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Miles of Smiles Winter 2011-12 Newsletter

In This Issue A Decade of Smiles ●

Why the Turtle? Three Reasons Behind Our Mascot ●

Volunteer Spotlight: Nitya Kirat and Frank Cook ●

Snapshots ●

In the Spirit of Giving: How You Can Help ●

Apply to Be a Senior Smiles Intern

Contact Us (323) 247-8213 860 Via De La Paz, Suite F-7 Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 We’re on Facebook! Search us!

Communities Bay Crest Care Center (Torrance) Bel-air Manor Bridge Point at Beverly Hills Santa Monica Home Care Vintage Newport (Newport Beach) Westwood Manor

A Decade of Smiles By Courtney Mariano, Intern For 10 years, Sydney Cooper Senior Smiles has been forming tight bonds, creating meaningful memories, and bringing big smiles to the lives of seniors in Southern California. In 2001, Jill PizitzHochstein and her husband, Erik Hochstein, began Senior Smiles to enrich the mental, emotional, and social lives of senior communities and to fight symptoms of loneliness, depression, and dementia in the residents. The organization also aimed to raise awareness and educate volunteers on the needs of senior citizens by pairing volunteers with seniors. Since its humble beginnings, the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization has trained over a thousand volunteers and touched the lives of hundreds of seniors. Although the organization is named after Jill’s grandfather, it was her grandmother, Sylvia Cooper, who inspired the entire concept. After moving to a nursing home, Jill recalls that Sylvia became “horribly depressed and required more and more anti-depressants.” Jill, however, knew that the problem was loneliness, and that medication was not the answer. Sylvia needed companionship. Unfortunately, Jill and Erik lived in Los Angeles while Sylvia resided far away in Northern California. Determined to find companions for her grandmother, Jill searched for a solution and found students at a nearby Catholic high school who were interested in a community service project. Soon, Sylvia had around 10 volunteers who came to visit regularly: “She had friends, she had company, she had somebody else to talk to her about their lives.” Before long, anti-depressant medications were lowered and Sylvia no longer experienced the daily solitude she previously felt. After seeing how these regular visits had such a positive effect on her grandmother, Jill wanted to reach out to a larger community: “I wanted to find a cure to loneliness in the elderly population. Seeing that this worked for her, [I thought] ‘How many more grandmas could we affect?’” (continued on Page 3, Remembering Ten Years)

Sydney and Sylvia Cooper inspired the formation of Senior Smiles in 2001. The organization was named after Sydney, while Sylvia was the first senior to receive volunteers. We hope their joyous and love-filled lives inspire all volunteers to bring smiles to seniors everywhere.


Miles of Smiles: Winter 2011-12

Volunteer Spotlights By Ainelle Mercado, Intern Nitya Kirat began volunteering in 2004 after discovering Senior Smiles online. When asked why he initially chose to get invovled with the organization, he said “my grandmother passed away at that time, and volunteering was my way of giving back to the elderly.” Nitya has always had a soft spot for older people, and he did not like seeing them become lonely. Volunteering at Senior Smiles became a mission he set out to accomplish. This slowly came to life as he began to realize the happiness that seniors felt with visits. Then, eventually, he built relationships with the seniors and began to really look forward to meeting his new friends. Volunteers also benefit from the experience. Nitya says “I have learned how to be more patient and have gained the ability to work and interact with a lot of people.” From the years he had been volunteering, not only has he built bonds, but he has also learned to be thankful for being young and healthy. As a Volunteer Coordinator and Training Leader, Nitya’s Senior Smiles experience extends to helping other volunteers get settled in the organization. He notes that those who go through the training process are good people who try to make a meaningful difference to seniors. They have passion for what they do and share touching stories. Some have fond experiences with their grandparents when they were younger. Others have grandparents or parents living out of state, and since they can’t spend time with them, they spend time with other seniors. Volunteers tend to have a positive experience with the elderly and enjoy working with them. Nitya says, “I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with such caring people. I encourage others to volunteer and bring smiles to the elderly in their community.”

