Maryville ELS visit

The Bright Shining Light of Time Spent with Grandfriends

Thirty minutes, twice a month. It may not seem like much, but for the little Valiants at Valley Catholic Early Learning School and their grandfriends at Maryville the time spent together is uplifting and precious.

Every other week students and teachers from VCELS walk together to Maryville to spend time with Maryville residents. Typically, the time is spent doing a small craft together, such as coloring, playing with stickers or making cards. And though the time is short and the activity small, these simple activities build beautiful relationships and spur enlightening conversations.

“Behind the curtain, we prepare for our time at Maryville almost daily,” said Lynnettee Burton, VCELS Lead Preschool Teacher. “Our time there is very intentional, so we talk with the kids about it regularly and encourage them to plan how they will spend their time with their grandfriends.”

Maryville ELS make cards
ELS students and Maryville residents sit together to make cards.

VCELS teachers initiate discussions with their preschoolers about Maryville and its residents while they are on walks around the campus, during prayer times and in the classroom. The kids learn how unique it is to have a school, convent and health care facility all in one place. It is an opportunity to help them see how the Sisters’ vision, planning and prayer made all of this possible and how they help people across a wide range of ages. The discussions and the active preparation projects help the children build up their comfort level with older adults – most of the preschoolers’ grandparents have not reached the age of many Maryville residents.

“Kathy and the Maryville team and residents have done a wonderful job helping us create a safe space for the children to interact with their grandfriends and ask questions,” Lynnettee said. “The children respond with excitement to talk and learn from the residents.

Questions such as “Tell me about your wrinkles?”and “Where did you get your spots?” are pretty common and give everyone in the room a warm smile because the questions are answered graciously and lovingly.

Behind the curtain for Maryville, preparing for the VCELS visits consists of getting the dates on the calendar, arranging the activity room and setting up transportation for the residents who need it. Lately, the visits have occurred after Mass, which has been helpful. Many of the residents are in one location and already prepared to move from the chapel to the activity room for one of their favorite events.

ELS and Maryville time together
Maryville Resident helping an ELS student color a card.

“The residents love seeing the little children. Most of their children and grandchildren are grown so they really cherish their time with the little Valiants,” said Kathy Fedr, Maryville Activities Director. “The retired teachers really embrace the visits. You can see them thrive with this recurring opportunity to help the kids learn.

The residents enjoy helping the children work on their motor skills. It does not matter if it is coloring, placing stickers, folding cards or singing. The grandfriends and the little Valiants just enjoy the time they spend together.

“When the children come to visit, they warm my heart and bring a smile to my face,” said Carol Watson, Maryville resident. “We are so glad to host them; we just love those kids.”

Lynnettee says the excitement she sees from the kids about going to Maryville rivals that of going for ice cream. She marvels at how invested and interested they are in Maryville. VCELS teachers channel the excitement into creative discussions and collaborative planning. They take time to talk about past visits, have the kids plan the upcoming activities, and even work on a few specific logistics.

Recently, the students asked to take extra color sheets and extra purple crayons to make sure the residents would have everything they needed. The entire experience, behind the curtain, is a genuine community service project that the children truly enjoy doing. The kids even learn to serve one another as the preschoolers will help the toddlers and infants with the projects that may be too difficult for their age, such as making cards.

Mv And Vcels High 5

“Our grandfriends are very nice to us,” said Vanessa Abercrombie, VCELS student.
“Whenever we visit, it makes our light inside us grow brighter and their lights as well.”

Maryville ELS coloring

Kathy Fedr sees those lights shine first hand. “The visits shine a light beyond the activity room. The visits light up the whole building,” she says. “Visitors, staff members, even the construction workers’ spirits are lifted by the little Valiants and their big hearts.”

Lynnettee Burton sees a similar light from everyone in Maryville. “The Maryville staff members really set the tone for the visits,” she says. “They always greet us with big smiles, high fives and cheers when we walk through the door. Their warmth and energy really help the kids engage. They make a world of difference and may not even realize it.”

Thirty minutes, twice a month is all it takes to create a bright-shining blessing for VCELS, Maryville and all of us on the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus.

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