Nursing Home Visitation Program
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By sharing their time, UW-Whitewater students show they care...
Students Brighten Nursing Home...

By sharing their time, UW-Whitewater students show they care
(Published Thursday, April 17, 2003 in the Janesville Gazette)
By Sue Yanny/Gazette Staff

Elmer Kelm, a resident of Geneva Lake Manor, shoots a basket with help from teammate Stephanie Wampole, a sophomore at UW-Whitewater.
Dan Lassiter/Gazette Staff

WHITEWATER-Lori Shefchik started visiting the residents at a nursing home in Delavan once a week when she was a freshman at UW-Whitewater.

As a junior, she still visits them.

Shefchik, 21, of Sturgeon Bay helps coordinate the UW-Whitewater Nursing Home Visitation Program.

Why is an accounting major participating in the program?

It's rewarding, Shefchik said.

"When we get to the nursing home, the residents are waiting there for us," she said. "That feels great. It only takes two hours of our week, but it makes their entire week."

The program has been bringing young and old together for the past 27 years.

Students are transported in university vans to nursing homes to interact with the residents, but the travel is reversed once a year when the residents attend On Campus Day.

Students welcomed nursing home residents Tuesday to the Hamilton Center, where they chatted, listened to music and played carnival games.

Dr. Cliff O'Beirne, who is known as "Doc," started the program, which now includes six nursing homes in Walworth County and one in Jefferson County. He is a psychology professor at UW-Whitewater.

When students take O'Bierne's entry-level psychology classes, he tells them they can earn extra credit by participating in the program.

Freshman Scot Anderson visits with Countryside resident Alice Baskin during On Campus Day at UW-Whitewater this week.
Dan Lassiter/Gazette Staff

Often, they continue to participate after they're done with his classes.

"We want students to establish relationships with residents, so we try to have a given student visit a given resident," O'Beirne said.

"The main thing we want them to do is get to know their resident and listen to him or her, so the resident knows there's somebody out there who cares."

Participating in the program changes the students, O'Beirne said.

"I believe when anybody does something for somebody else and they see it matters, they're never the same again," he said. "Now they know that what they do and say makes a difference."

Diane Schulze and her son, Matt, both of Janesville, helped out at On Campus Day on Tuesday.

Diane is a graduate student at UW-Whitewater, and Matt is an undergraduate. Both are involved with the program.

"What a fabulous program this is-not just for the residents, but for the students," Diane said. "The students get so much out of this. They benefit greatly."

Elmer Kelm, who is 84 and lives at Geneva Lake Manor in Lake Geneva, sat during On Campus Day on Tuesday with the two students who have been visiting him this semester-Beth Ratajczyk and Stephanie Wampole.

Kelm said the program is "a pretty good idea."

Marjorie Betzer, who is 88 and lives at Vintage on the Ponds in Delavan, had her picture taken with Julie Merrick, who's the student visiting her this semester.

When Merrick visits Betzer, they talk about a variety of topics-including Merrick's college experiences and Betzer's travel experiences.

"She's been everywhere," Merrick said of Betzer.


Dr. Cliff O'Beirne will receive the 2003 Distinguished Service Award from the Wisconsin Association of Homes and Servi ces for the Aging.

The association is a statewide organization of nonprofit corporations serving elderly and disabled people. Each year, it honors people who have demonstrated commitments to helping elderly and disabled people.

Coral Lindloff of Lake Geneva is another local award recipient. She will receive the 2003 Youth Service Award. Lakeland Health Care Center in Elkhorn nominated Lindloff.

Students Brighten Nursing Home
(Published Monday, March 17, 2003 in the Wisconsin State Journal)
Lesley Rogers Barrett/Wisconsin State Journal Staff

WHITEWATER - Their wheelchairs lined up in a staggered row, the residents at Lakeland Health Care Center in Elkhorn wait.

It's Tuesday afternoon, and they know what that means - students. Bursting through the door of the activity center, a whirl of energy and chatter, 19 students from UW-Whitewater greet the residents.

"When we walk in, their faces just light up," said Sarah Marcet, a junior.

Every week for three months, each student pairs up with a resident. For one hour, they talk, listen, help write letters, play games and do crafts.

The program started as a simple request 27 years ago by a UW-Whitewater student for an extra-credit opportunity, said longtime psychology professor Cliff O'Beirne.

O'Beirne decided to not only grant the student's request, but create a volunteer program, which he still coordinates.

Since then, students from UW-Whitewater, located about 40 miles southeast of Madison, have made more than 125,000 visits to seven area nursing homes.

Often, the students - who initially volunteer time for extra credit - continue the relationships once the class ends.

"At first, the students do it for the credit. Then they realize they are helping the residents," O'Beirne said. "In the end, they realize when you help someone else, it does a lot for you."

Marcet has been volunteering since her freshman year, and continues because she enjoys the relationships with the residents. She's one of several student coordinators who organize eight groups taking weekly trips to nursing homes.

"I got close to one resident," Marcet said of her freshman year experience. "We developed a good friendship. She was always interested in what I was going and that felt good."

In Margie Wicklund's room at Lakeland, the 63-year-old keeps framed pictures of her with three of her previous student volunteers. The students make picture frames for the residents at the end of the 12-week session.

"It's kind of like grandparent-grandchild," Wicklund said. "I've never been married, so it's really nice."

Most students and residents participate in group activities, such as arts and crafts and games, led by the nursing home's activity or volunteer coordinators.

Tristan Hayes, a sophomore, spends his time at the nursing home with resident Bob Willig over a competitive game of chess.

"You're killin' me here," Hayes moans as Willig makes a move.

Finally, after an hour, they call a draw.

"He shows me the ropes," said Hayes, who is a member of UW-Whitewater's Chess Club.

O'Beirne, affectionately called "Doc" by the students, said he's constantly amazed by the student volunteers.

"These are college students who are so rushed, and they have taken so much of their time to do something for someone else," O'Beirne said. "It's wonderful to see students care so much."

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