Residents of Buckner Westminster Place pack snacks for local students

With the school year underway, local students are busy heading to class and after-school activities. However, there are many who return home on the weekends with little to no access to regular meals. Residents at Buckner Westminster Place want to change that for the Longview community.

Twice a month throughout the school year, the residents of the senior living community gather together to prepare 50 snack packs filled with food and treats like macaroni and cheese, oatmeal, cheese crackers, apple juice and pudding that are then distributed to students of South Ward Elementary.

“This is our fourth school year to participate in the snack pack program, and it’s something that residents are always eager to join,” said Bob Webster, a resident at Buckner Westminster Place. “We’re always looking for ways to give back to the greater community, and this is an opportunity that enables our senior community to support local children and ensure their needs are met. By providing these snack packs, we know students are going home on the weekend with something to eat and won’t go hungry.”

The program began in 2012 while Melanie Wright was volunteering with Buckner Children and Family Services as part of the organization’s summer feeding program. Through the summer program, Melanie contemplated what could be done throughout the year to ensure they were continuing to meet the needs of these children all year long.

“It’s incredibly important to serve our local community and help these kids get the nutrition they need,” Melanie said. “Through this program, we’re able to show them a little extra bit of love and kindness they may not experience otherwise. We also want them to know that their community cares about them and wants them to be happy. It’s a joy to see how much the residents at Westminster Place love doing this and it’s really a win-win for everyone.”

“At Buckner Westminster Place, we believe in the importance of community and doing what we can to support one another,” said David Sims, executive director of Buckner Westminster Place. “We’re honored to have the opportunity to support local students and ensure they have everything they need to be successful, and that includes access to a meal. We hope that by sharing our involvement in the snack pack program that we can shed light on the issue of hunger in our community and inspire others to find ways they can give back.”
[/av_textblock]

Buckner Westminster Place member and author reads to children on National Read a Book Day

seniors reading to children

Thursday, Sept. 6 was National Read a Book Day – the perfect day for children’s book author and Buckner Westminster Place member Ida Luttrell to share some of her books with children at the Buckner Family Hope Center in Longview.

Ida, 84, read from her book Three Good Blankets to the group of 10 children, ages 2 to 4 years old. After she finished, one of the Family Hope Center staff read another of Ida’s books, this time translating it into Spanish for the bilingual children.

National Read a Book Day is an annual awareness day inviting all people to pick up a book and spend the day reading. The day also promotes reading to others, whether it be aloud to children or seniors.

According to the site NationalDayCalendar.com, “reading improves memory and concentration as well as reduces stress. Older adults who spend time reading show a slower cognitive decline and tend to participate in more mentally stimulating activities over their lifetime.”

Ida was joined by her friend and fellow Buckner Westminster Place independent living member Mary Ellen Andrews. Their time at the Family Hope Center merged two of Buckner International’s pillar areas of service: vulnerable children and seniors.

For more about Ida Luttrell, read our resident feature article on her.

Volunteering: “just the natural thing” for one Beaumont senior

senior man accepting volunteering award

91-year-old Calder Woods resident John Templeton is known around the Beaumont senior living community for his helpful, can-do attitude.

During any given week, you’ll find him leading the Calder Woods sing-along, helping Chaplain Fontenot during church services, facilitating Wednesday’s intercessory prayer session, counseling during the Alzheimer’s caregiver support group, providing entertainment during Thursday’s social hour or just lending a hand to a neighbor in need.

Simply put, Templeton is a one-stop-shop for Calder Woods volunteer efforts and an easy choice for Calder Woods’ 2018 Volunteer of the Year.

“Ever since he moved to Calder Woods, Mr. Templeton has been an integral part of this community,” said Ben Mazarra, executive director of Calder Woods. “He proves that moving to a senior living community isn’t about slowing down, but about getting involved and doing your part to help the community thrive. Recognizing him as our Volunteer of the Year was a true honor.”

For Templeton, though, volunteering is natural.

“It almost seems routine to me,” he said. “I just love people and like to see them happy. It’s so rewarding when I can do something for someone. I don’t have any hesitation about helping when I can.”

Templeton moved to Calder Woods with his now-late wife in 2009 after a longtime career at Texaco. He and his wife were married 65 years and spent much of their time in early retirement volunteering at the local hospital. It was his upbringing, Templeton said, that taught him to give back.

“Being involved in church life really motivated me to be aware of other people and find ways to assist their needs. Sometimes it’s as simple as talking to them and encouraging them. I’ve been blessed with good health, especially as a 91-year-old! My legs are still good, and I can just pop up and help someone whenever they need.”

Learning to serve

It’s 9:30 on a Friday morning in Houston, Texas. Parkway Place is already buzzing with activity, residents of the senior living community coming and going from the dining room, spring sunshine pouring through the windows, the smell of fresh coffee in the air.

