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At Wilkins Nursing and Rehabilitation Center,   an after-school program for elementary students is bridging the generations.

The Heart Bridge program is primarily an extended teaching service.

 A certified educator helps the children with homework, tutors them in reading and teaches a faith-based character development program. This may sound like any other after school program, but Heart Bridge is different because the tutors and reading buddies are the nursing home residents themselves.

“This came from a desire to give back to the community and allows our residents to feel like they are also giving back,” Melanie Wilkins, administrator and owner of Wilkins Health and Rehab, said. “We offer help with their homework and reading and the help comes not only from the certified teacher that we hired but also from our residents. They have book buddies and they do their homework and arts and crafts. Whatever they do, the residents that volunteered do it with them.”

The residents and children love the time they get to spend together, she said.

“It helps them have a sense of purpose.  We’re very glad about that because a day can be very long if you just eat your meals and you do your activities and then what do you do? How are you helping someone else?” Wilkins said. “Some of these ladies and gentleman have been very active in the community in the past and they want to continue to do so as long as they can.”

This program began at the opening of the 2014-2015 school year.

 Wilkins says they had a slot open for nine students. She said she is thrilled with the program’s results.

“It’s been great.  The residents just can’t wait,” Wilkins said. “They are watching the clocks, like ‘When are the kids going to get here.’ We have seen that children and school groups that come out always make the residents’ day. They just love to see children and interact with them.”