Crafting life lessons

Novi volunteers gain as much as they give

Created date

August 3rd, 2009

Barefoot fourth-graders get hosed down after planting flowers at Fox Run. When Fox Run opened in August 2003, Roy and Barb Birmingham were two of its five original residents. By that September, they had some 60 neighbors. That s when flowers started arriving from the fourth-grade class at Franklin Road Christian School next door. Tickled by the welcome, residents invited the class in for a visit. The two groups got along so well that they re still visiting back and forth. Once a month on Fridays, the current crop of fourth graders gets together with Fox Run residents for shared activities. Fox Run s fourth-grade neighbors plant a flower garden for its residents. Intergenerational interaction The Birminghams have been involved with the meetings since 2003. Their days are jam-packed with Fox Run commitments, but Mrs. Birmingham says making some fourth-grade time is as simple as putting it on their calendar. It s an activity we really enjoy, she explains. Each fall the Birminghams and Franklin Road teacher Jeri Yost, who initiated those early floral deliveries, plan the year s programs. Besides intergenerational interaction, Yost wants the children to learn about doing for others. Some months, residents help with craft projects: turkeys in November, pinecone trees in December, and birdhouses this past spring. Fox Run craftsmen built the birdhouses in Fox Run s wood shop, and the volunteers helped the kids paint them in cheerful colors. About 15 to 20 residents help out each month, nearly a one-to-one ratio with the students. Give and take The class gives back by inviting residents to school musical programs, and the two groups sing carols together. Also at Christmas, they have a real tea for us at their school, says Mrs. Birmingham. The parents bring in their special dishes, and the kids set the tables beautifully. They re all dressed up, and they serve us little tea sandwiches of cucumber and butter. It s the first time they ve done something like this, so it s a great (learning) experience for them. And we love it! she adds. In return, residents give a choral reading of Clement Moore s The Night Before Christmas. The give and take continues throughout the year. In early spring, residents attend the fourth-grade history fair. In April the kids put on a play at Fox Run s Performing Arts Center, and in May they bring fl owers and plant a patio garden near Fox Run s all-season, glass-enclosed swimming pool. First, the children kick off their shoes and socks. Next, with trowels in hand and guidance from residents, they plant. At work s end, residents hose the dirt from between little toes. And then, At Fox Run we always have refreshments, says Mr. Birmingham. In May, it s ice cream.