A Cycle of Giving

Location : San Juan Capistrano
Katelyn 1

By Katelyn Sloan, Silverado Volunteer 

My work with Silverado began at the age of 16, as a way to earn the volunteer credit that was required by my school. Initially, my expectations were mostly filled with fear and stereotypes about interacting with “crazy” dementia patients. But walking into Silverado that day was a terrifying step that I am so glad I took.

The residents that I had once believed to be crazy soon became my most loving friends. In fact, the experience was life changing. It inspired me to take my volunteer service to a new level. Rather than just being a source for companionship and engagement, I would work to shatter the misconceptions that I once was guilty of having.

This inspiration led me to create the Seniors Smiles Club, a school organization with the purpose of inspiring my fellow classmates to see the “other” side of the individuals whom had become some of my best friends. But quickly, the club became so much more.

I initiated the club only hoping that people would start to see the residents differently, but I knew it would take a great deal more to change such a common misconception.  I decided that in order for the residents to be seen differently, they had to demonstrate their own value.

Our club centered on “the cycle of giving.” As a club we would spend our time with residents, working on service projects that would in turn benefit the community-at-large. Through volunteering and participating in projects such as wrapping gifts for the less fortunate and baking animal treats for the local rescue, the residents enriched their own lives and the lives of so many more.

The students spent their time helping the residents give back to their community, while the residents our helped club members develop an appreciation for older generations, despite their memory-impairment.

Shannon Fishman, a fellow club member once said, “Visiting the residents at first was an apprehensive thing for me, but each time I got to learn a little more about each resident and their life story, and it quickly became something exciting.”

The residents proved their value in their ability to still make an impact in their community and also in their ability to touch the lives of every single member of our club. The Senior Smiles club left with the realization that memory loss doesn’t impact your ability to love. The minute we walked through Silverado’s doors, the environment of love was apparent.

“The residents were ultimately so easy to love because they so willing to offer it. Even in just sitting with them, you could tell it meant so much. I went in hoping for community service, but came out with two 86 year old friends,” explained group member, Lina Antonson.

I set out to prove that Silverado’s residents should be given more credit for their abilities to participate in the unspoken language of love, but in the end, I helped them prove that themselves. 

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