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Member Highlight: Young Volunteer Has Lasting Impact on Seniors at Parkway Place

Thursday, April 27, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Amanda Wiedenfeld
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As we take time to acknowledge volunteers during National Volunteer Month in April, Parkway Place has a special story to share about one of the youngest – and arguable the most popular – volunteers they’ve ever had. When 15-year-old John Henry Donnelly was just 4 years old, his mother Jessica brought him and his younger brother to Parkway Place to volunteer once a week. They would visit with residents, pass out stickers and residents would anxiously await their arrival. After more than a dozen years of volunteering at the senior living community, Donnelly still has a soft spot for seniors and older adults that he says has influenced his life up to this point and he believes he will carry with him as he ages.

“What keeps me coming back is the fun, friendship, and fellowship I have with the residents,” said Donnelly. “When I was little, my mom took me and everyone there smiled at me and was happy to see me. Now, I go back and I am comfortable visiting because I enjoyed my experiences when I was younger. In a way, I feel like that place is a part of me. I also enjoy seeing my friend, Lynn Mathews, who I met when I started going for visits and got to know her husband at just two years old.”

Donnelly says that his experiences volunteering at Parkway Place make him more comfortable interacting with older adults and allow him to appreciate an older generation and what they have to offer. When Donnelly visits, he often helps with birthday celebrations, calling Bingo, leading the chair volleyball activity and helping the staff prep for parties and events. His favorite thing, however, is anything that allows him to interact with the residents themselves by playing games with them or striking up a conversation.

“Getting to know the residents has been really great,” said Donnelly. “I’ve stayed in touch with some of them over the years and they enjoy keeping up with everything I’m involved in. My grandparents always lived in another state, so I didn’t get to spend enough time with them. Spending time with the residents at Parkway Place allows me to have a similar kind of relationship right in my hometown. Now I can’t imagine what my life would be like had I not met the wonderful residents at Parkway Place.”

“I wanted John Henry to experience that key interaction with older adults the way I did growing up,” said Donnelly’s mother. “This population has so much to offer, especially to young people. John Henry, largely due to our visits to Parkway Place, is comfortable, respectful and appreciative of the elderly. I love that, because it meshes so well with the attitude of service that my husband and I think is so important for our children to develop.”

Donnelly’s visits to Parkway Place became less regular when he started school full time, but his appreciation for senior adults grew no less strong as he and his family maintained their relationship with the Parkway Place community.

“When children visit our residents, it has such a positive impact on the seniors’ lives,” said Sunny Chatagnier, executive director of Parkway Place. “Whether it’s a choir, a girl scout troop or a regular visitor like John Henry, any interaction with children brings joy to residents. We hope sharing John Henry’s story encourages more families to look for ways to share life with seniors and witness the big impact even the smallest visitors can have on the lives of others.”

Donnelly is currently a freshman at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston. In his spare time, he is heavily involved in Boy Scouts, runs track and hopes to earn his Eagle Scout badge soon.

Source: Chelsi Smith / Amy Jones, The Point Group

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