May 12, 2014 // 12:35 PM

7 Ways to Make a Better World

Written by Scott Miller

Garden Spot Village has a clearly focused mission: To enrich the lives of older adults as an expression of Christ’s love. One of the many ways the community carries out that mission is by creating an environment in which Villagers can live with purpose. Many residents and team members choose to do this by serving others, enriching their lives and making the world a better place in many, many ways.

1. Make a difference:

Inspired by the book Changing the Face of Hunger by former U.S. Congressman Tony Hall, the Garden Spot Village Making-A-Difference committee looks for ways to make a positive impact far beyond campus boundaries. Since the group started in 2009, it has collected items of warm winter clothing, backpacks and school supplies for students in need; assembled and distributed lunches through the New Holland Summer Lunch program; and collected personal care items for the Teen Challenge Christmas Bag Project, which helps young men struggling with addiction. Group members also gathered more than a ton of glossy magazines to support the Ronald McDonald House recycling project; stocked shelves at the New Holland Food Bank; collected baby clothing and supplies for the Susquehanna Pregnancy Center; and served lunch at Water Street Ministries.

“The Making-A-Difference opportunities strike at the heart and make us aware of the needs right around us,” said Colleen Musselman, Director of Life Enrichment. Musselman read Hall’s book in 2008 and was moved to make a difference. She formed a planning committee with a team of residents who identify projects to pursue.

2. Care and connect:

Since 2004, dozens of Villagers have volunteered to take part in Caring Connections, providing emotional and spiritual support for individuals who are facing difficult challenges, such as the loss of a loved one or a serious illness. Hundreds of residents have benefitted from their intentional visits.

The number and length of visits depends on what the recipient needs. Some volunteers spend an hour or two a week, others more. Volunteers have visited residents in Laurel View memory support, knitted with women in Mountain View personal care and read to residents with visual challenges.

"Sometimes it's bringing the word of God to them, sometimes it's just listening and letting them know someone cares," says Carol Wendel, the dynamic resident volunteer who coordinates the program and matches volunteers with residents who have requested visits. Caring Connections volunteers receive training—and get the satisfaction that comes from knowing that they are brightening someone’s day.

3. Build something:

From New Holland, Villagers have reached out to Long Island, the Gulf Coast and even Honduras to help out on building projects. Through the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Partnership Home Program (PHP), residents staff and other Eastern Lancaster County community members have joined together to build houses for Gulf Coast families left homeless by hurricanes or tornadoes. They build the wall panels in the parking lot at Garden Spot Village, then truck them to the Gulf, where teams of volunteers complete the homes over a period of two or three months. After Superstorm Sandy, many Villagers got in a van each week throughout the summer and rode to Far Rockaway, N.Y., to help repair a storm-damaged home. And for several summers, groups from Garden Spot Village have traveled to Honduras with Missions Door to help build a church camp in the mountains outside Tegucigalpa.

4. Share and shop:

Several dozen volunteers operate the Share and Care Shop on the lower level of the Village Square. Established in 2002, the Share and Care Shop had raised more than $313,000 as of the end of 2013 to benefit the Garden Spot Village Benevolent Fund. The shop carries housewares, dishes and serveware, decorative items and furniture donated by Villagers and members of the surrounding community. The volunteers restore the items for resale and staff the shop.

“It’s a win-win recycling project that provides a source of affordable household items and raises funds for a worthy cause,” says Deborah Fast, Director of Volunteer Services.

5. Make it special:

Special events at Garden Spot Village—the Garden Spot Village Marathon, the Fall Festival & Country Auction, Pedal to Preserve and so many others—could not be the successes that they are without the generous support and service of all the Villagers who help make them happen. For example, hundreds of residents, staff and members of the surrounding community volunteer for the Garden Spot Village Marathon. They serve on planning committees, register runners, park thousands of cars, staff water stations along the route, hand out blankets and medals to the finishers and more. Community organizations—fire, police and emergency response teams—also make a major contribution toward a fun, safe event that runs smoothly.

6. Bridge the generations:

One of the highlights of this year’s Garden Spot Village Marathon was the first annual Lancaster Family YMCA Kids Marathon to promote healthy lifestyles for kids ages 6 to 12. This year, the YMCA and Garden Spot Village partnered with Cure.org to encourage young participants to reach out and support children around the world who can’t walk. The event was just one of many intergenerational initiatives that give Villagers an opportunity to bridge the so-called “generation gap.” Residents also volunteer to mentor young people through Cross Connection Ministries, tutor at area schools and participate in living history programs at Garden Spot High School. They make the Fall Festival & Country Auction kid-friendly, with face painting, radio-controlled airplanes and other fun activities and, at Christmastime, they open the doors to the Train Room to share a magical world with children of all ages.

7. Give generously:

For residents of Garden Spot Village, chores like lawn care, snow shoveling and home maintenance are taken care of. With a variety of dining venues, meal preparation and cleanup are optional. That leaves plenty of time for those who want to take advantage of short-term or long-term volunteer opportunities. Even with plenty of time, however, some prefer to make a difference in a different way. They donate to food, clothing and fund drives organized by the Making A Difference Committee, The Community Church and others. They donate items to the library or the Share and Care Shop, or they give to the Garden Spot Village Benevolent Fund in many ways.

 

These are just a few of the many ways that the people at Garden Spot Village are helping make a better world. Now that you know some of the opportunities, how will you make an impact?  

This article first appeared in the Spring 2014 Destination Magazine. 

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