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Generation-2-Generation bonds youth with seniors

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Generation-2-Generation program at Odd Fellow Rebekah Home


Riddle Elementary School students from Michelle Sharp’s kindergarten class and Rachel Stuart’s fifth grade class visited several residents at Odd Fellow Rebekah Home recently and worked with them on creating an animal from a series of different size Valentine hearts cut from construction paper.

Bill Duey, of Fit-2-Serve, the program that facilitates the Generation-2-Generation program where students interact with residents of care facilities, encouraged the students and residents to use their creativity. They could make a dog, a cat and he even watched as a previous group made a crab.


Some of the residents were content to watch as the students made the projects while others wanted to help with the planning, the gluing and decorating of the Valentine heart animals.


After the projects were completed, Duey invited the students to listen to him read a story. The residents also listened to the story and enjoyed the students’ reactions when Duey asked them questions about the book.


All kindergarten and fourth grade classes at both Riddle and Williams and also a fifth grade class at each school as well engage in the Generation-2-Generation program, Duey said.  The kindergarten and fourth and fifth-graders are partnered together and visit the sites on a monthly basis.  Students from St. John's and St. Mary's also participate in this program. 


“In total, we have roughly 500 elementary students engaging with 200 seniors on a monthly basis during the academic year (Sept-April),” Duey said. “The students and teachers that participate with us though go to the same site each month in hopes that relationships are forged over time with the seniors living in those facilities.”


The following senior living sites in Mattoon participate in the program:  Brookstone South, Brookstone North, Palm Terrace, Douglas Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, Mattoon Health and Rehabilitation Center, Odd Fellow Rebekah Home, Fellowship Center, Life's Journey and Copper Creek Crossing. 


“Some sites (by request) we visit more than once a month but always with a different group of students,” said Duey.


Fit-2-Serve, the guiding agency, is blessed with several partners, said Duey.


There are the volunteers, a partnership with the local YMCA which provides staff for each of the Generation-2-Generation outings and the Lumpkin Family Foundation provided a grant which has helped establish a foundation for the programs.  Also, Rural King, Home Depot, Mattoon Chamber of Commerce, Thrivent Financial, some local area churches and private donors have provided some of the financial support needed.


Fit-2-Serve facilitates two ag related programs geared for students: Farm-2-Table and Farm-2-School.


Farm-2-Table is a once a month activity for all first grade classes at Williams Elementary School. The goal of the program is to educate youth as to the various processes involved getting food from the Farm.


“Literally for one class we planted potatoes that will be harvested and on the table during that same class the students we made potato biscuits,” said Duey. “The classes are experiential in nature and are held at both Fit-2-Serve and the adjacent property the "Green House" where we have a teaching kitchen recently renovated to host the classes.”


  On average, there are 10 adult volunteers assisting the classes.


Farm-2-School, is a partnership with Mattoon High School’s FFA program.  The target audience is two second grade classes at Williams. 


Cheryl Lee has been a volunteer for Fit-2-Serve for the last 2 1/2 years and now has the opportunity to serve as a full-time AmeriCorps VISTA.  Many are unfamiliar with AmeriCorps, she said.


“The best explanation for AmeriCorps is it's the Peace Corps working within the USA to alleviate and reduce poverty in our communities,” said Lee. “During my VISTA training, I learned there are many forms of poverty, and that building relationships is fundamental in making any changes in a community.”


Lee is now able to apply her time and focus her energy to the Fit-2-Serve programs in the hopes of deepening relationships within the community and, ultimately, the family unit itself.


“I have so enjoyed getting to know the teachers, the students, and many of the residents of the nursing homes,” said Lee. “The activities and time we spend together each month has most definitely forged several relationships and experiences I would have never had otherwise.”


She added, “Bill (Duey) shared a story of being out in the community and being recognized as that "Farm-2-Table" lady/guy! And, the hugs! That only comes from sharing time and space together each month!”


One of Lee’s main functions is the recruitment and retainment of our volunteers.


“I've found that the personal invitation works the best and always challenge volunteers to just bring one friend the next time,” said Lee.


Duey hopes the volunteer base increases so the program can be expanded to include first grade classes at Riddle.


“Currently, we are also piloting a Talent-2-Strengths class with a fifth grade class at Riddle Elementary,” said Duey.  “Our goal with time is a longitudinal program (grades K-5) for all our local area elementary students as we extend the walls of the traditional classroom. Finally, during the summer, we have several community garden plots totaling over two acres where we provide our Learn-2-Grow program for volunteers which are predominantly youth.”

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Mattoon Community Unit School District 21701 Charleston AvenueMattoon, IL  61938

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