Written by Tiane Davis // Photo by Balazs Balassa
Two Harding students took charge of Saturday bingo at Harding Place last semester, and their participation every week has sparked a bigger group of students to volunteer every week and develop relationships with the residents.
Junior Ethan Kelly, who started handling Saturday bingo at Harding Place in September, said it all started when his resident life coordinator, Debra Nesbitt, announced on Canvas that Harding Place was looking for volunteers to call bingo. After that, he started visiting every Saturday afternoon to lead bingo games and visit with the residents.
“I saw that it made people happy,” Kelly said. “People really enjoy playing bingo, and it’s just kind of a way to have fun and escape on the weekends.”
Kelly said it is a rewarding way to spend his Saturday afternoons because he did not grow up with grandparents. He said it is meaningful to him to be able to spend time with the residents at Harding Place.
“There have definitely been times when I have realized this is a calling that God has put on my heart, because at times, this community of people is neglected,” Kelly said. “I’ll be doing this until I leave Harding, for sure. I definitely want to be able to build relationships between students and residents.”
Junior Ross Barrett, who started volunteering at the same time as Kelly, said he kept volunteering there because he loves the residents at Harding Place and they needed people to call bingo for them.
“The community at Harding Place is so welcoming,” Barrett said. “I felt so loved after doing bingo just a few times. I think the connection of Harding Place and Harding University is really cool because there’s always a need for assisted living, and it’s amazing Harding has that to offer. I hope in the future that students can get involved with Harding Place daily.”
Marketing and Residence Services Director Sandy Reynolds, who works closely with the volunteers at Harding Place, said they try to take every opportunity they can for students to interact with the residents.
“We love students to come,” Reynolds said. “Students can participate in any of the activities that they want to participate in — card games, Pictionary, charades, Skip-Bo, Wii Bowling — they can participate in anything.”
Students often take classes that require them to do a certain number of service hours, and Reynolds said the students that fulfill those hours by volunteering at Harding Place are always welcome.
“A lot of times they’ll just check the box for their service hours, but it’s all about that one-on-one interaction with the students,” Reynolds said. “My hope for students is that they will fall in love with Harding Place and that they will want to keep coming back and keep those connections that they make.”
Reynolds said the dining room at Harding Place is open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and students can visit and eat half price for $5. She said Harding Students are always welcome to visit, even if there are no events happening at the time.
“All of our residents have a story to tell, just like all the students have a story to tell,” Reynolds said. “It’s just a matter of getting a little bit of time to listen. Harding Place is just a cool place, and we love being a part of the Harding community.”
Harding Place resident Wanda Reed, who regularly plays bingo every week, said it is one of the best things they do at Harding Place.
“I also like for the students to come in,” Reed said. “We need younger ones around to pep things up.”