Jeanne Pitra holds a picture of a handsome, young World War II recruit.
“Last year, he took his Honor Flight,” she says, staring at the picture. “Timothy students in Kindergarten, second grade, and seventh grade wrote him letters thanking him for his service to our country.”
Mr. Pitra passed away shortly thereafter.
“It meant so much to him,” she adds, “to read those letters.”
With the help of Timothy Christian students she’s transferred a picture of her late husband onto a piece of wood. It’s a craft that Jay Evenhouse, the Director of Alumni Relations at Timothy, has helped organize for the students and residents to work on together.
Five years ago, when Park Place was being built on the land directly behind Timothy Christian’s high school, a partnership to build a generational community seemed natural. Since Park Place opened its doors to residents in 2012, Evenhouse has walked dozens of students and residents back and forth between the two neighbors for activities.
“The students understand that there’s wisdom in the residents. You can’t buy that,” Evenhouse says. “The residents get that youth in their life. We want to set up activities that are beneficial to both the students and the residents.”
Over the years, the two generations have played ping-pong, pool, written letters, made crafts, cheered on the TC Varsity soccer team, had dinners together, and countless other activities. Slowly, relationships have been built and nurtured. The Park Place residents have claimed many Timothy students as adopted grandchildren.
Today, on the last day of Timothy’s Renew Program, three freshmen sit around a craft table with Park Place residents, transferring pictures. But like old friends they chat about school, family, and things that happened long ago.
Jessica Cochrane, a freshmen who is homesick for the wildlife and wide-open spaces of her native state of Alaska, just happened to meet a resident who honeymooned there half a century ago. “It sounded amazing,” Jessica says. “I felt like we had connected. I knew exactly where they had been. I just like talking to the residents at Park Place.”
It’s not long before the Timothy students have to head back to school. The residents and the students work together to clean up and admire each other’s work. But what they really want to know is when can they see each other again.
“We’ll be back to play ping-pong soon,” Evenhouse assures everyone. “Don’t let the residents fool you. They are very good at ping-pong.”
It’s this natural neighborly connection that has enriched the lives of two generations. One in their sunset years and the other just beginning life. “Going to Park Place has opened my heart for service opportunities outside of school,” Jessica says. “Being here has taught me how to serve and be open to others.”
As the TC students make their way back to the high school, a resident calls out, “Come back soon!”
They’ll be back. There’s always more ping-pong.