Volunteers 'strike' up conversation and fun at senior center
A group of 19 Hofstra students traveled to the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale on Friday, Feb. 22, to assist senior residents in the third annual bowling community service event organized by the Office of Commuting Student Services and Community Outreach.
“I love interacting with the college students,” said one resident at the Uniondale nursing home. “It keeps me young and makes me feel good and makes me feel happy.”
The group arrived at the facility’s auditorium at 2 p.m., where they set up two lanes with 10 pins each. Prior to the bowling, the students introduced themselves and interacted with the residents.
During the game, students split up into two groups. One set of volunteers assisted the seniors in guiding the ball down a metal bowling ramp into the pins. Another group cleaned up the fallen pins at the end of the alley and set them back up.
The role of the students is not only to facilitate the game, but to also connect with the residents.
“This, to me personally, is more satisfying and rewarding than all the other [community service trips],” said Aden Kahn, a returning volunteer. “I feel like you have more of a genuine connection with the people that you are interacting with and you forge bonds as well because you see some of the same people.”
“Unfortunately, some people in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers don’t have a ton of visitors, but we are those visitors,” said Georgia Linaris, graduate assistant at the Office of Commuting Student Services and Community Outreach. “Our goal is to make them feel important and socialize with them.”
Linaris primarily organizes the monthly and large-scale community service programs at Hofstra.
“I like to provide a variety of activities and reach out to a variety of different populations,” Linaris said. Prior to establishing a relationship with the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility, Linaris said that Hofstra “had not engaged with the local elderly population as much as I would have liked.”
The A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility was highly receptive to Linaris’ offer to do something different from other volunteer groups. “They often said, ‘We have a bowling activity, but we haven’t done it in years because, unfortunately, our staff is getting older, we’re short-staffed and we don’t have enough time to do it; and when we invite groups, they want to just do bingo,’” Linaris said.
At the end of the day, volunteers and residents both feel light-hearted. Another resident at the facility said he has attended the annual bowling events run by the Hofstra students and he plans to participate in future games as well. The resident said, “When they say the students are coming for bowling, I say, ‘Let me make sure I’m there.’”
Linaris said her favorite part of this trip comes after the bowling, when students get a few minutes to talk one-on-one with a resident as they walk them back to their room. “I love watching the community we’re serving and seeing them interact with our students,” she said.
Hofstra has placed an emphasis on community service since its founding. “It is a really important thing to help our students grow into the adults, and into the citizens, we are proud that our university produces,” said Colin Sullivan, director of communications for Students Affairs.
“Lucky for us, our student body has always been behind it. They are eager for these opportunities,” Sullivan said. “The student body challenges us as a university to continually come up with new and engaging ideas on how we can give back.”