by Debbonnaire Kovacs

by Debbonnaire Kovacs
Submitted February 28, 2014
 
It all started with a good deed—a continuing, consistent good deed. A student in an Adventist academy began visiting and caring for a homebound woman for a community service assignment, but after the assignment was over, the student kept coming. A friendship had been built that was important to both. The family of the woman, particularly her son, was deeply appreciative. The woman’s son was reportedly “deeply impressed.”
 
This man, who wishes to remain anonymous, and Renee Drumm, Dean of the School of Social Work at Southern Adventist University, put their heads together. What was good for this student and this elder would surely be good for other students and other elders. What if there could be a means of encouraging more friendships like this, while also granting a very practical kind of Thank You?
 
“Partnering for Eternity” was born. Piloted at Madison Campus Elementary, it “is designed to enhance a relationship of service and friendship between the generations.” A student chooses a Scholarship Mentor, a non-related person who is no longer able to remain active and social. Accompanied by a parent, the student commits to spending at least one hour per week with that mentor, serving and helping in some capacity such as shopping, house or yard care, help with feeding, laundry, personal care such as hair care, pedicures, and so on. Some also bring treats or baked goods, but most importantly, they bring youth, life, and smiles.
 
Friendships for life and eternity are the result. In a story in the Kentucky/Tennessee Conferences “Connection” newsletter, 6th grade student Robin Forde-Whitefield reported that she now spends more time with her own grandparents, because she has realized “how important I am in my older family members’ lives.”
 
In return, the student can receive up to $1,000 per year of scholarship money, much of it donated by what is referred to vaguely as “the family foundation,” maintaining their anonymity. More than $39,000 of scholarship monies had been donated at the time of the article in the “Connection.” At that time, 15 other schools were enrolled in the program. However, in an interview with Adventist Today, Amanda Tortal, of the School of Social Work, reported that there were now 19 schools. They had done a training in New Jersey in January, and signed up some participants there. She said the schools are concentrated within Southern Union, but there are schools involved from Michigan to Florida and from Colorado to Georgia.
 
This past August, Renee Drumm and Laurie Cooper, with help and input from PFE coordinator and parent volunteer at Madison Campus, Jacqueline Downs, successfully formalized procedures to make the pilot program accessible to other schools. Downs summed up the program by saying, “This program is a win-win for everyone. Students…can see that there is a world beyond their own…Through give and take they build self-esteem, and that self-esteem comes from being satisfied that you are achieving something for the good.” (Quoted from KY/TN “Connection.”)
 
To learn more about the program and how you can help or donate, or how your school can become involved, email Amanda Tortal at assist-program@southern.edu. Schools which state an interest now will be contacted with application information during the summer, to prepare for being in the program next year.