When Drew Helmer, Destiny Boudreaux, Jenna Helmer, and Cassie Meyer received Cadette Girl Scout Silver awards Sunday at Marion Assisted Living, they were among friends.
It wasn’t always so, but over the course of an 18-month community service project working primarily with seniors at Marion Assisted Living and St. Luke Living Center, the girls developed relationships with facility residents.
Destiny and Jenna were familiar with many of the names and faces through relatives who work in the facilities, but none of the girls were used to having extended conversations with seniors.
“Before, I would just say, ‘Hi,’ and I wouldn’t start a conversation,” Destiny said. “Now that I know them I’ll just sit down to talk, and we’ll talk forever.”
Admitting to being nervous at the outset of the project, Cassie said listening to residents talk about their lives helped to establish rapport.
“The first time I was petrified,” she said. “I feel way more comfortable now. I know what their hobbies were and what they used to do. When we think about the elderly we don’t always think about what they were actually able to do.”
The girls worked with Tampa State Bank of Marion to create “Silver Tree for Silver Stars,” a Christmas gift donation program, and delivered the gifts during Christmas parties they staged at both locations.
Over the ensuing months, they engaged with residents by having a Valentine’s Day party and hand-cranking ice cream for an ice cream social.
They made about 150 May baskets that they distributed to seniors at Hilltop Manor and Homestead residences, as well as to those at Marion Assisted Living and St. Luke Living Center.
An art show where they invited residents to share the products of their painting, sewing, cooking, and crafting was Drew’s favorite activity.
“We learned about all their amazing talents,” she said.
Each girl had to put in a minimum of 50 hours on the project to earn Girl Scouts’ highest award for Cadettes. They also had to research an international program related to working with seniors, and devise a way to continue some of the activities they started.
Jenna said doing a project working with the elderly was something she would recommend to the next group of Cadettes.
“I know that after we do Girl Scout stuff here the residents are really happy and want us to come back,” she said. “They just love us being here.”