ABOVE: LBC student Madeline Mitchell enjoys a meal with Garden Spot Village resident Ruth Morrison.
Most students head off to college with dreams of living in dorms with their best friends, hanging out in common areas and maybe even cranking out some all-night study sessions in their rooms. But two of Lancaster Bible College’s undergraduate students, Madeline Mitchell and Rachel Ford, opted for a different kind of “dorm” experience: they’re living in local retirement communities.
“Every time I walk out my door there is a smiling face to greet me and tell me to have a great day!” said Ford of her experience living among the residents. “These amazing people have already impacted me in so many ways with their incredible sense of care and love as they have welcomed me into this family.”
Mitchell echoed similar sentiments, saying, “Living here has made me come out of my shell even more. You constantly have people coming up to you as the new girl who want to get to know you more. They’re always ready to engage in conversation with you, bake cookies for you, or want to have coffee with you – it’s pretty fantastic to just have that sense of community!”
Mitchell makes her home in the state-of-the-art community of Garden Spot Village in New Holland, while Ford enjoys living in the luxurious and modern living suites at Woodcrest Villa (a Mennonite Home Community) in Lancaster. In exchange for housing accommodations at the retirement communities, the students complete a wide range of volunteer work for the organizations, ranging from helping in the kitchen to just spending time with the residents, chatting over coffee and puzzles. In total, the students volunteer 60 hours a month at their respective retirement communities. According to representatives from both Garden Spot Village and Mennonite Home Communities, these volunteer programs are the only ones of their kind in Lancaster County, making this unique opportunity even more special for LBC’s participating students.
When we asked them why they choose to be a part of the program, they happily explained what made them say yes. “I always wanted to work in a setting like Woodcrest Villa,” explained Ford. “I felt this would be a great opportunity to love on these people who each have a story to tell. Each one has contributed to the world we live in today – and I want to learn their stories and benefit from their wisdom.” Mitchell added, “It sounded like such a great opportunity, and since I’ve always had clients that I took care of there and a personal caregiver, it just made the choice that much easier.”
Both girls say that the newly-minted programs are already impacting them and the residents they frequently interact with. “I’ve only been here about a month, which means a lot of my experience so far has just been dipping my toes in and seeing what works and what does not work,” said Ford. “But I definitely think it’s beneficial to both parties!”
“I think it’s definitely a different experience for everybody,” explained Mitchell. “The residents get to be a part of the college life while having a college student in their lives, and I get to learn how to slow down my life and learn from these people.”
Representatives from both retirement communities say they’re pleased with the programs and will continue and expand them in the future. “While we’re still solidifying just how the program will work and look in the coming years, and we’re pleased with how it’s progressing thus far.” said Steve Muller, chief operating officer at Garden Spot Village. “Our residents love having a college student living among them. Madeline is almost a surrogate granddaughter to them!”
“It’s thrilling to see the many ways this program is benefiting our residents as well as the profound impact it’s having on the life of a young college student,” said Jennifer Bicher, director of residential living at Woodcrest Villa. “We’re grateful to be a part of this exciting endeavor!”