Kim Walker kept one eye on her task, spreading glue on construction paper for a Halloween decoration. But Walker, a resident at Barnes-Jewish Extended Care in Clayton, was more interested in — fascinated by, actually — interaction with the seventh-graders from Christ the King School at her table during an arts-and-crafts session.
Maeve Journagan, one of the enthusiastic visitors from the Catholic school in University City, was the first to greet the residents at the table. “Nice to meet you. We’re from Christ the King School. What’s your name?” Maeve asked, later discussing her day and noting that the students went to Mass that morning.
One of the topics they discussed was music. Walker detailed her love of rhythm and blues and another resident, Charlotte Faye Richards, told the girls about the bluegrass music she listened to growing up in Kentucky and about her sister who played piano and her dad who played trumpet in a brass band.
Cece Rea was completely honest when answering a question from Walker about whether she’s a good big sister. Yes, but sometimes her brothers can be a pain, Cece said.
“Kids are beautiful people,” Walker said. “I like to be around young, vibrant people. And they are vibrant, yes.”
Cece said that with busy school and after-school schedules, the students don’t interact with elderly people much. “We’re here to provide them some cheer,” she said.
The visit was part of Christ the King School’s service day in lieu of their Halloween parties. On Oct. 30, seventh-graders visited the care center, eighth-graders went to help at Lifewise STL and sixth-graders were part of a University City campaign picking up litter.
The students’ teacher, Laura Kent, said “we’re here to be friendly and helpful and make their day a little brighter.”
Patricia Clay, recreation therapy supervisor at the extended care center, said the students’ visit “warms my heart.”
The center “is honored to have such a fine group of young seventh-graders join us in a celebration of joy and commitment as they share their love, their desire to learn more about the older adult population, and their strong faith with all of us,” Clay said.
The center has volunteers from Immacolata Parish who bring Communion, and Msgr. Vernon Gardin, pastor of that parish, also visits, she said. “We’re very pleased and grateful” for the Catholic community’s help, she said.
Before the students went room to room, the residents and students in the craft area thanked each other and doled out hugs. “Nice to meet you, Sweet Charlotte,” Maeve said.
Ginger Evans, who was at the center visiting a friend, called the students “really sweet and charming.” A Mary Queen of Peace parishioner, she said she’s impressed with the behavior and kindness of the students. “This community service project was so good for the residents,” Evans said.
>> Catholic schools
The Archdiocese of St. Louis Catholic schools help students develop a heart and mind for God. They learn that each of us has a purpose and value that extends far beyond money or power. It’s witnessed in the service learning opportunities students participate in to replicate Christ’s teachings.
Kristi Mantych, a regional director with the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education and Formation, said many of the schools that participate in service projects “get our students out into the world bringing the face of Jesus to others.”
Today, she said, there’s more of a focus on meaningful service in the community as schools spread the Gospel through their outreach.