Niagara Gazette — Large blue and silver snowflakes hung from the ceiling while residents at Our Lady of Peace Nursing Home gathered, with anticipation on their faces, awaiting the arrival of some specials guests Friday morning.
Those guests were students from Henry J. Kalfas Elementary School who came on a mission — to spread holiday cheer. Each month the school picks a different character trait to emphasize. This month it was kindness and the students were ready to show it.
“Intergenerational communication can really teach kids a lot about kindness,” said Linda Blake, a counselor at the school. “Kids help to meet the seniors’ need to be needed, and kids need to feel nurtured. It really brings out the best in both of them.”
For the second year in a row, each child at Kalfas was given the opportunity to write an essay discussing what kindness means to them. They also participated in making Christmas cards to hand out the residents.
Of the essays, 17 were selected to be read aloud at the nursing home. The students, ranging from second to sixth grade, stood up one by one, and told the residents why it is important to them that they be able to spread kindness, and how they how they do it on a daily basis.
Some spoke of helping with the dishes at home, or of helping elderly neighbors carry groceries into the house. Other talked about caring for relatives and helping their friends at school cope with being bullied.
“Being kind to people gets you far in life,” said 8-year-old Norvonna Brown, a third grader at Kalfas, after reading her essay out loud. “I think it made (the residents) happy, because they were smiling.”
Each time two or three students read an essay, they took a short break where the school’s chorus, who was also present, livened up the party a little bit by performing some cheery holiday songs, directed by Music Instructor Kathy Costanzo.
The residents sang along, many clapping or dancing from their seats. One of them, Sister Elena Sinatra, had with her a festive bell-clad Christmas decoration that she made great use of during “Jingle Bells.”
“The holidays can be kind of depressing for the residents,” said Katey Dulak, the activities and volunteer director at Our Lady of Peace. “Sometimes it’s the change in the weather, or some residents don’t have family to spend the season with.”
When the singing and reading was finished, the students each took some cards and essays from their classmates and handed them out to the residents, who were eager to see them. A smile shown on each face, young and old alike, as the children tightly hugged the residents and discussed the importance of kindness with them.
Another person who played an important role in Kalfas sending kindness out on the road was Assistant Superintendent Mark Laurrie. He provided two busses to get the kids to Our Lady of Peace so they could complete their mission.
When the residents eventually began to head out to lunch, a peaceful feeling settled in over the room, and the children said their goodbyes and wished their new friends a happy holiday.
“We’re trying to spread holiday cheer and show everyone to always pay it forward,” said Dulak. “We’re hoping the kids can come in here and see that our residents are just like them, they can be just as loving, caring and funny as anyone else.”