Days of sharing for young, old

Exchange: As part of their community service, troubled youths join seniors for week of learning.

July 26, 2002|By Brendan Kearney | Brendan Kearney,SUN STAFF

The elderly men and women of the St. Ann Adult Day Care sat in a circle, mimicking the arm and leg movements of Dorothy Gaylord, a program assistant, as they performed their daily routine of stretches, flexes and claps.

Seated among the regulars at the Southwest Baltimore center were some younger, more limber people who tried to keep pace with their older counterparts, smiling to each other at the surprising strenuousness of the session.

Eight students from the Woodbourne Center, a state-funded private school in North Baltimore that temporarily houses and counsels troubled youths, volunteered at St Ann's this week with their social studies teacher, Robert Croyle. The visit will help students meet the state requirement that they do 75 hours of community service work.

"It's really good to see them come out here and genuinely interact with older people," said Croyle, who volunteered at the facility a few years ago and decided it would be a good place for students to learn a bit of history. "And it lets the older people see our kids aren't that bad."

The youths, referred to Woodbourne by the departments of Social Services and Juvenile Justice because of domestic problems or run-ins with the law, seemed to relish the opportunity to meet the seniors. The young men earned the right to participate because of good behavior during their six-week summer program.

"It's a blessing to come here and help the elderly people," said 17-year-old Brandon - school policy prohibits the use of last names - captain of the basketball team.

Brian, 13, said he enjoyed his conversation with a group of veterans who had fought in the Korean War. A relative had also fought in the conflict, he said.

Elderly clients, most of whom spend the day at St. Ann's because of disabilities, seemed to appreciate the opportunity to interact with the energetic youngsters, whether by playing ball, drawing pictures or reminiscing.

"We love them. Yes we do," said Eleanor Custis, who was serenaded on her 74th birthday by her St. Ann friends and the Woodbourne students.

Youngsters generally stay at Woodbourne - which includes grades six through 12 - for nine to 18 months, after which they return to public school. Croyle said he brings students to the center four times each year.

Bill Shade, program coordinator at St. Ann's, praised the collaboration with Woodbourne. "I think the young gentlemen who come here get a lot out of it," he said. "It's been a wonderful experience."

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