Talking is the favorite pastime of many teenagers – chatting in the halls at school, discussing homework over the phone or speaking with friends at football games.

Wendi Plotnik and Meredith Blessing have turned talking into a volunteer job at Doctors Health Care Center.

The two Lake Highlands High School seniors often can be found visiting with residents of the center Sunday afternoons. Some residents have no family in the immediate area, so Plotnik and Blessing stop by to see how they are doing.

“Their days can go by so slowly, and it makes me fell good that I can help break up that time,” Blessing says.

Plotnik says the center residents enjoy talking about a variety of subjects – families, friends, books and school. Many times, the girls just listen as the residents talk about their lives.

“Some young people seem to be a little fearful of seniors, but Wendi and Meredith don’t hold back. Both of them are friendly, and they smile constantly,” says Sandy Holacka, assistant at the center.

“They’re very secure about talking to the seniors and talk to them in an adult way.”

Plotnik and Blessing have performed volunteer projects at the nursing center since they were sophomores at the high school. Both are members of the student council and Girls’ Service League, and both groups do monthly service projects. The girls agree their attitudes twoard the seniors have changed since becoming volunteers.

“I didn’t know what to expect the first time we went to the center, but I really enjoyed it,” Blessing says.

“I thought I was going to be depressed, but it makes them so happy to talk to someone,” Plotnik says. “Talking with them gives you a great feeling because it makes you feel like you’ve made someone’s day.”

The girls helped decorate doors to residents’ rooms for the holidays and served meals to patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Last spring, they coordinated a prom for the residents.

Blessing is service chairman for the Lake Highlands student council, which is planning a “Chocolate and Cheers” party for the center in January, she says. The students will bring hot chocolate and spend time visiting with the residents.

Holacka says more than 100 students volunteer at the center each year. She appreciates the hours Plotnik and Blessing have given to the center and knows the residents appreciate them, too.

“The seniors really enjoy the girls. Their visits are like a ray of sunshine,” Holacka says.

Volunteer Opportunities

The Volunteer Center is a United Way agency that serves as a clearinghouse to recruit and refer volunteers for more than 750 agencies in Dallas. Thousands of volunteer positions are waiting to be filled. Call the Volunteer Center at 826-6767 for more information about these and other volunteer opportunities.

LET’S DO LUNCH. REACH of Dallas is developing a guide explaining accessibility at local restaurants. Volunteers will be given a list of restaurants to visit at their convenience. They will measure ramp slopes, check door pressures and make other observations. Training is provided.

B-8, I-2, N-6, G-57, 0-67: Have fun calling bingo games while you spend time with senior citizens at an East Dallas senior center. You also can help these seniors by preparing simple meals or answering phones and assisting in the center’s office. Daytime volunteers are needed.

THESE CHILDREN NEED YOU. Dallas Services for Visually Impaired Children needs volunteers to assist in classrooms. Teacher aides and day-care aides are needed to work with the children and provide support for teachers weekdays at a site in East Dallas. Spend a few hours each week and make a difference in the lives of these special children.

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.