GAINESVILLE - The Girl Scouts from Troop #965 helped brighten the Bell Minor Nursing Home in Gainesville recently without anyone even seeing a green uniform walk through the door.
About a dozen of them sent hand-made fleece blankets to warm the residents at Bell Minor as part of a service learning project at a state Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility in Atlanta. The Girl Scouts of Troop #965 are all young offenders in custody at the Metro Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC).
“We call their learning project, 'Show Them We Care,' said DJJ Victim and Volunteer Services Director Latera Davis. “Our project goal is to increase awareness toward seniors. Our Office of Victim Services is working with our Division of Education and Reentry Services to make this service project a success.”
Young men from DJJ’s Vocational Program at Augusta Youth Development Campus (YDC) hand-built a wooden flower bed box where nursing home residents can store their new fleece blankets. The overall box and blanket project concept was created by DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles to "show them we care." DJJ formally “adopted” Bell Minor Nursing Home through department service learning and outreach projects last year.
“It’s a chance to educate our youth about respecting Georgia’s aging population,” said Niles. “Our objective is to help DJJ’s young offenders develop an understanding of the issues that impact our aging population and to empathize with the elderly receiving medical attention and living assistance in hospitals and nursing homes.”
As Niles personally helped make the deliveries to the nursing home, residents voiced their appreciation for the gifts. Bell Minor staff said no one can know how something as personal as a handmade blanket can make such a big difference to brighten a senior’s day.
“Too often communities forget about our aging seniors,” said Niles. “We start with this simple way to give back and show aging adults that someone cares. We hope that eventually hands-on projects like this will encourage our youth to think about other serious needs in their communities on their own.”
Staff members at the nursing home said they were greatful for the gifts and the support from Niles and DJJ.
Niles noted Gov. Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal launched their own project in 2011 for giving back to the state and the communities they love. The Deals call it “With a Servant’s Heart.” Commissioner Niles says the cornerstone concept of Sandra Deal’s project lends constant inspiration to DJJ’s efforts to help young offenders re-enter their communities after serving out court orders. Volunteerism, community involvement and outreach are the foundation of “With a Servant’s Heart.”
“When we reach out to become involved in helping mold a new beginning for another person, we bring hope for that individual and we in turn receive joy," Sandra Deal has said. "My goal is that every Georgian, no matter the background or circumstance, commit to creating awareness for the importance of volunteerism by allowing one’s actions to speak louder than words, give with a servant’s heart.”