Through volunteering, some USD students have gained grandparents away from home.
SERVE’s Adopt-a-Grandparent program requires students to visit with their assigned “grandparent” once a week at the Sanford Care Center to socialize and create longtime friendships.
Kayla Mitzell and Gladys Rasmussen
Sophomore Kayla Mitzell has been involved with Adopt-A-Grandparent since she was a first-year, and has been working with her resident, Gladys Rasmussen, since the beginning of
A certified nursing assistant, Mitzell said the program helps her gain valuable experience.
“I always really liked the elderly, so I thought this was a perfect way to stay in touch and volunteer and help the community of Vermillion,” she said.
Adopt-A-Grandparent is important to Mitzell, she said.
“I love a lot of things about the program,” she said. “Learning how to communicate to the elderly, I think it’s something our generation isn’t the best at.”
Rasmussen and Mitzell haven’t been together long, but Mitzell said she enjoys the stories of Rasmussen’s past the most.
“Hearing some of her stories, like the struggles, is definitely an eye-opener,” Mitzell said.
Rasmussen said the program is a nice way for her to interact with someone new.
“She’s a nice, friendly girl,” she said. “That’s the way I like. You meet new people, I never would have met her.”
One benefit of Adopt-A-Grandparent is becoming more involved in the community, Mitzell said.
“You leave every week knowing that you did something good for the community,” she said. “It definitely makes you feel better about yourself.”
Erica Carrels and Alan Lundy
Erica Carrels, a sophomore, has been a SERVE member for two years. She’s involved in Heroes and Adopt-A-Grandparent.
She’s been with her resident, Alan Lundy, for one year.
Carrels said she became involved in Adopt-A-Grandparent because it was a good way to continue volunteer work after high school.
“When I came over to college, I decided that I really missed doing that,” she said. “I thought it was a really big thing in my life. I really thought (SERVE) was a great organization for our campus.”
The program has served as a good outlet for the residents, Carrels said.
“Even though they have many activities to do throughout the week… I think Adopt-A-Grandparent really gives them another thing to do,” she said. “It’s nice that us students want to help out in the community, not just help out in the university.”
Lundy said he enjoys his visits with Carrels.
“She’s a nice, intelligent person,” he said. “I can have a conversation with her — there are a lot of people I can’t have a conversation with, basically because they’re not there.”
Carrels said she likes listening to Lundy’s stories and simply eating and talking with him.
“He likes to talk about his past, so it’s fun to listen to his story,” she said.
Carrels said volunteering in college is an important experience.
“It teaches you so much, it shows your morals,” she said. “I feel like I’m doing things right because I’m volunteering my time and going out to the community and working.”
Carrels said she’s learned a lot from being part of the program.
“Everyone has a story,” she said. “You need to take the time to listen. My life is very busy, so coming here, it’s my time to sit down and listen to someone else. This is a really good time to take time for others.”
Abby Kayser and Virgil Rauch
Though senior Abby Kayser has only been with the Adopt-A-Grandparent program for a few months, she said the experience has been a great one.
Kayser decided to participate in the program because she works at a nursing home in her hometown, and was accepted into a speech pathology program at USD.
“I would like to work with the geriatric population when I’m all done with that,” she said. “I felt (Adopt-a-Grandparent) would be a good fit.”
Virgil Rauch, who’s 100 years old, and Kayser spend a lot of time together.
“I like that I get to hang out with Virgil every week,” Kayser said. “It’s kind of like having your own grandparent away from home. I treat him as my
Rauch said he enjoys seeing Kayser.
“I get to see somebody from the outside,” he said. “They make me feel younger.”
Besides seeing the nursing side of nursing homes, Kayser said volunteering helps students connect with the residents.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot about his life stories, so I’ve learned a lot about what life used to be like,” she said.
Kayser will be around Vermillion for the next two years, and said she will continue seeing Rauch.
“It’s getting to do something else and getting to visit with a population that’s not my own,” Kayser said. “For me, it’s kind of relaxing to come here and to get away from school.”
Madison Sneller and Jean Tramp
A communications science student, senior Madison Sneller said Adopt-A-Grandparent has been beneficial for her program studies.
Though her original goal was to work with children, the more time she spent with Jean Tramp, the more she became interested in working with the elderly.
“Within my major, in the future I will be working with the entire spectrum of age ranges, and I’m more familiar with children, so I decided it’d be a good way for me to broaden my horizons,” she said. “I’ve seen how not only the nursing home functions, but also how kindhearted and caring the individuals can be. Knowing I can work with that in the future is really exciting.”
Sneller has been involved with SERVE programs for a while, but this is her first year with Adopt-A-Grandparent. She visits Tramp once a week.
The two spend time watching movies and talking walks, and Sneller often paints Tramp’s nails.
“She is wonderful,” Sneller said. “The smile on her face instantly brings me joy. Jean is such a caring and thoughtful person.”
Sneller said the program helps her remain selfless.
“It reminds you that there’s more to college than just yourself,” she said. “It helps you become more involved with the community and also you get to make connections and develop relationships that you otherwise might not have.”
Sneller said college students can benefit from Adopt-A-Grandparent because the elderly are often forgotten about.
“We’re the younger generation and we have so much to learn from the older generation,” she said. “The best way to do that is by going to the individuals here at the Care Center.”
The program is fun and also a good way to connect to the residents, Sneller said.
“It brightens up your day,” she said. “Even though you’re the one giving, they are always teaching you something or making you smile and laugh. You always leave fulfilled.”