Get to know Nitya and Frank, two very dedicated members. Whether for many years or even a few months, see the value of getting involved.

By Angelina Susie Hwang, Intern A volunteer at Beverly Hills, Frank Cook has shown commitment and dedication in visiting residents regularly. Frank offers his companionship to the seniors every Saturday, and through his weekly visits, he earns the appreciation of the residents. "I enjoy talking to them," Frank reveals. "The first time I volunteered, I had planned to stay for an hour, but somehow it turned into two hours." In just a few weeks, he showed initiative to bring something special to the community. Specifically, he was instrumental in organizing poetry readings presented by special guest Professor Sean Ireland. Frank's Volunteer experience with Senior Smiles has made him value many facets of his life. "When I talk to the residents who have lost their loved ones, they make me appreciate my life and marriage with my wife." Since he started volunteering in July 2011, Frank has realized the commitment and responsibility he bears because the seniors expect to see him on Saturday afternoons and they eagerly anticipate his presence. He recalls being nervous on his first day. After some warming up, he enjoyed socializing with the seniors, making good use of his communication skills and the ability to think of appropriate responses as he continually conversed with the residents. Frank notes that the most significant aspect of volunteering are the friendships that form between him and the seniors. "The biggest, most important thing is that I go into this place, they don't know me and I don't know them in the beginning. They could be poor or rich, but the friendships that form have nothing to do with worldly matters such as financial status. This is something that the real world lacks. It is a simplistic, pure friendship based on faith. It's magical."

Why the turtle? Three reasons behind our friendly mascot 1. The turtle symbolizes long life. 2. Even though turtles may be connected to an image of slowness, they eventually reach their goal with patience. To quote a popular fable, “slow and steady wins the race.” This attitude is important for both the volunteers and seniors. 3. Turtles have a protective shell. By educating the youth and other age groups about the importance of geriatrics and the need to help with loneliness in the senior population, we hope to be a “protective shell” for our geriatrics.

Miles of Smiles: Winter 2011-12


Remembering Ten Years and Looking to the Future (continued from Page 1) Inspired by the impact on Sylvia, Senior Smiles was established in early 2001 with one facility in Culver City and only 10 volunteers. Slowly but surely, the small nonprofit expanded, especially with the efforts of USC and UCLA students. As the years went on, inspirational stories were not hard to come by. One of the most memorable was that of senior Eugenia. Because of Eugenia’s inability to talk, an employee at her nursing home warned, “do not waste your time with her”. Senior Smiles members decided not to give up on Eugenia and brought volunteers in to visit her anyway. After a group of USC students visited her regularly for a few weeks, there was an immense change within Eugenia. She began smiling, making sentences, reaching out, and holding people’s hands. Once before, time with her was deemed as a “waste” by many. But through the kindness of Senior Smiles volunteers, Eugenia truly came alive in her last years of life. In addition to making miracles like in Eugenia’s case, it is always a pleasure to bring big smiles, hear loud laughter, or share meaningful conversations. These small acts of kindness show seniors that they are not alone and that someone cares. Jill says, “When I walk in, I see all of these lonely seniors waiting for something to happen… and they just light up when a volunteer comes in because they know a friend is here.” Over time, different programs were created to diversify volunteer participation. With the Family Senior Smiles program, for example, entire families were able adopt a senior to visit. The Senior Smiles P.A.W.W.S. (Pets Also Work With Seniors) program also came about, in which volunteers brought their pets to different communities for the seniors to make new cuddlier friends. Senior Smiles also reached out to a variety of groups, such as elementary and preschool children and disabled youth and adults, teaching them how to interact with the elderly. Jill explains, “What’s nice about Senior Smiles is it appeals to everybody of all ages, races, groups, disabilities… you can take any two people and really make a connection.” Currently, Senior Smiles partners with senior communities in Bel-air, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach, Santa Monica, Torrance, and Westwood. In the near future, the organization hopes to expand in Los Angeles and Orange County.

