Nearly every Monday morning, during the school year, joyous music fills the air at Helen Porter Rehab and Nursing Center. Inside the sunlit meeting space, just to the left inside the lobby, a group of residents gathers around as children and parents share toys and play in the center of the room. As the group gains a critical mass of toddlers and residents, May Podushnick brings everyone’s attention together to sing a song of greeting and hello. As she strums her guitar, the parents and little ones sing along, everyone settles into a rhythm to share music and dancing together.
As May moves through a set of songs, she’ll offer up small handheld instruments, the beloved egg shaker perhaps, for the children to share with the residents. These moments are wonderful. At times there may be tiny gaps of awkwardness to bridge, but the joy and fun that is shared between the children and residents make the bridge building that much easier. Everyone is there to have fun and listen to the music, sing, and dance. Whether it’s dancing with scarves or singing a familiar song, the residents’ joy in the presence of the children makes for a family feeling in the air. With grandmas and grandpas everywhere you turn, it is easy to feel how a community is as much a family as blood relations. After singing for a half hour or so, things wind down for a little more playing and chatting.
It’s also easy to get to! Sited on the Porter Hospital campus just off of South Street in Middlebury, the large hospital lot offers ample parking and plenty of room. Keep in mind that Helen Porter is a healthcare facility. Sometimes this means it is closed to the general public because of an illness. But also, if you or your child are a bit under the weather, it may be best to stay home. However, if the playgroup can’t meet up at Helen Porter, the Isley Library plays back-up host very nicely. Also, as the weather improves, you might find the time to head over just east of the Porter Campus. There’s a small, paved trail in the woods behind the low brown buildings, that makes for a lovely short excursion. It’s paved and very stroller friendly!
May is no stranger to Minibury. She shared some great points with Minibury a while back, which we’ve used to answer our usual questions. Read on!
MB: What’s your favorite part of this activity?
MP: It is more than just a playgroup where you go to have your child go to burn off extra energy and chit chat with other parents. It is about building relationships with the residents and giving them something to look forward to. It is about teaching our children that growing old doesn’t mean you don’t have fun and act silly. It offers us all the opportunity to be engaged with people that often we don’t see regularly in our lives. And more often than not, I go home feeling good, simply by being there and seeing the smiles on people’s faces.
MB: What’s it like to be a child at this playgroup? A parent?
MP: The room is not baby proof but there are many extra hands willing to help keep an eye out on baby or toddler. Need extra hands to hold babies? Many experienced grandparents there willing to lend some arms. We hope to keep the kiddos engaged enough so they do not destroy the place.
As a parent, prepare to sing and dance along! You are the model for the children. When you participate with our activities, your child(ren) will notice as do the other children. Many times, the children do not sing or follow the moves with our instruments, but they are watching you and will model your actions (so beware what you do). Above all, it is not a performance for anyone, it about having fun, getting some movement, and enjoying the time.
MB: What’s a good thing to know about before someone attends this event?
MP: My suggestion is to come early, even before 10:15, so that your child has time to settle in before everyone arrives and get used to the space. Then as people come, s/he will be settled already and will not feel overwhelmed coming into a room full of people and noise.
Music and Movement at Helen Porter
Community Room at Helen Porter
Monday morning 10:15-11:15 or so
- follows ACSD calendar, including snowdays
- Ilsley Library Community room is the back up location