The community center at Woodside Village is a comfortable place with a decorated tree in one corner and a wall of drawings. “You are my BFF,” reads one.
The drawings are created by children in the afterschool programs at the YMCA who visit Woodside once a week as part of the Island Elderly Housing Bridging program, the brainchild of Blueberry Van driver Kevin McFarland.
“It’s a long walk,” said kindergartner Kamari Clements of the journey from the Y to the community center next door.
Kindergartners through second-graders alternate visiting weeks at Woodside to spend time with the seniors. The two groups transcend their age gap by playing games, snacking on popcorn and setting free their inner artists.
“It’s great to interact with them,” said resident Myrna Araujo. “You’d think they’d get tired of pens and paper [after school].”
Resident Leonora Devaney highlighted a tiny sprig of white flowers which one of the kindergartners had brought in for her, saying she would put them in a vase when she got back to her room. Mrs. Devaney has been coming to the Wednesday gatherings since their inception in the fall of 2011, and occasionally brings along Yorkshire terrier Melody.
In the winter, the Woodside seniors sometimes visit the Y instead, making felt gingerbread figures with the children.
Woodside resident Helen Blasi summed up the feelings of many of the program participants.
“It’s a joy to see the happy faces,” she said.