DeKALB – Belle Riddle was a little nervous to touch Frosty.
The DeKalb County Nursing & Rehab Center resident smiled at the sight of the white bunny and eventually gave it a rub at the encouragement of her friends.
“It is so soft,” she exclaimed. “And beautiful eyes.”
Frosty and fellow bunny Bambi paid a visit to the nursing center Friday, courtesy of the students in the Genoa Prairie Gems 4-H Club. Seven members from the club went around the center showing off the bunnies and taking time to talk with the residents.
Megan McCausland, a high school junior who coordinated the event, said the group usually visits animal shelters to care for animals during its annual community outreach project, but she wanted to use animals to help others this year.
“It’s fun to meet and interact with the older people, and they seem to really enjoy it,” McCausland said. “I want to have more community service events like this during the year.”
The volunteer work is always a welcome sight to activity director Kathy Vickers, who said residents always light up when groups of children come to visit. While the animals are a crowd-pleaser, Vickers said the most beneficial aspect of group visits is the interaction residents have with the community.
“It breathes life into the building,” Vickers said. “[Residents] just love talking to the kids and having that interaction. It brings a lot of smiles.”
Vickers said 4-H groups from many DeKalb County communities have been great to the center over the years as they visit, make cards for residents and help with holiday activities such as building gingerbread houses and decorating Christmas trees.
Susan McCausland, co-leader of the Genoa 4-H group and Megan McCausland’s mother, said the organization is a great way to build character and life skills. She said the group, which has about 35 members ranging from 8 to 18 years old, allows children to develop responsibility and social skills through interacting with different community members.
“It builds up the kids’ self-confidence,” she said. “It helps the kids become more comfortable in speaking with different people, and they learn responsibility.”
Sisters Anna and Jessica Drendel, who showed off Frosty to the residents, said 4-H has helped them make friends in the county and state because of the different joint activities. Jessica Drendel, a high school sophomore, also said it has instilled a sense of community service.
“I like being out there helping people,” she said. “It really helps you evolve your people skills.”