MARQUETTE - On a sunny Saturday afternoon, students from the Bothwell Middle School National Junior Honor Society made many new friends who were a bit older than them.
Quite a bit older, in fact.
The students spent last Saturday at the Brookridge Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care Center, working side by side on a service project.
Dorothy Avery holds the flowerpot she was painting as eighth-grade student Michael Mlsna works on his in the background. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Saturday was Join Hands Day, an annual national day of services bringing the generations together to make a difference in the community. The Bothwell seventh- and eighth-graders were working with some seniors who live at Brookridge to paint and fill flowerpots for distribution to hospice patients and others in need of a springtime pick-me-up.
"I've never painted flowerpots before," said senior Marilyn Pavloski as she worked on the project. "It's fun. It's nice having stencil to use and two really good helpers."
Pavloski's helpers were Carrigan LaBelle and Megan Johnson, two seventh-grade students who shared paints and stencils with their new senior friend.
"I haven't done something like this before," LaBelle said as she painted a flower on the pot.
"It's pretty fun to do," Johnson added.
At a nearby table, eighth-graders Michael Mlsna and Ryan Piotrowski were discussing which stencils to use and which colors to choose with new senior friends Adele Barney and Dorothy Avery.
"You did a good job," Barney said to Mlsna as she looked at the first flower he had painted.
"So did you," Mlsna replied.
The young men said they liked this project.
"I think it's a good idea," Mlsna said. "I enjoy volunteering."
Piotrowski added: "I like spring and it's the first time I have ever painted flowerpots. It's fun."
"It is fun," Avery said as she painted an orange flower on a pot. "I guess anyone can be an artist if they have stencils."
Painting the pots and filling them with bright red flowers was just part of the day's efforts, however.
"The students are going to brainstorm with the seniors about spring and then write a collaborative poem," said Paula Diedrich, an eighth-grade teacher at Bothwell, the student council adviser, and the associate director for professional development for the U.P. Writing Project. "We're using the poem 'I Remember' as a starting point. The goal is for each group to come up with a poem together integrating the seniors' memories of spring."
Linda Remsburg, who came up with the project as a youth development associate for the Great Lakes Center for Youth Development, said the project was part of a bigger effort.
"The U.P. Volunteer Network put together a number of projects for Join Hands Day," she said. "The idea was to get the different generations working together.
"We hope each generation would learn about the other."
Made possible in part by a grant from the Volunteer Centers of Michigan, other projects in the Upper Peninsula took place Saturday in Ishpeming, Escanaba, Iron Mountain, Felch and St. Ignace.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.