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Chance meeting leads to dozens of new friendships

Lincoln 2nd graders shared lunch with Bethany residents.

Lincoln Elementary School 2nd graders and residents at Bethany Home in Alexandria shared a special lunch Monday to celebrate a year of new friendships.

The lunch was a "grand finale" to a year-long project that involved the students making monthly visits with the residents.

The idea bloomed from a chance meeting between Rebecca Evich, a 2nd grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Alexandria, and Emil Schultz, a resident at Bethany Home in Alexandria.

The two met at a local clinic last July, the day before Schultz's 96th birthday. They visited for about 30 minutes until Schultz was called for his appointment. He then handed Evich a card that read, "You have been blessed, pass it on!"

"I truly felt blessed after the lovely conversation I had with him," Evich said. "He told me about his family and how he raised his children when his wife passed away. His youngest was only a few months old. He talked about school, church, his birthday..."

It didn't take Evich long to think of a way to "pass on" the blessing as well as to have the elderly pass on their wisdom to her young students.

In September, she contacted Randee Hall, director of resident services at Bethany Home, where Schultz is a resident, and the two arranged for monthly visits between the school children and Bethany residents.

All of the 2nd grade classrooms at Lincoln joined the effort and have visited Bethany once a month since October.

During the visits, the children read to the residents; did projects together, including making pumpkins, holiday ornaments, valentines, Easter cards, and flowers; and played balloon volleyball.

Evich is thrilled with the way the visits turned out.

"When you put children who are full of wonder with the elderly who are full of wisdom - you have beauty!" she said. "The laughter, the chatter, twinkling eyes, the smiles - all from the hearts of the children and the residents!"

Following are a few comments shared by Lincoln students about the visits to Bethany Home:

"I like the residents. I like doing things with the residents. I like making things for the residents. They are very kind. I wish we could visit more often."

"What I loved about Bethany Home was they were always nice and kind to me. They're so sweet as candy and sugar. They gave us a lot of sweetness."

"I like when we did projects with them and they were special to me. It sounded like angels. I like the time when we played volleyball with them. They got a chance to hit the volleyball and that made me proud."

"I enjoyed the arts and crafts and learning people's names."

"My favorite time was when we got to make valentines to the residents. I like making valentines because you got to decorate and say nice things to them because they were very sweet, nice, happy, and friendly."

"Bethany Home was really fun. I loved the games! I loved the people! And, especially, I loved the place!"

"It was nice and peaceful getting to know the people at Bethany Home."

"I liked reading to the residents because I think they like to hear me read."