Keene NH Center Honors Family of Volunteers

Volunteering is a family affair at Cedarcrest Center for Children with Disabililties.
Dave and Rebecca Badten and their teenage sons, Jonathan and Matthew, have been reading aloud to small groups and individuals at the Keene NH nursing home each week for about 18 months.
All of the Badtens love to read. They are very busy in church, school and community organizations in Keene but felt this was an activity they could share with residents, who are severely disabled.
"Our family has been enriched by this community over the years, and we want to give something back. Reading to the children of Cedarcrest Center is one small way we can . . . do it as a family!" says Rebecca Badten.
The nursing staff at Cedarcrest Center is thrilled that the Badtens can be depended on. They report that the evening visits provide the children with great opportunities for social interaction. Some of the boys particularly enjoy having Matthew and Jonathan read to them.

In October 2008 the Cedarcrest Center Board of Trustees recognized the Badten family as Cedarcrest Champions. CEO Cathy Gray thanked Dave and Rebecca for setting an example of volunteerism for their sons and recognized all four Badtens for making their contributions a family affair.
Cedarcrest Center for Children with Disabilities provides long and short term residential, medical and educational services for children with complex medical and developmental needs. For more information visit http://www.cedarcrest4kids.org/.

Seven Hills at Groton Expands Volunteer Program

When Arlene Howard became the Activities Director at Seven Hills at Groton, there was hardly any community involvement with the nursing home. Using just a telephone directory and a spiral bound notebook, Arlene and a part-time staffer recruited a rotating group of about 20 volunteers who regularly interact with residents today. They sent hundreds of letters to area churches, schools and social and service organizations to find those special people who make life meaningful for children with severe disabilities.
Their volunteers include boarding students from The Groton School, college kids from Middlesex Community College and Fitchburg State College, and dedicated retirees, Lions Club members and even some staff members. The volunteers are pair uped with residents and guide them "hand over hand" through activities and help them enjoy musical performances, crafts and Wii game sessions. Arlene has developed a 90 minute orientation to sensitize newcomers to residents' needs and teach them how to communicate with the mostly non-verbal young people. She also helps them become familiar with the building and safety issues. Seven Hills at Groton honors its volunteers at an annual Ice Cream Social, but Arlene has also enrolled the home in the President's Volunteer Service Award program. Several volunteers have already earned bronze, silver or gold medals for 50, 100 and 150-hours of service.
Arlene also keeps meticulous listings of each resident's participation to ensure that everyone is included. Executive Director Holly Jarek credits Arlene's enthusiasm and organizational skills for the increased community involvement. "Arlene did it from scratch. I can't praise her enough." For more information about Seven Hills at Groton, contact Arlene at ahoward@sevenhills.org or visit http://www.sevenhills.org/shg.html

Grandfather Enjoys "Giving Back" at NEPC

Dan Harty has been visiting children at New England Pediatric Care for nineteen years.

"Like many people I want to 'give back' because my life has been so blessed." Dan says.

He spends about eight hours each weekend, chatting one-on-one with residents, cuddling babies with complex medical needs and playing games with higher functioning young adults.

"There isn't a child or adult in this facility that I don't think of as my own," says the 64 year old grandfather.

For years Dan and his wife cared for foster children until they 'burned out.' A chance encounter at a bible study class connected them with NEPC. Dan bonded immediately with Latoya, one of the youngest and most severely disabled children at the Billerica, MA nursing home.

The staff was amazed at his ability to elicit responses from Latoya, who was severely neurologically impaired. Their relationship was very special. Sadly, she died at age 16 on Dan's birthday.

Dan continues to visit other residents and has no plans to retire from his volunteer work.
"Even though the kids can't communicate with words, they talk to me with their eyes," he says.
For information about volunteering at NEPC, call Laura Pica at 978-667-5123 or email:

College Students Befriend Disabled Teens in 5 College Area

College students are contributing to the success of therapeutic recreation programs at Hallmark Developmental Center in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Hallmark serves children and young adults with fragile medical conditions and severe neurological impairment. Having visitors several times during the week provides crucial social stimulation for the residents, and increases awareness in the community, according to Lisa Jakstis, Education Director.

The volunteers come from five nearby colleges --Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, Hampshire and the University of Massachusetts. They interact the residents for a variety of reasons: credit, career exploration or just to “give back”, she said. Often they return for a second, third and fourth years.

Recreation Aide Isis Feliciano helps the volunteers plan fun and games to enrich each resident’s quality of life and to reinforce some of the functionality individuals work on in school or day habilitation programs.

“We know the residents are enjoying these activities because they laugh and make more of an effort to stay awake when they know (the students are) coming in,” Isis said.

The UMass Boltwood Project has been sending volunteers to Hallmark for more than 20 years. UMass Psychology major Melissa Huey volunteered two semesters before she became a coordinator for the service organization. Why does she do it?

“The experience gives me a different perspective on my own life,” she said.
To learn more about volunteering at Hallmark, contact Lisa Jakstis at LJakshtis@northnh.net