Kathleen Bennett, from left, Maria Campbell and Monique Natividad are three of the friendly faces each week at the VON Adult Day Program in Tatamagouche. Natividad, the program coordinator, said the program has space for four to nine individuals and hopes to see some new faces. Bennett has been volunteering for the past three years, while Campbell has been a participant. Submitted photo

Maria Campbell walks through the door and a smile spreads across her face.

The 27-year-old is one of close to a dozen regular clients to the VON Adult Day Program, held every Tuesday at the Hills of Annand’s Roach Hall in Tatamagouche.

“I really enjoy it,” said Campbell. “It’s something to do, and something to look forward to.”

For the past 10 years, the program has been offered in the village. At one point, it was at capacity, however over the last couple of years VON staff have found themselves with some open spaces for clients. They’re hoping that will change.

Monique Natividad, program coordinator, said they’d love to see up to 20 people on a weekly basis.

“We know there’s a need in the community,” she said. “We know there are people out there looking after a parent or a spouse. We can offer a safe, cozy day of activity for adults.”

Every Tuesday, clients of the program start the day at Roach Hall where they first read the news of the day. They check the weather forecast, and, Natividad laughs, they want the “juicy” letters in Dear Abby. If it’s not juicy enough, Natividad has to find a recent one that is.

“Then we always make a craft, do some baking, have an exercise program and have lunch,” she said. “We’re blessed here to have a group of volunteers who come and cook lunch. It’s such a great day. With them here, that allows the three of the VON staff to be on the floor with the program all day.”

The program sees some funding through the Department of Health, but there is a participant fee. The funding helps offset costs – staff, groceries, and, when the budget permits, trips to other communities or within the village itself.

Earlier this summer, the group made the trek to the Anna Swan Museum at the Creamery Square.

“I’ve been to the museum in the past, but I love the history from back in the day,” said Campbell. “I love to learn about history that I didn’t learn in school.”

Natividad said the clients are the ones who dictate how their day runs – from what they bake to any trips they take. They’ll often have a few ideas and cast a vote, and create calendars monthly.

Following lunch, it’s time for Bingo, which is followed quite often by live music.

“There are so many musicians in this community that offer. People come in and play and we’ll have a dance. Many of the Hills residents will come for the dance,” said the program coordinator.

For Katherine Bennett, she’s been involved with the program since about 2013. At that time, VON home care staff was visiting her husband, Art, at their home and promoted the program to the couple.

“I got Art to come and he came as long as he could,” she said.

Art was a participant from about May to November that year, and Bennett started volunteering weekly the year following.

“I wanted to volunteer because they helped Art so much,” she said.

It wasn’t long after starting with the program that Natividad said they recognized Bennett’s talents in the kitchen. Now, Bennett is a force in the kitchen with three to four other volunteers helping with lunch.

“It was something I could do, and something I like to do. It’s the people, being with the people that brings me back. I enjoy them and I love to cook. I love to cook for a lot of people and this allows me to.”

While there is a $20 per day cost, Natividad said the VON can work with those on low income.

“We don’t want people to not come,” she said, adding they can also help people who may have transportation issues.

“Folks can get quite lonely, especially when they’re home alone with an odd visit from family coming in,” she said. “Clients benefit from socialization and stimulation.”

For more information on the program, contact Monique Natividad at 902-305-4798 or monique.natividad@von.ca.

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Raissa Tetanish
Raissa Tetanish is the new editor and marketing advisor for the Tatamagouche Light. She has more than 11 years experience as a reporter, with a background in both photography and photojournalism. She can be reached at 902-305-6177, or raissatetanish@tatamagouchelight.com.