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Their favorite day of the month is, unanimously, the one on which Eva Dunn's grandchildren deliver handmade gifts.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 17-year old Mary Fredericksen and her three cousins, 16-year old Mikey and 17-year old Mark and Clair Sollenberger, have been making loving care packages for each of the 65 residents of Willows Assisted Living and Reflections Memory Support at GreenFields of Geneva senior living community. The teens are all students at St. Charles North High School.
Eva Dunn has been a resident of GreenFields for approximately 18 months. "She tried a temporary stay, and within a week was hooked. She loved it, so when an apartment became available, we swooped in," said Colleen Sollenberger, Eva's daughter. "She's so happy at GreenFields. Everyone is so nice to her. They leave her sweet notes and tell her they love her. They talk and laugh, and she's just so happy. We can't ask for anything more."
"We're a tight-knit family, and there's a lot of love in our family," said Eva's daughter, Rose Fredericksen. "She's the matriarch of the family, and the atmosphere at GreenFields fits her own values and morals. So it's like family to her."
With Eva's families living close to the retirement community, they have been accustomed to visiting often. When visitors were prohibited because of COVID-19, the families were sad not to be able to see her in person but considered themselves fortunate that they could still have window visits. "It's harder for the residents who live on the higher floors," said Clair.
"The isolation was hard for everyone. It was especially difficult for families who aren't able to visit as often as we're able to," said Mary. "We wanted to do something so that everyone feels some love at a really hard time. We decided we wanted to be family for everyone."
Each month, the teens come up with an idea for a gift that they can make for all of the residents. "We talk about it, and we look on Pinterest. It's fun to look stuff up and brainstorm and listen to everyone's ideas. Everyone's little ideas add up to make a big one," said Mary. Gifts have included a pipe cleaner dragon magnet, candy 'hugs and kisses', mini painted jack o' lanterns, and more. "We always go visit our grandma before we deliver the gifts and give her a sneak peek. She lights up, and it warms our hearts. She says, 'everyone is going to love this.' She's excited for everyone," said Mary.
Colleen is justifiably proud of the magnanimous teens. "They're great kids. They are kind and smart. We feel fortunate and blessed that they're really good kids."
Rose added, "They're close to their grandmother and have a lot of empathy for that generation and what's happening in terms of their isolation. That spearheaded their drive to reach out."
Julie Jug, life enrichment manager at GreenFields, said, "Every month, we are pleasantly surprised by the creative and generous treats Eva's family provides the residents. I wish they could see how happy the residents are when we go room to room with these treats. They spread so much love, and joy and the residents' smiles say it all! We are so appreciative of this gesture, and its effects are priceless. We thank them for all the love they send each month!"