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Evergreen readers bring cheer to area nursing home residents

During 2009, 19 volunteer Evergreen readers read to area nursing home residents during the residents' recreation time.

This program, designed to bring some additional stimulation and cheer to nursing home residents, began five years ago through Northern Exposure to Lifelong Learning of Bagley. It is staffed with volunteer readers and its program manager is NELL board member Shirley Shaw of Leonard. There are additional readers who substitute for readers who cannot read on a given day.

The Minnesota Humanities Commission supports the reading program and has provided the readers with notebooks full of stories; however, volunteer readers can also bring in their own choice of reading materials. The main goal is to provide stories or poems that the residents like to hear about and discuss.

On Dec. 11, the Evergreen readers were invited to Grandma B's in downtown Bagley to discuss reading experiences and share some of their experiences with various pieces of literature and their audiences.

Here are some of their experiences:

- Jane Smith of Bemidji reads to the residents at Baker Park in Bemidji. She has been a volunteer reader for two years. Her nursing home residents have enjoyed such books as "Barns of Minnesota" and "Six Big, Big, Big Angels," a story from someone who was briefly declared dead and returned to life

- Pat and Ernie Rall of Bemidji also read to the residents of Baker Park and their assisted living residents in Bemidji. They have been volunteer readers for two years. Their nursing home residents have enjoyed "Poachers Caught" by Tom Chapin, a retired game warden. The residents have also enjoyed listening to them read "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus." Pat and Ernie bring additional materials from their involvement with the Bemidji Community Theater and the Paul Bunyan Playhouse.

- Charlotte Stoker of Clearbrook has been a reader for five years for the residents of Garden Place and Cornerstone Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of Bagley. Her residents enjoy listening to Laura Ingalls Wilder stories and articles in the magazine "Reminisce." The residents like stories about the past, and like to tell about their own experiences.

- Lorraine Johnson of Clearbrook has been a volunteer reader for five years for the Good Samaritan Center residents in Clearbrook. They enjoy old stories and her reading from old magazines. She usually reads for about 30 minutes each time.

- Linda Nordlund of Clearbrook began reading as a volunteer two years ago after she retired from teaching. She reads to the residents at Cornerstone in Bagley and at the Good Samaritan in Clearbrook. Her residents have enjoyed listening to "The Oregon Trail," about pioneers traveling and settling in the West.

- Sunny Archibald of Clearbrook is a new volunteer reader at Cornerstone in Bagley. She said her reading experience with the residents has been that they like storytelling and stories read to them from the magazine "Reminisce."

- Larry Houg of Clearbrook is a new volunteer reader at Cornerstone. Residents have enjoyed "Land of the Burnt Thigh," a story about a farmer in North Dakota, and many other short stories.

- Shirley Shaw, NELL coordinator for the Evergreen Reader program, has been a volunteer reader for five years. She relates stories about the Twin Cities where she lived for many years as the residents like to hear about her experiences.

- Bob Peterson of Bagley has been a volunteer reader for four years. He reads to the residents of Cornerstone, who enjoy stories from the magazines "Good Ol' Days" and "Reminisce," and stories written by local authors such as Mrs. Cartwright's "They Called Me Teacher" and Richard Davids' "Birds."

- Eileen Lien of Gonvick began her volunteer reading to the Good Samaritan residents in Clearbrook five years ago after retiring from teaching.. She said the nursing home residents enjoy jokes, poems about arthritis, stories about Amelia Earhardt and picture books.

- Nancy Goudge of Clearbrook has been a substitute reader for three years for the Evergreen program since her retirement from teaching. She reads to residents at the Good Samaritan Center in Clearbrook and is a sub reader for Charlotte Stoker. She said her residents have enjoyed stories about "Growing Up Lutheran," "Church Basement Ladies," Chicken Soup for the Soul" series, Laura Ingalls Wilder stories, and the magazine "Reminisce."

- Susie Dewey of Clearbrook has been a volunteer reader for three years at Good Samaritan. Her residents enjoy listening to stories written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, stories from children's books, and any stories about the "olden days."

- Four of the Evergreen volunteer readers form Fosston, Aage Carlsen, Mitzi Balstad, Twilla Roue and Helen Fretham, were unable to attend this gathering but read to the residents at Midway Care Center in Fosston.

- Other volunteer readers who were unable to attend this gathering were Norma Olson, Jay Jones and Linda Shelquist of Clearbrook, Betty Hanson Lehman of Bemidji, Catherine Sederquist and Shirley Gunderson of Bagley, and substitute readers Sophia Brothern and Ruth LaFontaine of Bagley.

As you can see, these volunteer readers provide over 60 area nursing home residents with new experiences and stimulation. In return, the volunteers forge new friendships with these residents. The minimal cost of this reading program is supported by NELL and its donors.

If anyone is interested in becoming a volunteer Evergreen reader, they may contact Shirley Shaw at Leonard for additional information 776-2324.