USM social work students provide joy to nursing home residents during pandemic

Pine Belt

USM MSW students (second from the left) Samantha Brown, Angela Mata and Karla Danner with the mothers of Pine Burr Area Council Boy Scouts who donated multiple care packages to the Waking Joy Project (Courtesy: USM)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – During the coronavirus pandemic, students at the University of Southern Mississippi were encouraged by their instructor, Karen Aderer, to find creative ways with their field experiences.

Master of Social Work graduate students Samantha Brown, Karla Danner, Angela Mata, and Christina Powell decided to create the Waking Joy Project. The seniors found ways to assist local nursing home residents, lifting their spirits during trying times.

“Our older population has suffered greatly during this pandemic,” said Danner. “I’m extremely grateful that so many wonderful people came together and helped make a small difference in the lives of nursing home residents through the Waking Joy Project. It is so important that these members of our community know they have not been forgotten.”

After completing a needs assessment for Bedford Care Center in Hattiesburg, Miss., the Waking Joy Project team created a pen pal program to connect residents with members of the Southern Miss and Pine Belt communities. Participants were paired with residents and agreed to send one care package and as many cards or postcards as they desired.

According to USM, the Waking Joy Nursing Home Project has served 155 residents in Bedford Care Center of Hattiesburg and Memorial Driftwood Nursing Center of Gulfport.

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