Hiram – The quiet peaceful morning after breakfast at Brooks House Assisted Living was broken on Monday June 1st with the arrival of 20 third graders. These third graders from Burton Elementary School have been active pen pals with the residents at Brooks House since the beginning of the school year.  Monday’s visit came with much anticipation, as they were finally to meet face to face.  (Thanks to the Burton Elementary School PTO for funding the trip!)

Brooks House Assisted Living Community sits in a beautiful rural setting on Claridon-Troy Road in Hiram. This project was formed from a desire of Fran King, the activities director, to have the residents interact with local students, and a willingness from Gina Kriz, the student’s teacher, to not only work on their writing skills, but to encourage a heart to serve. With this, unlikely friendships were forged between  8 & 9 year olds and 80 & 90 year olds.

At the beginning of the school year each group put together beautifully-bound books with short personal biographies, including photos, then sent them to their new friends.  This introduced information about their families, some “favorite things,” hobbies, etc.  Letters were written sometimes between individuals and sometimes as a group.  Questions were asked which were often answered through digital media.  In one video clip, a girl demonstrates how to ice skate.  Another recording features residents teaching folksongs from their own childhoods.

FranEvery month, a group of residents made a different variety of cookie and had them delivered to the classroom.  The children were so appreciative, each time shouting out, “These are the best ones!”  One month, the residents sent “Monkey Bread”  (a sweet, sticky bread).   A little girl with a big grin declared them “ Monkeylicious!”

Throughout the year, Brooks House residents encouraged students’ academic achievements, making hand crafted awards as the children learned math facts and attained reading goals.  Students encouraged residents with bright, colorful pictures and even “Get Well” posters when needed.  There were Blessing trees at Thanksgiving, Elf stories at Christmas, and personal history lessons on The Great Depression. The bonds of friendship formed quickly.

As the school year was coming to a close, the children could not wait to visit their new friends at Brooks House. They entered timidly at first, but soon after introductions they grew more relaxed.  Both groups started out singing old folk songs like “You Are My Sunshine”, and “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain.”  Then ended proudly singing a couple of patriotic favorites.  After music, the group played an interactive game of  “Crazy Questions.”  By noon, all were hungry!  They ate quickly and cleaned up.

Then the magic began;what unfolded before our eyes is hard to describe.   The children sought out their elder friends, chatting with them very naturally, asking questions about their favorite childhood memories or their ideal jobs. This interchange went on for quite awhile as teacher, activity assistants, and caregivers looked on. A new light flickered in the eyes of the residents, and an innocent admiration radiated from the children.  This genuine visit was a delight to everyone involved!  And as you can see in these photos, the joy of friendship looks the same on any face, no matter what the age.