attend Fellowship Bible Church know you’re never too young to volunteer.

Throughout the school year, Monty Slaven takes his youth group – better known as Club 56 – to spend time with the residents of the Mariner Healthcare Rehabilitation Center. One Sunday each month, 20 fifth and sixth graders arrive at the nursing home to escort residents to a chapel service. Many residents in wheelchairs would not be able to attend the service if not for the assistance of their young friends.

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The children’s commitment goes beyond moving wheelchairs. These young volunteers also sit with residents who are bed-ridden, talk with them and listen to them. They hold hands, tell stories and deliver gifts.

“These kids do more than just show up. They are invested in the home and the people who live there,” says Sharyn Brautigan of JAF Ministries, a nonprofit agency that works with local churches to serve people with disabilities.

She first introduced Monty’s group to the chaplain at Mariner Healthcare in 1997. She says that the children don’t see the 60- to 70-year age difference as an obstacle. Instead, they see hurting people who rarely receive visitors and who love the one-on-one attention the children give them.

“This is really an outstanding age for this kind of volunteering,” says Slaven. “The kids are still compassionate and tender but can also understand the importance of spending time with the elderly.”

“The kids have looked beyond sickness, disease, diapers and even death to meet human needs,” says Brautigan. “They are not simply volunteering at a nursing home, they are building friendships.”

The Volunteer Center of Dallas County recruits volunteers for JAF Ministries and more than 1,000 other nonprofit organizations. For more information about volunteer opportunities with JAF Ministries or any of these agencies, call the Volunteer Center at 214-826-6767 or visit the Center’s web site at