By Sally Ann Moyer
Sometimes all someone needs is a listening ear, even if that ear belongs to a stranger from a much younger generation.
Residents of the Baylor apartment communities the Gables, East Arbors, the Arbors and Fairmont, take one Saturday afternoon each month to visit with residents of Bluebonnet Hospice communities.
Their February service will take place Saturday, when the group plays bingo.
San Antonio senior Jack Chen, senior community leader at the Gables, facilitates the partnership between the apartments and Bluebonnet Hospice.
He began volunteering with Bluebonnet Hospice during his junior year and decided to make it his senior Community Leader project.
“Volunteering with them has always been a priority for me,” Chen said.
He saw serving together as a way to help build community among the apartment residents.
“People get to really know each other and it’s a good way to bond and meet new friends that want to serve,” Chen said.
Roanoke, Va., graduate student Jenny Shearer, hall director at the Arbors, works with Chen to lead the project.
“When I was getting my undergrad, I did a lot of community service and that was something I wanted to continue,” Shearer said.
Chen estimated that a changing group of about ten residents participate each month.
“The first time it was quite a few people because there was no schedule conflicts, after that turn out wasn’t as big,” Chen said.
Dallas junior Analynn Serrano, an East Arbors resident, has participated in both October and January and plans to go with the group again Saturday.
“The first time I went just because it was something to do,” Serrano said. “And I really enjoyed it and I wanted to go again.”
She played a game with one woman and sat and listened to her.
San Antonio senior Kirk Lundblade, a Gables resident, went once last semester and will likely go again Saturday. He found the experience interesting because of the chance to talk to people outside of his peer group.
“It was interesting because I don’t talk to or hang around a lot of old people that often, but I got to sit down and talk to them,” Lundblade said.
Dallas junior Erica Nichols, community leader at East Arbors, went in December and plans to go again this Saturday.
“I just really liked getting to know the residents there, they seemed very wise,” Nichols said.
She enjoyed her interactions with the residents and hearing their stories.
“Most times they don’t get a lot of visitors,” Nichols said.
The main focus of the service project is to visit with patients.
“In January, we just went door to door, gave them some juice, and sat in their rooms and just chatted with them,” Chen said.
The original plan had been to serve hot cocoa, but the weather warmed up so they served juice instead.
The visits are often themed to coincide with concurrent holidays. October’s visit had a Halloween theme, the group from the apartments went caroling in December and Saturday’s visit will have a Valentine’s Day theme.
“We’re thinking about doing singing and dancing with them for more of a Valentine’s Day theme,” Chen said.
While the location changed each month during the fall semester, the goal is to remain at Sterling House, where the group first went in December, for the spring
“For those that have gone more than once, I’ve noticed that we have been talking to some of the same people,” Chen said.
Staying at Sterling House will create more consistency.
“That’s the one we’re going to stick with this semester,” Shearer said. “We want to see the same residents, even if they don’t remember us each time.”
Beyond consistency, though, the apartments’ desire to fulfill the needs of Bluebonnet Hospice, even if that means changing location.
“We also really want to be fluid so that we can best serve where Bluebonnet Hospice needs us,” Shearer said.
Shearer would like to see the project continue next academic year.
“I think it’s something that’s just important for our residents,” Shearer said, “But I don’t know if that will happen because Jack [Chen] is graduating.”
Whatever the future plans of the project, they do not discredit the current benefits for both apartments and hospice care residents.
“This is a small thing, something meaningful to do,” Chen said.