Visit with me, if you will, the West Campus of Plano Community Homes. We’ll step inside the activity room where preparations are underway for the second annual Pumpkin Decorating Bash for the residents of this low-income senior living community. The furniture in the room is sparse and well worn, but accommodates the residents for group activities provided by local organizations. It is a Saturday morning and the House LifeGroup from Chase Oaks is preparing plates with fruit, pastries, cheese and brewing coffee for the event. Tablecloths have been placed on the tables along with pumpkins, paints, paintbrushes, glue, and a variety of craft donations to be used to decorate the pumpkins. Approximately 30 residents are expected. As the first of the residents walk through the open doors, they are welcomed by LifeGroup members and encouraged to grab breakfast, pick a pumpkin, and then decorate to their heart’s content as they nibble their refreshments. Pumpkins, much too expensive for these seniors to purchase for such fun, are chosen with care. After all, it will be a personal work of art, a decoration for their humble abode by the end of the gathering. The aroma of coffee wafts through the room as the residents settle in to their seats with their breakfast and a blank canvas.
The atmosphere is festive. Expressions of concentration can be seen on the seniors’ faces as they create a masterpiece on their spherical orange canvases. Pictures are taken by Denny Farmer, a photography buff, as the pumpkins evolve into individual creations. The pictures will be placed in a photo album and shared with the residents on a later visit. Hearty laughter can be heard as the residents and LifeGroup members interact. Smiles come easily as old friends reunite. You see, this is not the first time the House LifeGroup has visited this place. In fact, the members of the group have committed to hosting an activity one Saturday a month for the last two and a half years.
“I can’t even remember what we did that first day,” says Jan Farmer, the LifeGroup coordinator of this undertaking. “It was a landscaping job of some sort, I think. I had called Traci, our contact at the facility, to ask if they had a project we could do for them. While serving that day, we discovered there is a continual need at the community home, and we felt led to partner with them to meet their needs on a regular basis.”
The House LifeGroup members wanted more than a one-day, done-and-gone event. They wanted to develop a personal relationship with the people they served. Thus, Jan reached out to Traci for a permanent partnership with the senior community. Traci was thrilled to assign the group one Saturday each month to help provide an activity from 8:30 to 11:00 a.m. for the residents. Since that time, they have been faithful to host a game day, a craft, or Bingo on a rotating basis. Bingo is the residents’ favorite because prizes are provided to the winners. The prizes include toilet paper, paper towels, dish and laundry detergent, Windex, and hand lotion since the residents are predominantly on food stamps which do not pay for cleaning supplies and toiletries. These items go like hot cakes as they are prized commodities. All of the prizes and craft materials are furnished by the LifeGroup members. In addition to supplying the prizes and materials needed for the crafts, the group leaves no footprint on the home upon their departure. They bring their own cleaning supplies to clean up whatever mess was made during their visit. According to Traci, the Chase Oaks LifeGroup activities draw a bigger crowd than any of the other organizations who host activities on the campus, and their group is the most consistent with showing up when scheduled.
Their dependability along with their longevity has earned the House LifeGroup members the privilege of doing little “Honey-dos” for the residents, like hanging pictures, moving furniture, and cleaning windows and screens. “It took a while to gain approval for that,” says Denny, meaning a foundation of trust had to be built first.
So how does the House LifeGroup pull off this substantial commitment? The answer is simple—with an Outreach Connection Champion, a donation jar at every LifeGroup meeting, two sign-up sheets, and a storage container full of the necessary supplies. The Outreach Connection Champion schedules with the facility contact and plans the events for each month. Jan Way is the Outreach Connection Champion for the House LifeGroup. The donation jar is for monetary donations for the supplies needed for the monthly activities they host and the cleaning supplies. The sign-up sheets designate who will be participating in the event on a given month and who is responsible for bringing the food. Finally, the storage container holds all the supplies. It is portable and restocked each month by a LifeGroup member.
When asked, what keeps their LifeGroup committed to the community home, Denny quickly retorts, “The project has the support of all of our members. There is something for everyone to do.” “Oh, yes, and we have fun with the residents,” Jan adds. “We have never enjoyed a project so much!”
Sound like fun? Inspired to get your own partnership going, but wondering how? Plano Community Homes has three campuses and the House LifeGroup is only capable of serving one. The other two campuses, Pioneer Place and the East Campus, are gold mines rich with need, sitting right here in our mission field. You only need to call Traci, the contact who can make the partnership a reality for those willing to make the commitment. The foundation has been laid. Best of all, you would not have to go it alone. Jan has volunteered to be a mentor to any LifeGroup that feels led to partner with one of the other homes, sharing the knowledge they have gained from their own experience.
If you desire to have a partnership with a purpose like the House LifeGroup did, this opportunity is ripe for the picking! Please contact Traci Lane at 972.867.1905 or at