Four times a year, students at J. Clarke Richardson make sure seniors in their community feel at home by hosting 'The Intergenerational Dinner' in their honour.
The Intergenerational Dinner is a student driven event started at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate and has been running for more than 17 years.
The event was first designed as a small community project to bring senior citizens and youth together and has since grown to almost 200 senior citizens. There are students in the culinary program (ranging from grade 9 to grade 12) that contribute to cooking, serving and cleaning up. They receive not only the experience of interacting with senior citizens, but they also gain experience on how to host a large event.
"We do a dinner in October around Christmas, Valentine's day and a Spring Fling," says Heather Tyrrell, culinary arts teacher at J. Clarke Richardson. "We want to give seniors citizens an event they can go to four times a year out of the norm of what they do on a regular basis."
Tyrrell who has been at the school for the last nine years, coordinates the Intergenerational Dinner at the Ajax school as part of her class for students in her course.
"Students get volunteer hours for the event and a lot of them are taking the culinary arts programs so it expands on the program they are learning," says Tyrrell.
One of the students gaining volunteer hours and well beyond her compulsory amount needed to graduate is Bethany Roberts, currently in grade 12 at Richardson. Roberts is not in the culinary arts program, but immediately took a liking to helping guide, seat and entertain guests that she has stayed on ever since being asked to help out when she was in grade 10.
"I was approached by Ms. Tyrrell in grade 10 and asked if we would be interested in organizing the dinner together. This is my second year doing the dinner. I really like the people and enjoy shopping for the seniors and finding different products they would enjoy," says Roberts who also emcee's the event and handles all front end relations.
"I really love interacting with seniors and seeing their reaction to the entertainment, decorations and everything. I know how much they enjoy it," says Roberts.
A new partnership between the school and DRPS has also attracted more supporters. Constable Dena Peden a new fixture in the school decided she wanted to become involved in helping after a conversation with teacher Ms. Tyrell.
"When we started the partnership at the school I talked with one of the teachers on staff about the program and loved the idea of bringing the youth together with the elderly. The dinner allows DRPS to show our partnership and our support. It's refreshing. Coming here puts a pep in our step. Tonight gives us an opportunity to give back," says Peden who along with about a dozen officers delivered dinners, desserts and drinks as well as helped to clean tables at the end of the night.
The next Intergenerational Dinner is scheduled as a Valentine's Day event and is sure to be a packed house with tickets sold in advance. If you know a senior citizen who would enjoy the event or you would just like to help out, contact Ms. Tyrrell at J. Clarke Richardson for more information.