The holiday season is a time of celebration, rejoice and, most importantly, giving back. It is important for people to donate some of their time and volunteer to help the less fortunate and people who are unable to be with their families on these days.

There are various nursing homes around the Plattsburgh community that are always looking for volunteers to help out. Meadowbrook Healthcare is located in the heart of Plattsburgh and is home to nearly 200 residents.

Kim Clowney is the activities director at Meadowbrook and is in charge of planning and implementing events for the residents to participate in.

“I coordinate the activity schedule, find entertainment, order supplies and try to meet the expectations,” Clowney said.

Some nursing home activities are inevitable — bingo is always a crowd pleaser. It is one of the daily activities at Meadowbrook along with exercises.

“They do chair and musical exercises with lots of marching and clapping. They like it because they feel like they are accomplishing something,” Clowney said.

Chris Gebhardt is a Project Help coordinator at Plattsburgh State, and he helps coordinate all the volunteer activities on campus and in the community. He and Justin Alves, also a Project Help coordinator, recently visited Pine Harbour Assisted Living located on New Hampshire road. There, the employees informed them on what volunteers can do when they come to visit.

Being that students are back in school for only two weeks before winter break, it is hard to gather many volunteers because it is so busy.

“There definitely is a lot more community events going on that require us to find volunteers,” Gebhardt said. “It seems like so far there are many volunteers coming in wanting hours, but it is difficult because next week is finals week.”

After visiting Pine Harbour, Alves felt inspired and is eager to return.

“After visiting, I want to get more people involved there and actually go there myself,” he said.

Surprised and somewhat relieved, Alves said volunteers would be doing more than the stereotypical retirement home games.

“They actually want volunteers to be companions of the residents and talk with them about their days. It is a lot of social interactions, which is not something I would expect,” he said.

Much of the community and many volunteers come in to Meadowbrook during the holiday season.

“There are a variety of things volunteers can do,” Clowney said. “They can decorate trees, create ornaments for the trees, bring in gifts for those with no family.”

Caroling is also admired by residents and volunteers alike during the month of December.

“They provide a lot of energy,” she said, “and volunteers make it a good experience for the residents.”

Volunteers offer great social support when they help play games, teach some exercises and just hang out.

“It is not what I was expecting. They really need people to just hang out, spend time and interact with them,” Gebhardt said. Meadowbrook tries to get more people volunteering during the holiday season to spend time with the residents.

“It’s really fulfilling to sit down with someone and learn about their life and the history they’ve been through,” Gebhardt said. “It’s amazing that you can judge someone initially because of their age and then when you learn about their life you realize all the things they’ve experienced.”

Email Jessica Miles at jessica.miles@cardinalpointsonline.com

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