When an opportunity arose to do something for the residents at the Rollingbrook Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, Goose Creek Memorial High School students and staff took full advantage through the Adopt a Senior Program.
The teachers and students at GCM reached out to Julia Lanier, Rollingbrook Rehab administrator, since some of the students participated in Certified Nurse Aid training there. They were trying to come up with an idea to adopt the seniors while adhering to social distancing rules due to COVID-19.
“COVID-19 forced many changes on everyone, but a sad reality was the necessity of no visitors allowed in our senior healthcare facilities,” said Debbie Himsel, one of the GCM teachers.
She and Tricia Cheshire, another GCM instructor, had wanted to reach out to senior citizens, and this was the perfect opportunity.
Himsel said the adopting of senior citizens was in a similar vein as the adopt a high school senior program, where people were choosing a senior on Facebook, and sending them well wishes and sometimes gifts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Himsel said Lanier liked the cards and gifts idea for seniors but also suggested painting their windows.
“That led to contacting a professional window artist about the type of paint needed, and then I practiced on my own kitchen windows to see what would hold up and how easy it was to remove,” Himsel said.
About 40 Goose Creek Memorial health science students from Cheshire’s and Himsel’s classes joined the project.
“They made beautiful handmade cards of encouragement and planned their window art,” Himsel said. “Students were organized into shifts to paint every resident’s windows, including words of love written backward to be read from the inside. Then Adopt a Senior Citizen Day arrived, and their window to the world brought blessings on both sides of the glass as students and residents shared smiles and waves. It was truly a labor of love for the residents.”
Billie Brinkley, retired Goose Creek CISD art teacher, joined the effort to provide helpful advice and even paint some windows herself.
Himsel said through the program, a group of students who she calls “The Fab Four” came back two additional days to make sure every window was complete. This included a few that had to be redone due to torrential rain. The students are Kennedy Jacquet, Samantha Padilla, Janelle Baham and Kayla Baham, a graduate of GCM.
Jacquet, a GCM junior, said she finds happiness in helping others.
“When I heard that the patients in the rehabilitation center had not gone outside in approximately six weeks, I put myself in their shoes and realized how miserable they must feel. I knew I had to help,” Jacquet said. “Every day when I painted, I stayed for between four- and six-hours painting design ideas I came up with or were presented to by Mrs. Himsel. The patients of each room I painted all opened their windows and watched me work. Some even waved and smiled.”
Jacquet feels she has learned a lot in her experiences with painting the elderly residents’ windows.
“One of the most important things that I have taken away from this experience is that there are people out there who are experiencing events during this quarantine much worse than me,” she said. “I learned that now more than ever, people such as the patients of the rehabilitation center deserve the compassion and love the Baytown community can offer.”
Jacquet and her “Fab Four” partners painted sunflowers, a unicorn, a birdhouse, a garden and phrases such as “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Himsel thanked many people for making the Adopt a Senior effort come to fruition. This included her husband, Lee College regent Mark Himsel, as well as parents and siblings that joined the project. She also thanked Oreana Perez, a GCM junior, who made the team a cake to enjoy.
“Someone once said, ‘Service doesn’t have to be grandiose to be meaningful and make a difference,’” Himsel said. “These kids certainly did.”