An unassuming hoard of 16 young people enters the community lobby, smiling wide and quietly surveying their surroundings. They wear starched white lab coats, blue scrubs and name badges, with pens stuck neatly in the lab coat pockets. By all respects, they look like nursing professionals.

“Professionals,” however, is a word that won’t officially describe these young people for another 15 years.

These are students from Westside High School’s health science pathway, a magnet program designed for students interested in pursuing medical careers. They visit Parkway Place every other Friday, 16 students in the morning and 14 in the afternoon, to work with residents in assisted living and skilled nursing.

All the students are graduating seniors, 17 or 18 years old, who’ve spent the last four years taking preparation classes like anatomy and physiology, microbiology and pathology. This class is the program’s capstone and requires students to complete observation hours.

“Observing at Parkway Place is a unique experience for the students,” said Monique Taylor, the program’s instructor. “Most of these kids have only seen one side of healthcare. What they see at Buckner is completely different than at hospitals. Here, they see the full circle of life.”

The unique partnership between Parkway Place and the health science program began when Cynthia Patterson, volunteer coordinator for Buckner Hospice, gave a career fair presentation at Houston ISD. Her presentation sparked interest in the Westside students, and they immediately wanted to volunteer.

“It was a win-win for both of us,” Patterson said. “They get observation hours, and we get volunteers full of fresh energy. We’ve already been extremely impressed by their professionalism.”

Like soldiers deployed for duty, once they arrive at the community the students one by one take their assignments. Some go to individual apartments to visit with residents. Others go to common spaces to help with morning activities. They each carry a journal to record what they learn. They’re patient, engaged and respectful, interacting with residents as if they were their own grandparents.

Many of these students, Taylor said, will be first generation college students. They’ll go to school with the expectation of becoming primary providers for their families. Working with Parkway Place, then, is more than a resume booster. It’s a crucial stepping stone.

“There’s a lot riding on them succeeding,” Taylor said. “This program opens their eyes to the different options out there. Most have never seen senior living care. It changes their lives.”

One student, LeiLani Lattimore, knows this is exactly where she wants to be. For as long as she can remember, she’s had a 25-year plan—which begins with attending Cornell University and ends with becoming a neurosurgeon. For her, it’s the direct interaction with Parkway Place residents that’s been most impactful.

“We’ve learned that you have to have patience in the medical field,” Lattimore said. “There are a lot of delicacies that come with geriatric care. You have to have the knowledge and the facts, but you also have to have compassion. It’s really special that we get to see that so clearly here at Buckner.”

Another student, Amenda Khoei, wants to be a pediatrician. While she ultimately wants to end up on the other spectrum of the circle of life she says the experiences she’s gaining at Parkway Place are invaluable.

“This is an opportunity a lot of people don’t have,” Khoei said. “I’m honored and plan to take in as much information as I can about this area of care. You don’t get to see this kind of direct care in hospitals, and I’m excited to learn.”

“This partnership with Westside High is what Buckner is all about,” said Susan Phelps, executive director of Parkway Place. “Buckner exists to serve both vulnerable children and senior adults, and what better way to do that than by engaging a multi-generation partnership with students who otherwise might not have these opportunities? Plus, seeing the way Parkway Place residents light up around these students is a joy. I feel more confident than ever about the future of senior living because of their eagerness to serve.”

101 Christmases: How a centenarian still finds joy in every season

Connie Dickinson is preparing to celebrate her 101st Christmas. A resident of Calder Woods in Beaumont, the centenarian still finds joy in each holiday season, and her bright-eyed smile proves it.

“I think joy at Christmas comes from other people and seeing how happy they are,” Dickinson said. “Especially here at Calder Woods. When my friends’ children and grandchildren come to visit, they’re so happy! And that makes me happy too.”

Dickinson never had any children of her own, but fondly remembers Christmases as a child. She grew up in Memphis, Tenn., alongside her three brothers and three sisters.

“We were all good children,” she laughed. “It’s hard to remember back that far through all the Christmases I’ve celebrated, but the ones I remember best are the ones when we were all together.”

Through the years, Dickinson says she’s seen a lot of change in the way we celebrate the holiday.

“I don’t think Christmas means the same to people as it used to,” she said. “When I was growing up, we were all so excited about Santa Claus and all the festivities. But now kids get everything they want throughout the year, so Christmas isn’t as special.”

Dickinson herself values giving back to the community during the holidays and year-round. Two days a week, she drives herself to Baptist Hospital Beaumont where she’s been volunteering for nearly 30 years and has completed a total of more than 15,000 service hours. In August, she was recognized as one of five finalists for the TexanPlus Champion Competition, a contest that recognizes senior adults for their contributions to the Southeast Texas community.

This year, Dickinson will celebrate Christmas at Calder Woods alongside friends and neighbors. Her favorite part of the holiday season? Going to church for Christmas services.

© Buckner International. - Developed by LevLane
Font Resize
Contrast