Ponte Vedra Gardens residents pack food for children in need
Story by Shaun Ryan via pontevedrarecorder.com
Helping others can give one a sense of purpose, a sense of vitality. It’s something we all need, regardless of what stage in life we find ourselves.
But sometimes it’s difficult to find opportunities where we can contribute to the world around us.
Thanks to Christ Episcopal Church’s Blessings in a Backpack ministry, that’s not a problem for the residents of Ponte Vedra Gardens Alzheimer’s Special Care Center.
Once a month, Sharon Kehoe and a few others bring food and supplies to the center so that residents can pack bags for local children in the free and reduced lunch program who might not otherwise have anything to eat on weekends when there’s no access to the school cafeteria.
Everyone sits at a table and works, assembly-line style, to fill the bags.
“It gives our residents a way to give back to the community and feel purposeful,” said Jennifer McCormick, programming director at Ponte Vedra Gardens. She said residents gain a sense of accomplishment and know they are really helping someone.
“Sometimes, it just brings tears to my eyes,” she said. “It’s just so beautiful.”
“They’re just so happy to be doing that to help children,” said Kehoe. “What a bridge between the generations!”
After the work is completed, the residents pray over the bags for the children who will receive them.
“It’s God’s work in action,” said Kehoe. “I truly believe that.”
The need is ongoing.
Special notes by Ponte Vedra Gardens residents and staff, written to the children who will receive the bags of food.
On weeks between these monthly visits to the center, ministry volunteers continue to gather and pack about 85 bags with food. These are dropped off at area schools so that school officials can distribute them to the children.
Julie Davidson, community resource director for Ponte Vedra Gardens, described how the work is compatible with the center’s Meaningful Moments program. That initiative is an approach to caring for those with dementia that goes beyond simply making residents feel safe and comfortable. By getting to know everything they can about the residents, staff members are able to develop an individualized plan of care.
“Meaningful Moments is the foundation of everything we do here,” Davidson said.
Another initiative employed by the center is the “memory café.” On the second Tuesday of every month, members of the community are invited to visit with residents. They might have a snack or sit and do some crafts together.
“It’s a fun time, where they can have a few laughs,” said Davidson.
Regarding Blessings in a Backpack, McCormick pointed out that Kehoe could easily choose to pack all the bags herself at home but instead opts to include Ponte Vedra Gardens residents.
And it pays off.
“They tend to have a great day, because they did something good,” said Davidson.
Photos provided by Ponte Vedra Gardens Alzheimer’s Special Care Center.