Clockwise from top left: (1) Residents enjoy the benefits of the PAWWS program or Pets Also Work With Seniors. (2) A volunteer plays the piano. (3) An image of Eugenia smiling. (4) Senior Smiles Members promoting and recruiting on the USC campus. (5) Moms and kids participating in Baby Senior Smiles. Senior Smiles also intends to incorporate more high schools and elementary schools to train the youth on how to work with seniors and, more importantly, to bridge the gap between the generations and put an end to ageism. By Senior Smiles’ 20th anniversary, Jill hopes that the organization will have expanded to senior communities and volunteers all over the country. She anticipates informing more people about working with the elderly: “the more people we can educate about senior issues, the more respectful of a community we will have towards treatment of our elderly population.”


Miles of Smiles: Winter 2011-12

Apply to be a Senior Smiles Intern Interested in a career in nonprofit industry, gerontology, or the health field? Or maybe, you just want to be more involved in volunteering and community service? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, the Senior Smiles Internship Program may be right for you. We are looking for a group of creative, motivated, bighearted, and responsible individuals with a desire to learn and gain a wide range of experience. As a part of a team, interns will assist in various initiatives depending on preference. These include but are not limited to: creating an online presence for Senior Smiles, developing activities, organizing fun events for the elderly community, fundraising, and planning volunteer training, recruitment, and appreciation. Some important details: • Time frame: 6 months, from April to September 2012 • Primary Locations: Westwood, Bel-air, Santa Monica, and Pacific Palisades OR Newport Beach • This is an unpaid internship. Learn more by visiting our website or get more information by contacting us. The deadline for the Spring-Summer 2012 cycle is fastapproaching so submit your applications soon to this great leadership opportunity!


Guesses and laughs. Volunteers at Beverly Hills play Charades.

Spreading the Holiday Cheer. Volunteers carol at Westwood

In addition to one-on-one companionship, Senior Smiles volunteers enjoy leading activities and programs to help exercise the mind and to just have plain fun! Here are just a few: charades, taboo (board game), bingo, poetry readings, Wii bowling, gin rummy, caroling, music performances, and much more.

In the Spirit of Giving Many see the winter season as a time of generosity, change, and new commitments. During this time of transition to the new year, we hope you consider a pledge to enhance the lives of seniors by supporting Senior Smiles. We have many different opportunities for you to do so. Here are just a few: • Pledge to make a one time or monthly donation. Mail checks to 860 Via De La Paz Suite F-7, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. Please contact us for more information. • Donate items to be raffled off such as gift cards, gift certificates, and unused electronics (ex. mp3 devices, e-readers, touch pads). • Become a volunteer by visiting . • “Like” us on Facebook. Search: Sydney Cooper Senior Smiles..

About Us:

Our Mission:

Thank you to our partners!

Sydney Cooper Senior Smiles is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that trains, recruits, and educates volunteers of all ages on relevant issues of the elderly, such as those relating to loneliness and dementia. Volunteers then visit residents of senior communities in one-on-one and group settings to provide companionship and bring smiles one visit a time.

Through regular volunteering, we strive to enrich the lives of residents at senior communities, with special attention to preventing loneliness and depression. We aim to bridge the gap between generations by facilitating and nurturing bonds among people of all ages. We aim to raise awareness about dementia and aging in an effort to end ageism.

We wish to thank the communities throughout Los Angeles and Orange County who make our volunteers and guests feel welcome. We are so happy we are able to bring smiles to the seniors in your community and that we both share goals to raise senior status. Thank you for continuing to be a part of the Senior Smiles family!

Miles of Smiles - Winter 2011-12 Newsletter  

Miles of Smiles is Sydney Cooper Senior Smiles' quarterly newsletter. It contains recent updates, reminders, projects, and more about this S...

Miles of Smiles - Winter 2011-12 Newsletter  

Miles of Smiles is Sydney Cooper Senior Smiles' quarterly newsletter. It contains recent updates, reminders, projects, and more about this S...