Visiting program to stay afloat

MCC graduate expands Green Acres program, enlists for U.S. Navy

MANISTEE — Elizabeth Nelson has a passion for helping others and, at merely the age of 12, she decided to make a difference in her own community.

In 2012, Elizabeth started the Green Acres Manistee root beer float visiting program, with the hopes of spreading joy into the lives of retirees and senior citizens who reside at the retirement facility.

The program was a hit with residents at Green Acres.

Since she was 10 years old, Elizabeth frequently visited Green Acres to volunteer. Marlene Mauer, Elizabeth’s grandmother, wanted to support her cause with a donation to allow her to do something special for the residents.

However, Elizabeth’s grandmother passed away unexpectedly in 2012, before she could give her the supportive funds. In her grandmother’s memory, the root beer float program was started that same year.

“She was already volunteering at Green Acres at 10 years old; she would paint finger nails and do other fun stuff like that,” said Gwen Mauer-Nelson, Elizabeth’s mother. “My mom was going to give her $50 to spend on the residents in any way she felt fit, because she was already volunteering there and she wanted to support her. My mom unexpectedly passed away that night.”

The program consisted of Elizabeth and her mother — with the occasional help of friends — who visited Green Acres on a monthly basis, providing root beer floats to all who wished to participate. It was something residents cherished.

However, the recent Manistee Catholic Central graduate left for boot camp for the U.S. Navy on Aug. 14. Before Elizabeth left for her new journey she had one mission: To make sure the program stays afloat in her absence.

After Elizabeth graduated, she decided to expand her program and work to earn a Gold Award through the Girl Scouts. A Gold Award is the equivalent of an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts program.

“We were wondering how to make (the program) sustainable,” said Mauer-Nelson. “It was just her and I for years. Then, as the Girl Scouts grew older, and they became ambassadors, that’s when they started joining in. They would join Elizabeth on her already established program.”

In the summer, Elizabeth and her mother made connections with Rev. Paula Frost, pastor of the Children and Family Ministry at Faith Covenant Church in Manistee, who runs the church’s youth group. Frost was interested in the program.

As a result, the program will sustain itself through the youth group, which consists of around 12-20 local youth who will participate in the long-lived program on a monthly basis.

“I figured I would continue with it myself when she’s gone, but this is so much better to have such dedicated kids to help sustain it,” said Mauer-Nelson. “They are going to do collections to continue to sustain the program.”

Frost said the root beer float program will highly benefit the youth involved, giving them social skills needed in various aspects of life.

“I think it’s really important for children to have contact with older people, and there are not many places in our society where older people and children interact,” said Frost. “The leaders in the group are already trained; now they will be responsible for training the rest of the group.”

Before she left for boot camp, Elizabeth finished her Gold Award project complete with instructions for those who participate in the program, a video and other documentation of her hard work. She even helped to train leaders in the youth group on how to interact with Green Acres residents.

“Elizabeth taught the kids how to interact with older people or people in general, she wrote down general guidelines like knocking on the door, respecting privacy, looking them in the eye, smiling, being cheerful,” said Elizabeth’s mother. “We are hoping, by doing this, these kids will gain social interaction skills because it’s kind of a dying thing.”

Elizabeth was able to earn her Gold Award through the Girl Scouts, and will graduate boot camp on Oct. 5. As a result of obtaining her Gold Award, she went into the U.S. Navy at a higher rank — an E-3 rank versus an E-1 rank.

 

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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