Friends can bring out the best in us. St. James teacher Debbie Lewis has often seen this first-hand, watching her students interact with the seniors living at Stonehaven Manor, just down the road from the school.
Debbie and her colleagues in grade 3 started taking their classes to visit Stonehaven Manor’s residents nine years ago. The program began with reading books with the seniors every week, but as time passed, it developed into much more than that. Friendships were formed, and it expanded to include talent shows, Christmas concerts, and a year-end barbeque. The seniors became an integral part of the St. James community.
During the pandemic, visitors were not allowed to enter Stonehaven, which made everyone at St. James worried about losing contact with the seniors. Debbie, who now teaches grade 6, asked her class to write letters to the seniors to maintain their friendships, and they became pen pals. The students also completed several art projects to decorate the Stonehaven tea room. They made decorations for the residents to celebrate special occasions such as Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Additionally, they started doing “Walk & Waves,” where the students dressed up in themed costumes and walked by the residence, waving to the seniors to cheer them up.
Debbie knows these activities have a lasting impact on her students. She recently caught up with a former student who was excited to hear that visits to Stonehaven continue to this day. The residents’ encouragement and support bolstered his confidence, inspiring him to give back. As a grade 12 co-op student, he enjoys working with the community.
This year marks the first time since the pandemic that we have been able to resume in-person visits. Our students and seniors are overjoyed to be able to connect once again! The class from last week was full of energy and enthusiasm, as you can see from the video that follows. We have also included some heartwarming moments from past visits. Seeing these visits’ positive impact on our community is truly amazing.