By Naina Chhiber
At least one Wednesday afternoon a month, Faulconer Gallery Outreach Curator Tilly Woodward hosts an intergenerational art activity at the Mayflower Homes. Children from local schools are invited, along with any other volunteers, to come work on craft projects and interact with elderly Mayflower residents.
“I started working at the Faulconer Gallery four years ago and at this point I began a regular outreach once a month,” Woodward said. “It’s good for [Mayflower residents] in a variety of ways, especially since it helps retain fine motor skills, engages memory, and it engages cognition and parts of the brain that maybe don’t get so used in the care center. I like to look at it as them using muscles in body, brain and heart.”
Woodward finds that Mayflower residents enjoy the crafts as well as the company, and that the intergenerational aspect of the program is key.
“[It’s] marvelous to have old hands helping young hands and young hands helping old hands,” she said.
Artistic activities at this event have included book and journal making, sewing and clay pottery. This week’s project involved woodworking and decoration. Having done a similar kind of outreach at her previous job in Pella, Woodward has many ideas for engaging activities and a lot of experience interacting with residents about their lives. This program is just one way she is able to connect with the people in the Grinnell community.
“The care center does a wonderful job,” Woodward said, “but it’s still hard to be there and this is something different in their routine which they all appreciate.”
She finds that even if residents start a session with negative sentiments about their artistic ability, at the end they are usually really happy with what they’ve made.
Mayflower employees are also able to enjoy a break from their daily routine to help with the project of the day. Participants enjoy meeting the students who come by, as well as the time they are able to spend with the volunteers and their fellow residents.
Eleni Irrera ’14 works as Woodward’s intern as part of her campus work study. Besides helping out at Mayflower, she and Woodward do outreach in town with the Galaxy Youth Center and Davis Elementary School.
“The kids get very excited when they see [us coming in] the glitter truck,” Irrera said.
While she finds it a bit easier to work with children due to their enthusiasm, the only downside she finds to the Mayflower session is the fact that she has to talk much more loudly to engage the residents to participate.
Irrera learned about Woodward’s outreach through her job at the Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice (CRSSJ), and has found that most college students don’t even know that it goes on.
Woodward pointed out that volunteering with this program is not a huge time commitment and can lead to meeting a lot of new people.
“It’s a really nice thing,” she said. “The residents really appreciate having people come by, so people should get in contact with me if they’re interested.”