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A Kindness Konnection between the young and the old

Photo by Christy Porter
Gladys Ward, assisted by Reggie Ward, receives a golden reindeer from a Plato Kindness Konnection kindergarten student while a choir member assistant looks on, 
Tue. at Hickory Manor.

By Christy Porter,
Managing Editor

  Licking Residential Care and Hickory Manor Nursing Home were both visited Tue. Dec. 11 by Plato Elementary School Kindergarteners who are participants in Kindness Konnection. The Kindness Konnection was there, Christmas caroling the residents and sharing cards, hugs, smiles, greetings and token Christmas gifts.
Photo by Christy Porter
Licking Residential Care resident Mary Hazlitt receives a token of kindness from a Plato kindergarten student.
  The residents of both facilities enjoyed the music by the kindergarteners, with the help of some members of the Plato High School Choir and Mr. O’Donnell, their teacher, who accompanied the students on guitar. Residents were all smiles and some sang along as they listened and were very receptive to the kindnesses of the children. “A very nice program and the kids are so well behaved,” said Fairy Stone. Mary Hazlitt commented, “How precious they (the children) are. I really enjoyed it.”
Photo by Christy Porter
Kindness Konnection visited Licking Residential Care singing Christmas carols; they were joined by members of the Plato HS choir and Mr. O’Donnell, Plato HS teacher.
  Kaitlyn Cook, a Licking native, initiated the Licking connection between Licking Residential Care, Hickory Manor Nursing Home and Kindness Konnection. When she received a letter from Licking Residential Care requesting carolers, she says, “I got so excited to bring this program to our wonderful community.” Both facilities were already grouped with Kindness Konnection through letters and cards. Hickory Manor sent cards back to the kids, which meant a lot to the kids. The caroling personalized the connection, spread Christmas cheer and touched hearts and lives.
Photo by Christy Porter
Kindness Konnection, joined by members of the Plato HS choir and Plato HS teacher Mr. O’Donnell, visited Hickory Manor singing Christmas carols.
  Amy Hathaway started the Kindness Konnection program three years ago. She says, “I was aware of some neighbor ladies who needed friends, I had some friends, so we shared friends, the children. I was guided by a higher power; I’m the facilitator. I questioned, ‘What about the normal everyday person?’ It takes a village to raise a child, but older persons need to know that they are important, respected, still have something to offer and have a purpose. The kids help with that.”
   The Kindness Konnection motto is, “To be kind to everyone.” Their mission is spreading kindness. To do that, they write and color picture cards for local individuals, hospitals and nursing facilities across the state, up to 250 cards a month. Approximately 100 are packaged and mailed to nursing homes, hospitals and St. Jude Children’s Hospital. All are handmade with the children signing the backs, and as much as possible they address the envelopes. Hathaway notes, “It’s not uncommon for them to get return cards. They love return cards. Again they’re building relationship and connections. Oftentimes the recipients will respond with the comment, ‘How did you know I needed this?’” Sometimes the first graders come back to help and participate, because they enjoyed it so much and miss doing it. “The experience is teaching children to be kind and think about others more. They are learning empathy and sympathy,” says Hathaway.
  The Kindness Konnection children also walk through the local neighborhood at least once a week, taking different routes. There are 11 houses they call on regularly, visiting with elderly neighbors, delivering cards, hugs, smiles and token gifts.  Sometimes the cards and gifts are reciprocated, which the children enjoy also.
“One of our friends needed help cleaning up her yard and also picking up walnuts. The kids jumped right in and helped get the job done,” says Hathaway proudly. “They picked up a lot of walnuts for neighbors this year.” They include the administrative staff in their visits and tokens of kindness.
  Grants help fund the cost bi-yearly. The alternate years, anonymous donors and community members help fund the Kindness Konnection. They are currently in the process of writing a grant request for the coming year, which Hathaway says will go a long way toward the funding.
  Before the children start visiting, the expectations and possibilities of what can occur are discussed with the children, who are always supervised. The goal is that they be very comfortable around their elders before sharing their kindness. “Wherever they find older people, they say ‘Hi,’ then they’re not strangers anymore. The children reach that comfort level with the elderly and they’re building relationships,” says Hathaway.
  It doesn’t cost anything to be kind. The children are so kind, sharing smiles, greetings, cards, gifts, help and hugs. Their example should be taken. Says Hathaway, “If we can, each of us, be kind to someone….”

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