Residents at Homestead of Oskaloosa playing BINGO with freshmen from Oskaloosa High School

Residents at Homestead of Oskaloosa play bingo with freshmen from Oskaloosa High School.

OSKALOOSA – Oskaloosa High School students visited nursing and assisted living homes last week to spend some quality time with residents during the holiday season during their Random Acts of Kindness Week.

This is the second year that Oskaloosa High School Student Council has taken on the Random Acts of Kindness Week. The idea for the week started as a way to get the students more involved in community service.

Student council member and Senior Class Vice President Brook Allen said they decided to visit local nursing homes so that residents would have guests during the holidays. During their visit, students took tie blankets for the residents, they gave out goodie bags and they played several rounds of BINGO.

“We decided that maybe we should visit nursing homes so that those residents are getting guests during the holidays, she said. “Then came the ideas of visiting with the nursing homes, playing bingo, giving them prizes and whatnot, giving them goodie bags and making sure that they had somebody that they could see during the holidays or whatnot if family couldn’t make it.”

In total, 35 students from each grade level at Oskaloosa High School, plus members of the student council, visited four nursing and assisted living facilities.

On Monday, seniors went to Northern Mahaska Specialty Care, juniors went to Crystal Heights, and sophomores went to Oskaloosa Care Center. Friday, freshmen at OHS went to Homestead of Oskaloosa. OHS Student Council Advisor Kim Gile said students return from the visit thrilled about how sweet the residents were and how much fun they had with them.

“Oh, they come back talking about how sweet they were and how much fun they had and they ask can they go again next week and things like that,” Gile said. “We just really appreciate the nursing home staff for letting us come in and make the blankets and letting us hand out the treat bags. It’s an eye-opening experience for some of our kids and, you know, it’s really great when they go there and they see somebody they know or somebody knows their relatives it’s really kind of a neat thing another way for them to make connections in our community.”

One of the student council members visiting Homestead on Friday even got a chance to see his grandpa. The student was videotaping the visit, so they didn’t get to hang out much but they did get a chance to chat and catch up as his grandpa said he wasn’t much of a bingo person and opted not to play.

Homestead of Oskaloosa Activity Director Mona Van Zomeren said they have a longstanding partnership with the school and she loves having the students come for a visit, because students leave understanding the difference between a nursing home and assisted living facility.

“I think it’s really important for the high school kids to understand that assisted living is not nursing home care,” Van Zomeren said. “I wanted them to experience how different it is and how fun our residents are. They’re more like grandmas and grandpas, they can hang out with them and have fun with them and that’s why we play bingo. Of course, bingo is the most popular game at Homestead, but we just thought that would be a good connection.”

The students aren’t the only ones that benefit from these visits. Residents at the homes enjoy having the kids come out and hang with them. Homestead resident Patti McMorran said she always has a good time when the students come out as they remind her of how things were when she was their age.

“It’s always fun when the younger people come out here, it makes me feel younger,” she said. “And then you kind of think about yourself when you were back there, it was fun”

Another resident at Homestead, Zelda Rauch, chimed in and said the group that they got today was a lot of fun.

“Fantastic, I had a lot of fun with those girls, and one boy,” Rauch said. “That was a good crowd, they were great kids and we enjoyed playing with them.”

Tiffany McDaniel can be reached by phone at (641) 660–9659, by email at tmcdaniel@oskyherald.com or on Twitter @tmcdaniel_osky.

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