“Kennett Square: Every day a better place to grow up in and grow old in” is a vision statement that has been repeated in the Kennett area for over twenty years. As Bob George and I wrote the book, “Kennett Square: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time, “ we focused on how the community was supporting youth, which addressed the first part of the vision statement. If we had another run on the book, we would be sharingstories of how the senior in our community has made Kennett their “home” and how they are “shaping our future.”
With the pandemic orders of sheltering in place, one of the groups that has had to bear a greater burden is the senior. In one’s personal home or in a retirement community, the regulations have been strict and the risk of contracting COVID 19 more deadly for the senior.
Kendal~Crosslands Communities has been very intentional about being involved in volunteering and contributing to the broader community. This Quaker inspired community’s mission is to “give back” and stay involved regardless of their age. They have an emphasis on social justice and have the Quaker history of the courageous Underground Railroad. In some ways, this group doesn’t “retire,” but looks for ways to stay invested in service for a lifetime.
Recently, I was contacted by two Kendal at Longwood volunteers, who inquired if there were any gaps in services for children that they could help meet. They were retired teachers and had a special affection for children. Even though they were hunkering down, they were looking at creative ways to stay in touch with the community.
They were acquainted with Study Buddies on East Linden Street---an after-school tutoring/enrichment program--and had supported this program in the past. After a few phone calls they learned that they could create art activity packets for the children on the street, ranging from kindergarten age to middle school. Along with meal deliveries one day, each household with children will have a surprise packet to fill the summer hours.
During this time, Kendal at Longwood residents are giving special attention to their own residents in the Health Center. With 6-foot distancing, they walk by their windows and wave to them on a regular basis.They understand how difficultit must be to not have family members visiting, so they are providing the compassionate connection.
In talking to Anne Humes from Kendal at Longwood, I learned that she recently has made phone calls to His Mission Homeless Shelter, Kennett Area Community Services and Tick Tock Early Learning Center, all agencies that she is a volunteer, inquiring how Kendalat Longwood can help.Anne's hands have been busy knitting and so far, she has completed 8 beautifully crafted sweaters and more to come, along with mittens and hats to be given to Tick Tock ELC in the fall. Anne is in her 90’s and still an enthusiastic “doer,” seizing the day in whatever way she can make a difference.
Betty Warner, the President Elect of Kendal at Longwood reports that the independent residents are using Zoom meetings to stay connected. Betty and her team made a concerted effort at the beginning of the shutdown to educate residents on how to stay connected through technology. This way they continue their involvement and good works. This medium has also provided the means for them to attend Memorial services for their deceased residents.
In line with Kendal~Crosslands Communities social justice activism, the residents were particularly disturbed about the George Floyd killing. Lisa Marsiliothe new Chief Executive Officer sent the message to the residents and staff members: "Recognizing our sighs are too deep for words, I invite you to join every resident, every staff member, every friend in unity across the entire Kendal system to observe a personal moment of silence on Thursday, June 4th at noon."" Kendal~Crosslands Communities showed up in large numbers and once again were standing for social justice.
We all have a lesson to learn from our Kendal-Crosslands Communities neighbors. They continue to be activists throughout their lifetimes and respond to the challenge that Martin Luther King Jr. gave during his social justice work: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”