LAURINBURG – Sometimes presents can come in the form of presence. That’s what a group of local youths found out after a visit to a local nursing home.
Several members of Scots for Youth’s Gang Intervention Project recently gave the gift of themselves to residents at Prestwick Village Senior Living Community on John’s Road at a Christmas party.
The six boys from ages 10 to 16 visit the facility for one hour twice a week to play games and spend time with the residents, but that one hour at a time was not enough for some, according to Marty Crumroy, director of the program.
“The kids and I decided that we wanted to do something for Christmas because the holidays can be hard on them ‘cause they’re away from family,” Crumroy said. “We usually go for one hour but they had asked us to stay longer than an hour. So we went and spent two or three hours playing board games.”
Crumroy and the boys collected personal care items, scarves and gloves to hand out as Christmas gifts to the patients with whom they have formed friendships over the course of the year. Papa John’s donated pizza to the event.
“The kids were really excited to give the presents, and it was very nice of Papa John’s to come out and donate the pizza for all the residents,” Crumroy said, adding that the party impacted the boys as much as it did the patients. “One kid told me when we were watching them eat their pizza, ‘It’s was we take for granted; they’re loving their pizza, and we get it all the time.”
The visits are part of an intervention program that reaches out to at-risk youth in the county and provides them with life skills and alternatives to going down the wrong path.
“We work with them and teach them to give back to the community, teach them life skills, self-esteem, and responsibility. We have a substance abuse counselors – if they need it, gang unit intervention, and we go to school and sit with them during class if they’re having issues,” Crumroy said.
The program also gets them involved in charity work such as serving at food banks, volunteering at the courthouse and the program at Prestwick Village.
“Activities like this teach them to be able to socialize, teach them empathy for the less fortunate teaches them to invest back into the community and look at things to do instead of being out on the street,” Crumroy said.
The visits benefit both residents and the youth, according to Prestwick Activities Director, Rebeka Chandler. The residents benefit through playing games to help maintain their cognitive ability, but they also benefit from the social interaction and forming relationships with the students.
The patients look forward to the children coming out twice a week and question Chandler as to why the boys aren’t there if they miss a visit.
“It’s like a comfort to them; it reminds them of when they had grandchildren or family around because they’ve come to accept [the boys] as family, and that can make a difference to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients,” Chandler said. “They love playing bingo and keno and they felt honored that Marty and the kids stayed an extra hour.”
Crumroy has seen the residents take an interest in the boy’s lives and appreciates the positive benefits to her students and the residents.
“The visits give [the patients] outside contact and they ask the kids how they’re doing in school and about sports,” Crumroy said. “They really interact with the children. When you’re there on Tuesday and Thursday you’ll see the whole place light up.”
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169