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Boys & Girls Club presents book to seniors

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CARBONDALE -- Twona Liddell was all smiles Thursday as the senior citizen thumbed through the book a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Carbondale presented to her.

The book, titled "A Day in the Life: Kids and Seniors Share Stories," was a project conducted by Carbondale Public Library in association with the Boys & Girls Club and funded by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

Children from the Boys & Girls Club spent time with seniors like Liddell at the Carbondale Senior Center Adult Daycare, listening to stories and participating with the center's clients in activities, such as bowling, bingo and arts and crafts.

"The kids came and met with the group several times and took photos of the clients," said Patrick Forer, Adult Day Services coordinator. "They did art together, they did drawings, they got quotes from the clients about what things they talked about and they combined it all to create a picture book."

Diana Brawley Sussman, Carbondale Public Library director, said the seniors shared stories with the children who "did a fantastic job boiling down that story into a sentence or two."

Liddell, who said the children and seniors would get "rather personal with each other" in conversations, was impressed with the student's work on the book, which is available for $10 at the Boys & Girls Club.

"I think they're wonderful," Liddell said. "I didn't know it was going to be inscribed to us, but I think they're wonderful. I think the children did a wonderful job."

Gaylene Miller, 65, of Carbondale described the book as "splendid" and said the presence of the children at the center lifts her spirits and "puts a bright spark in your day."

Leon Johnson, 67, of Carbondale loves "working with children" and particularly enjoyed visiting with 13-year-old Miles Showalter, saying in the book, "I'm so proud to work with this young man. He's very talented. He is a beautiful person. I'm so glad that God sent him from above to me." 

Showalter called it a "great honor to work with seniors" and said drawing illustrations for the book has inspired him to become an artist when he grows up.

The children, who will receive their own copy thanks to the $500 grant provided by the Ezra John Keats Foundation, presented the book to each of the seniors.

The four sessions the seniors spent at the adult day care for the project pulled some of the children out of their comfort zone, something Sean McGahan, Boys & Girls Club of Carbondale assistant program director, said can be beneficial, if not always easy.

"I see the young students really out of their element when they come here, which is good because that's how the kids experience new things," McGahan said.

"There's been times when we just share stories back and forth. The seniors learn from the young people. The young people learn from the seniors. It's been great to sit and watch as they talk and inspire each other."

The boys and girls were admittedly hesitant at first, but McGahan said the students now eagerly ask him, "When can we go back to Senior Adult Services?"

Twelve-year-old Chidi Nsofor was one of those anxious about the program, but after meeting a senior citizen who lived in Africa, like himself, he opened himself up to the seniors and enjoyed their company.

"I was very nervous at first, but as I got to know them more I started to show them who I really was," Nsofor said.

The Boys & Girls Club has been visiting with seniors at the adult day care for the last four years during spring breaks. 

Forer said the visits from the children are a big help to the center's clients, but added that volunteers of all ages are welcome to spend time with the seniors at the adult day care.

"You get a lot more smiles when they get visitors," Forer said.

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