By Nicole Greco
This March, a group of senior citizens from Morris View Healthcare Center will be making a trip to the Interfaith Food Pantry in Morristown. They’re going there to be recognized for supporting Morris County people in need.
There’s a striking tree mural on the wall of the food pantry, and each branch holds the name of groups and individuals who donate food and funds. The seniors know that the more that is given, the better position on the tree. Their total contributions over the past few years have earned them the chance to swing from one branch to another.
The Morris View Healthcare Center is a nursing home to more than 260 men and women from all walks of life and many talents to share according Karen Hogan, recreation director. While the idea of residents playing bingo might come automatically when thinking about a nursing home, the seniors of Morris View have transformed the game to a conduit for reaching into the community.
Here’s how it works: three activities used to be separate, according to Hogan, bingo, the thrift store and the resident council. Bingo used to be played for pocket change, which was hardly ever used, so when the decision was made to give bingo winners tickets for the thrift store, both became a more popular place to be.
The thrift store consists of donations from the neighborhood, “the residents love being able to buy decorations for their rooms and clothes,” said Hogan, “and the things we receive that wouldn’t necessarily make sense for someone living in a nursing home are purchased by the staff- things like a brand new grill, bread machines and ironing boards.”
Now that the residents are engaged in the bingo games, and are benefitting by being able to “shop” in the thrift store, the amount of money in the council’s treasury continues to grow.
“They want a feeling of being needed and they want to be able to help others,” said Hogan, “So the council votes on which projects to support, and over the past few years, those donations have planted trees, created a memorial and bought food baskets for the hungry.”
Hogan said she believes these gestures are an important statement on the stigma of advanced age.
“The residents tell me all the time that they want to be part of doing something important, it doesn’t matter if you live in a nursing home, life doesn’t stop,” she said.
Margaret lives at Morris View and is described by Hogan as a very determined lady. She takes pride in knowing that her contributions are putting food on the table for a struggling family. In her soft Southern drawl, she encourages everyone to be part of something to serve others.
“It’s very easy to find people here who are very willing to help,” said Margaret. “You just have to find out what people need and, with a good heart, try your best to provide. It gives us a really good feeling.”
The response from the community is heartfelt. “We get wonderful thank you notes from families who are especially touched by the fact that this strong helping hand came from senior citizens in a nursing home,” said Hogan.
The Morris View neighbors helping neighbors are able to provide a lifeline to others in proportion to the proceeds from their thrift shop. Donations of seasonal decorations, new or gently used clothes, and household items are best-sellers and can be dropped off at the facility on 540 West Hanover Ave. I Morristown.
Hogan concluded, “the residents here appreciate how much the outside community helps us, and they really love this opportunity to participate and help the area in return.”