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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to the letter urging people to volunteer in nursing homes. I am 14 years old and an eighth-grader at St. Agnes School in Concord, Calif. Not only can adults volunteer, but teen-agers can also volunteer and bring smiles to senior citizens. I would like to share my experience at our local nursing home.

When I was elected president of the Student Council, one of my goals was to establish an Adopt-a-Senior Program at my school. This would consist of students sharing their time and talents with the elderly. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others.

During the summer, the vice president of the student body and I visited a number of nursing homes. These nursing homes were interested because a project like this had never been done on a long-term basis. When permission slips went home with students, the response was overwhelming: 28 eighth-graders signed up to participate. As a result, we adopted 14 seniors -- two students per senior.

The initial visit with the seniors was special and memorable. Each of us brought a small gift to share with them. We sang songs to break the ice, and soon some of the seniors joined in! We all became friends quickly and formed special bonds.

We now visit the seniors twice a month. During our visits, we sing songs, play bingo, present magic shows and perform skits. Some of the seniors even dance the "Hokey Pokey" with us! One of them told us that we made life worth living. The number of seniors joining our program grows with every visit. At our last visit, we had more than 30 seniors.

For major holidays, such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, the St. Agnes students made decorations for the seniors at the home -- 172 in all. A few eighth-graders delivered the decorations room to room. The residents were happy to see us, and many of them invited us into their rooms to chat. During our Easter delivery, we saw many of the Halloween decorations still hanging on their walls! It has been a heartwarming experience to see how appreciative these seniors are.

Abby, these patients have found a special place in our hearts. The first time we visited, they all looked the same to us; however, now we know each one by his or her name -- not as a "group." Many of them have a great sense of humor. We'll always remember the lessons they have taught us.

Please share this letter with "Grieving in Orange, Texas" so she will know that we understand how she feels. Someday we will all grow old and become dependent on others. -- KELLY A. McQUIRK, CONCORD, CALIF.

DEAR KELLY: Congratulations for conceiving such a worthwhile project. The other eighth-graders also deserve credit for helping you to accomplish your goal.

I know that "Grieving" will be pleased to see your letter, and I hope it will spur other teen-agers into action.

DEAR ABBY: I must share this supermarket story with you:

While waiting in the checkout line at a busy supermarket, I noticed that an older man was standing behind me with very few items in his basket. I asked him if he would like to go ahead of me.

"Honey," he replied, "if I were in a hurry, I would have come up here yesterday!" What a pleasant attitude. It made my day. -- MRS. J.F.K., ORANGE, CALIF.

DEAR MRS. J.F.K.: If more people echoed those sentiments, we would have less road rage and a healthier society.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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