Photo: Volunteer Sophia Kauffman reads to Walnut Hills Retirement Community resident, Francis House. Photo provided.
For the past three years, Sophia Kauffman, the 11-year-old daughter of Walnut Hills Retirement Community’s executive, Jeremy Kauffman, has spent several days each week during her summer vacations volunteering with residents. Walnut Hills Retirement Community is in Walnut Creek, Ohio.
“I enjoy when the residents are happy,” Sophia says. “Usually they just want someone to talk to because the workers are usually too busy.”
Sophia initiated her involvement by asking her father whether there were residents she could read with. Jeremy says that at first the staff members connected her with residents who did not have a lot of visitors. Sophia started by using a story Bible given to her by her adopted grandmother, Marty Lehman, pastor at College Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana.
But after a few weeks, Sophia she found other ways to interact with residents besides reading to them.
“I like to play games,” she says, “even if it’s not an activity planned. I also liked the party for Rosie, the yellow Labrador dog who was retiring.”
Wanda Schrock, assistant activities director, says Sophia is ray of sunshine for everybody.
“She is so comfortable with the residents,” Schrock says, “and she has a voice that is easy to understand. It wasn’t long before she was comfortable helping in all kinds of ways: taking trays, passing out menus. She loves crafts; she’ll take on the bulletin board in the activities room.”
Although now in school, Sophia will show up to help on a holiday or snow day during the school year.
“It’s not unusual for her to pop in and say, ‘What can I do to help?’” Schrock says. “She’s been a real blessing.”
Sophia is the youngest of three children and has some ideas about what she wants to do as an adult.
“I really would like to be a teacher,” she says, “probably in fourth of fifth grade.”
This fall Sophia began the fifth grade.
This piece originally appeared in Greencroft Communities Foundation’s Giving magazine.
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