Kean University is an institution that values volunteering and connecting with other communities around campus. There is a pride and passion to serve the community within the student, faculty and staff population.
Under the Center for Leadership and Service (CLS), the Community and Volunteer Services has a mission to facilitate an expression of leadership and service on and off campus. To implement active citizenship, individual and community involvement, many students are able to choose from varying volunteering opportunities.
One of the many volunteering options for students is the Atria Senior Living center. This community center is home to older individuals, and it ultimately aims to provide a supportive environment for its residents.
In order to accomplish this, volunteers provide an afternoon of companionship for seniors by assisting with arts & crafts, recreational activities, manicures and more. Not only can volunteers earn credit, they leave the center having bonded with the seniors.
Another opportunity to experience the Atria Senior Living center will open for Sunday, Nov. 18 from 12:15 to 4:15 p.m. For those who applied as volunteers a bus will depart from the Wilkins Theatre bus stop, alongside other important details that will be given out as the event comes closer.
Rachel Domke, a service specialist for health and wellness, is very involved in the volunteering process for interested students and can attest to the social comfort provided by the volunteers.
"Both the staff and the residents are always very excited to see us when we arrive. We give a social comfort to those staying there," said Domke. "We speak with them, attend what they call a "social", which is where we have food, drinks and play music. [We also] paint their nails and sometimes participate in a game or craft. Often they may have family visiting who will also have the opportunity to bond and meet our volunteers. We have many volunteers who love this trip and have made great bonds with the residents."
With many of these volunteering opportunities, students are able to leave an area with a better appreciation and knowledge for that service.
Kelli Hayes is a second year post-baccalaureate, graduate student majoring in writing studies who went on her first Atria trip in February of this year.
"It was my first service trip after a long hiatus," said Hayes. "Despite my initial hesitance and worry that I would be unsuited for the trip, I am ultimately glad I went. This trip inspired me to participate in more service projects on campus, including more trips to Atria and trips to the Community Food Bank, Bernice's Place, etc."
Hayes speaks of the activities she has done for the residents including her friend Mary.
"Through talking with residents and providing them with manicures, I feel I have developed some meaningful relationships," said Hayes. "Some of the residents, like my friend Mary, even look forward to Kean's next visit to the center. Many of the residents are unable to do their own nails anymore and do not receive many visitors, so our presence there provides both a necessary service as well as a meaningful companionship. I greatly enjoy being able to provide to the Atria residents, and I have definitely developed a greater appreciation for the small things, such as filing nails, asking about someone's day and simply listening through volunteering."
Hayes recommends students to volunteer because it allows one to gain a meaningful companionship for people who need it.
"So many residents of Atria just want someone to talk to and to listen to them for a few hours. It's such a small act but it has such a huge impact. I would recommend volunteers to keep that in mind and be prepared to hear some amazing stories from people who have lived lives full of adventure, love, strife, tragedy and triumph. It really puts everything into perspective," said Hayes.
If any student would like to volunteer for a future Atria event, please contact the Center for Leadership and Service, located in the Miron Student Center (MSC) Room 219, by calling (908) 737-5170 or emailing at email@example.com.