The gift of giving to others
Checking the mail—it’s something you may take for granted when you live independently. At some point, “walking to the mailbox” may no longer be an option, and this change in daily routine can be unsettling. Fortunately, residents of Parsons Presbyterian Manor get to experience the delight of the mailbox walking to them every Tuesday.
“We have the cutest little mail delivery person!” said Maegen Pegues, executive director. “Her name is Jayleigh Gross, and she’s five years old. You should just see the residents’ faces light up when she walks in the room!”
Jayleigh Gross, along with her mother Haydn, and sometimes her younger brother Kaine, volunteer to deliver mail once a week to residents. And it’s tough to tell who looks forward to it more, Jayleigh or the residents.
“Jayleigh loves seeing the residents every week. She feels like she’s doing something important, and seeing them happy makes her happy. She definitely notices if we have to skip a week or move the day. She always looks forward to going, and she has a few select residents she has taken to. She wants to draw them pictures, or maybe stay a little longer in their room,” said Haydn, Jayleigh’s mother.
So how did a five-year-old girl take on a weekly volunteer position at a senior living community? It all began back when her mom was a young child.
“I was very close to my granny, my great-grandmother, and when I was around third grade I told her I wanted a job. She told me I was too young to work, but not too young to volunteer. She told me maybe an animal shelter or a nursing home could use my help,” said Haydn. “So I opened the phone book and started calling nursing homes! Presbyterian Manor seemed the most excited about my offer, so that’s where I went. I even spent one whole spring break there! I just loved it, and I wanted my kids to have the same experience.”
Haydn felt like volunteering was such a gift in her childhood, that she shared that gift with her daughter Jayleigh on her fifth birthday—literally.
“When she turned five in March, her birthday gift was that she could start volunteering at Presbyterian Manor. She was so excited!”
Haydn and Jayleigh are usually joined by Jackie Wertz, who assists with making the rounds, and sometimes Jayleigh’s little brother Kaine tags along too.
“Jayleigh doesn’t really like when Kaine helps out,” said Haydn. “She’d rather have all the residents to herself! He enjoys it though.”
Jayleigh isn’t the only one that has to share, though. Haydn’s grandfather, Terrell (Terry) Scarborough, is a resident at Parsons Presbyterian Manor. He loves getting regular visits from Jayleigh, but doesn’t always want her to leave to go visit other residents.
“He really enjoys seeing us every week, but I know it makes him proud when other residents tell him how much they appreciate Jayleigh’s visits.”
Jayleigh notices just how much the residents enjoy seeing her, and it’s made an impact.
“She asked me one time why they get so excited to see her. I was explaining that they live there, and maybe don’t see family as much as they’d like. That broke her heart. That’s when she wanted to draw them pictures, and it struck her just how much her visits mean to them,” said Haydn. “For a five-year-old she really has a lot of empathy. Young people spending time with older people is so beneficial sometimes.”
Haydn is a big believer in young people volunteering in their communities. That’s why she asked her photographer friend Taylor Piva to capture Jayleigh’s journey, in hopes of encouraging others to get involved
“We really hope to get some kind of kindness project going. Where others are inspired to make a difference in their communities.”
If you or anyone you know is interested in volunteering at Parsons Presbyterian Manor, contact Maegen Pegeus at Mpegues@pmma.org or 620-421-1450.