For some students, volunteering at Memory Makers has become an important part of their routine.
Senior Kayla Ladner said she makes a point to get there early in the week, because it starts everything off on a positive note.
“Volunteering at Memory Makers is an experience unlike any other community service or volunteering experience I have ever had,” Ladner said. “I always leave there as if I have made a difference in someone’s day, and I know everyone at Memory Makers has made a difference in mine.”
Memory Makers is a local organization dedicated to serving those in the community who are affected by the early stages of Alzheimer’s Dementia. The organization offers various services including respite, socialization, counseling, education and information, while giving the occupant’s caregivers a break to rest.
Because the disease affects so many families, many students volunteer with Memory Makers.
Ladner’s grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which prompted her to begin volunteering. She said she enjoys getting to hear stories from participants, which make her reflect on her own life.
“It really makes me sit back and do some reflection of my own,” Ladner said. “The overall experience of just getting to interact with an age group that I normally do not get to is something that I cherish.”
Each day, Memory Makers has at least three to eight volunteers. Program director Julia Burnett said she always receives a positive response from volunteers.
“Our philosophy is that nobody wants to go to a daycare but everybody likes to go to a party,” Burnett said. “The environment at Memory Makers is positive and upbeat, and both participants and volunteers enjoy the day.”
Volunteers help facilitate the various social activities Memory Makers offers. Throughout the day, participants can eat, socialize and engage in activities like crafts or crossword puzzles to stretch their mind. Burnett said while the morning program is very consistent, they try and switch things up during the afternoon program to provide enriching and meaningful opportunities for group engagement.
“We have fun activities to enhance their days and bring them joy,” Burnett said. “We treat all our participants with the dignity and respect they deserve. We hope that our impact on them is to provide them with the highest quality of life possible while they are a part of the program.”
Junior Mary Scott Polk recently began volunteering with Memory Makers. She said their “brain stretchers” activities are some of her favorite.
“One day we were doing the ‘Finish the Bible Verse’ activity and one of the participants finished all of the 30 bible verses by herself,” Polk said. “It was incredible.”
Polk said the most rewarding part of Memory Makers is seeing participants’ faces light up when a volunteer walks into the room. She said she believes it not only help the participants, but also teaches the volunteers valuable life lessons.
“I look forward to my time at Memory Makers every Monday and Wednesday,” Polk said. “All of the participants have incredible stories that I look forward to hearing.”
Senior Leah Margaret has been volunteering at Memory Makers for two months. She said volunteering there has reminded her of the importance of service.
“What I love the most is the loving and welcoming atmosphere and the opportunities to interact with the participants,” she said.
Margaret said her favorite activity is leading chair-yoga with the participants.
Burnett said Memory Makers constantly hears from caregivers who are grateful for the program and how it gives participants a safe and structured environment.
“I personally love that Memory Makers is such a unique place in terms of ages and life stories,” she said. “Memory Makers is a gift to Oxford.”