KSU students volunteer at Portage County Senior Center

Karen Holcomb

With the stress of classes, part-time jobs and involvement in organizations, most college students don’t find time for volunteering in the community. Students might not realize the impact they can have as a volunteer, but it’s a huge one — just ask the people at the Portage County Senior Center in Ravenna.

As part of a volunteer partnership with the senior center, a committee from Lake and Olson halls schedules visits about once a month for students to socialize with the older citizens who go to the center.

Kate Sammons, sophomore architectural studies major, is part of the committee that organizes the trips to the senior center.

“Every hall on campus has a volunteer partnership,” Sammons said. “This is to try and get students to volunteer in the community.”

Sammons said some students might think socializing with seniors could be awkward or uncomfortable, and it’s a shame there’s a stereotype of what elderly people are like.

“It is so much fun,” Sammons said. “They’re so nice.”


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Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting the senior center for the first time. Along with other students living in Lake and Olson halls, we carpooled and made the 10-minute drive on a Friday — “game day” at the center.

As soon as we walked in, the faces of the seniors lit up. They were so thrilled to have a young group to entertain and share in their games. Separated into three groups, they were playing poker, dominoes and a card game called “fantan.” We socialized with the seniors for a couple of hours, only taking a break to snack on cookies and popcorn. We learned new card games and got to know them. A couple of seniors broke off from their current games to play cornhole and Nintendo Wii bowling with us.

Betty Schwinn, a senior citizen who visits the center frequently, said she loves it when we come to visit.

“It’s a different age group,” Schwinn said. “We can learn about a completely different generation.”

As it came time to leave the center, I could see the appreciation and gratitude the seniors felt. They hugged us and reminded us to come back whenever we can. It was at this moment I realized that I would be visiting the center many more times. I knew I wanted to come back and bring more joy to them.

Since that first trip, I have been back to the senior center every week. I’m hooked. After learning how to play “fantan” from the seniors, we enjoyed it so much that we’ve taught it to our friends. As much as the seniors may be learning from us about our generation, we’re also learning from them.

Dee Lynn, program director at the center, said she thinks it’s great that students come to spend time with the seniors.

“You guys bring spunk for the seniors,” Lynn said. “Mixing the youth with the older generation keeps everyone young.”

Lynn said any students are welcome to senior center. Wednesdays tend to draw a large crowd for bingo, and Fridays are “game days.”

It’s not just the card games I’ve learned, but people and personalities as well. The seniors have so many stories to share and are always so eager to listen to you and learn about your life. When meeting these seniors, there are so many smiles and so much laughter that it is difficult not to partake in it. They make you feel welcome right away and want you to join in.

“I love going,” Sammons said. “It brightens my day that their days are brightened.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

Contact Karen Holcomb at [email protected].