TWO GENERATIONS OF VOLUNTEERING

Welcoming two generations of family members to Noble Horizons is one of our greatest privileges, whether as residents, staff, or volunteers.  Rarely are we able to host two generations simultaneously but this summer, the mother-daughter volunteer team of Carita Gardiner and Eden Oostenink changed that!

Veteran Hotchkiss School English teacher Carita Gardiner volunteered to lead book clubs at Noble Horizons three summers ago and has been a cherished volunteer ever since.  Aware of how much her mother enjoyed volunteering at Noble, Eden explored summer volunteer opportunities at Noble and after three months of volunteering, Eden has become a beloved member of the Noble community.

Eden and Carita have forged different volunteer paths at Noble, but each has left a deep impression.  Carita is a charismatic teacher who has taught at Noble almost continuously for three years, even hosting Noble residents in her 11th grade English class at Hotchkiss (pre-pandemic).  Why does she volunteer at Noble?   “The first time I did a Noble class, I taught a book I’ve taught at Hotchkiss many times, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The discussions were different with Noble residents than they were with my ninth graders. I appreciated the wealth of knowledge the older students brought.  The residents bring so many great ideas to each discussion that I look forward to each new book.”

When Eden is asked why she chose to spend her summer volunteering at Noble Horizons, she immediately references her mother’s fondness for her Noble students.  “She has been coming home for 3 years talking about classes with Noble residents and always sharing stories about them.”

While much of Carita’s recent volunteering has been remote, Eden has been at Noble almost daily, playing games, doing puzzles, chatting, helping at barbeques, and much more. “I like to play with them, especially cards and other activities where we can engage.  BBQs, birthday parties, art workshops, bingo…they’re so much fun!” Her mom is pleased that Eden is able to enjoy these friendships, “I’m so happy she’s getting to connect with people after what was a very disconnected year.”

Both Carita and Eden singled out as a highlight of volunteering at Noble the stories Noble residents share.  Carita adds, “They have the best stories, and as an English teacher and aspiring author, I love stories and stories’ ability to bring people together.” Eden adds her own perspective as a teenager, “I enjoy talking with them. They’ve lived whole lives; they are whole people in the way the rest of us aren’t yet.”

With the summer ending the residents have asked if Eden could stay (“She will leave such a hole," one resident observed), but she will soon begin her freshman year at Bates College in Maine.  “I will miss them," Eden reflects, “but I’d love to come back during vacations, and I can keep up with residents by popping in on mom’s book club!”  Fortunately, Carita’s next book club is already scheduled, so if you’d like to meet Eden, you might pop in, too!

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