Inter-generational Bonding at Youville Place

Participants in the 2016 Midtown Fellowship service trip to Boston team up with Lexington resident Lucy Davis, age four, and Youville Place resident Alice Dethomasis on Wednesday, March 9th. The group enjoyed a morning of crafts with families of LexFUN, the “Five and Under Network” in Lexington.On Monday, March 7th, eleven college students arrived at Youville Place in Lexington.  While college students are plentiful the Greater Boston area, these idealistic undergrads were anything but typical. They were in fact 900 miles away from their home campus at The University of South Carolina, and participating in an annual service trip organized by their Columbia-based church group, Midtown Fellowship.

“With so many non-profit options in the area, we felt lucky to be chosen,” said Katie Blanchard, Director of Programs at Youville.  “It was an unexpected opportunity.”

Every year in early spring, Midtown Fellowship sends hundreds of college-aged congregants to different cities, where they engage in volunteer work with charities and non-profits. This year, the city of choice was Boston.  Seeking an elder care organization in the area, the Fellowship had initially contacted Neighbors Who Care (NWC), a volunteer organization that provides companionship to socially isolated seniors, founded in 2003 by Sister Dorothy Cooper, SGM. “We decided it would be best to team up with Youville to maximize the experience for the students,” said Nancy Mulvihill, current President and CEO of NWC.

Bringing Youville into the picture gave the students a central location and the opportunity to interact with many residents, both in Youville’s traditional assisted living community and on The Courtyard, their memory support community. As part of their first-day orientation, the students attended a “story-catching seminar,” in which they learned techniques for bringing out fully-recalled stories from Youville residents.

“The seminar focused on asking detail-specific questions,” says Blanchard. “The questions were designed to help residents recall their lives in greater specificity. This is especially useful when with our memory-impaired residents living on The Courtyard.”

Bidding farewell to our friends from South Carolina.Over the course of their three days at Youville, the students assisted with programs, shared meals with residents, learned about Alzheimer’s disease and gained perspective on the values-based approach to elder care embodied by both Youville and by Neighbors Who Care.

“The students we had were only a fraction of the large Midtown Fellowship group in Boston,” says Blanchard. “In the evenings they would get back together with the larger group and ‘compare notes’ about their sites. Our students told us that Youville was far and away the best placement.”

According to Dinah Olanoff, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at Youville, “This was an example of two non-profits combining their unique strengths. Neighbors Who Care came to us to help create a special program to Youville. Together, we provided the space and the program that would match student volunteers with residents in a meaningful way.”


Youville House Residents Tap Their Creativity in Many Voices Project

By Ildiko Szabo, Community Life Coordinator

Can older people be motivated to write a haiku on the spur of the moment? On Wednesday, January 14th, Youville House residents stepped up to the challenge and participated in the Many Voices Project, a creative response to recent events in Ferguson and Staten Island. The All Day Café at Youville House became a veritable college writing class as Many Voices Project leader Jessica Lander helped residents put their feelings into words that fit the haiku pattern.

She started the process by discussing the events in Ferguson that sparked violence and national outrage. She raised the issues of police reactions, graphic newsreels, unrest, opinions, memories, and recurring events. Will we ever learn? Can we live in peace?

She asked us what single word jumped out for us as we considered all these feelings and ideas.  Each person wrote one word on a file card: violence, fear, anger, empathy, parents, police, justice, hope, guns…  Each table was asked to pick three of these cards with one word on it and then write a haiku: 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables again. These powerful haiku poems were the result:


Violence, riots, guns

Stop hate and injustice now

We need trust and love.


Time is needed now

Hope is needed for oneself

Believe in goodness


Control your anger

We need humor and friends

Peaceful thoughts now


Dear daughter of mine

I look into this lost world

And fear your future.


Police must be calm

When approaching a subject

Young ones must be calm


We have lost our way

We need a new direction

We must turn from fear


Jihadist anger

police too eager to shoot

riding streets in tanks


What's One Red Paper Clip Worth?

Harvard Graduate Students Team up with Youville HouseThe Red Paper Clip Trading Team: Gatien Bon, Divya Varma, Mali Granot, James "JT" Merchant

In 2005, a Canadian named Kyle McDonald, with one red paper clip at his disposal, began a series of trades that resulted in him owning a house.  Click here to watch a brief video on Kyle's remarkable story, the basis for a project being undertaken by a team of graduate students from the Harvard Kennedy School. Starting with one red paper clip, the four students will trade progressively, their final trade resulting in a special gift for Youville House from the residents' wish list. 

These students need your participation!

You can help make this goal a reality for Youville House. For the process to work, the trading team needs a steady influx of trade offers. The trading will range from concrete items to abstract services - so you can let your imagination run wild. 
Please make an offer! 
The trading process is already underway. Don't miss out on the chance to participate in this exciting project - make your offer soon! Offers may include appliances, antiques, works of art, tickets to a performance, professional consulting, access to a vacation rental, a free class, a backstage tour, you name it!  If your offer works for the trading team, they will offer you a trade in return.
Please contact the trading team to make an offer and track their project: 
The project is exciting on many levels, not the least of which will be the twists and turns of all the trades necessary to reach a final result that directly benefits Youville. We hope you will join the fun and be part of a real social experiment!



Portraits — Bringing Generations Together

May 2012 marked the second semester that the residents of Youville House anxiously awaited the arrival of Elizabeth Menges’ Portrait Class from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School in Cambridge.. While some of the residents knew the routine because they had observed the process during the first semester, the students came fresh and anxious.

Once the “art” portion of the project began to take shape, students began to relax. Residents dressed appropriately and sat poised and still. The students worked intensely, making lines come alive. Over time their work began to look more and more like their subjects. All in the room felt a bonding taking place. One young participant even started coming to hear one of the residents sing at the Monday evening concert organized by residents. Eventually she joined the resident in song during one of the performances. Clearly there was more to these relationships than just simply drawing or painting someone!

Comments from students were all very complimentary. Eve especially enjoyed the stories told by the resident she had painted. She still felt saddened by the wartime story of an ambulance ride that ended in the death of two of the resident’s friends. War became real through these stories. But this sad story was balanced by the escapades to get the resident to meet her future husband. A sister was involved and lots of girlish drama that made the bond between the resident, well into her 90s, and the student, still a teenager, even closer as they both dreamed about everyday fun things.

When asked what had made the project special, one resident could only emphasize how much she had enjoyed being around the young artists.. She felt very much alive in the presence of these young people and could not stop listing positive reactions to the experience: how worthwhile the project had been, how much fun they all had, how the learning experience extended to both students and residents.

Ms Menges had clear goals for her students:

The overarching template is that my students will record their oral histories with a tape recorder, create one-day portrait sketches in their sketchbooks, take photographs of their faces and living environments, and synthesize this visual documentation when they return to the classroom to create two carefully realized portraits--- (1) a line drawing with value that they will transfer to a stretched canvas and turn into (2) a full-color acrylic painting. The residents and students will work together to curate, prepare, and install artwork to be put in a show on the first floor of the Youville House.”

The end of the session was celebrated with a showing of the art work in the Atrium of Youville House. Parents, school committee members, teachers, friends and the residents came to admire, congratulate and reminisce about the times spent together. Maybe the experience will be a turning point in the lives of those involved. While a resident felt the excitement of youth one more time; perhaps a student enjoyed the personal attention of a model, also genuinely interested in the artist. The smiles and feelings of satisfaction spoke loud and clear. For both artist and model alike, the experience was life changing!

Student artists' work pictured from L to R: Honora Gibbons, Elsa Mark-Ng, Juliana Brandao