Friday, November 23, 2018 || By Nona Tepper/Forest Park Review || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Key Club members mixing it up with seniors at Belmont Village in Oak Park. | Nona Tepper
Every Tuesday marks a tradition for members of the Proviso East High School Key Club community service group, a time for the some 10 student members to head to Belmont Village, a senior living facility in nearby Oak Park, and complete service projects with residents.
They’ve made Halloween cards for the homeless. They’re working to coordinate a bingo night. And on Nov. 6, the group made and decorated weighted fleece blankets for the assisted living community’s members who suffer from dementia, insomnia or night terrors.
“I find the community service and the actions that we do to be quite useful for the community, they kind of expand our knowledge, what we know,” said Glenn Mayo, 18, of Forest Park.
Mayo, a senior at Proviso East, said he joined Key Club this September, after hearing about the group during the school’s morning announcements. Although Mayo aims to eventually study game design in college, which is slightly unrelated to the tying, bagging and taping required for making the 10-pound blankets, he said the practice is necessary.
Key Club members at Belmont Village in Oak Park. | Nona Tepper
“Residents that walk around at night might not have the easiest time walking around, they might hurt themselves and it could be very painful. This will definitely help them,” he said.
Leanna McKenzie, activity program coordinator at Belmont Village, said this was the group’s second attempt at making weighted blankets—the first set “exploded everywhere,” she laughed. This time, students and residents focused on getting it right, bagging the weighted plastic pellets rather than just leaving the capsules loose.
Earlier this year, McKenzie said Belmont Village purchased a weighted blanket for about $100, which was hugely popular among residents. She wanted to purchase more but felt deterred by the price. Instead, she looked up how to make them online, and put the Key Club to work.
“I’m really excited about these next two,” she said.
Efrain Gaytan, 17, of Maywood, said he thinks the blankets help residents combat loneliness.
“Sometimes, if the people are feeling a bit lonely, it feels like an actual person hugging you with like the weight of it,” Gaytan said.
Mary Milanovich, 91, a resident of Belmont Village, said she enjoyed painting colorful flowers on the weighted blankets, thinking they could brighten some residents’ empty rooms. She believes more people should interact with residents of the senior facility.
“We do exist and we are a part of the community. Different residents have different skills for what they can do and people should take advantage of it,” she said. VFP
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