Students in the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy (ELSA) at Elmhurst College have been working with residents of a retirement community in Schaumburg on a project to create sleeping mats for the homeless from plastic grocery bags.
“Epic!” said ELSA student Avi Goldstein, describing the New Life for Old Bags initiative that Friendship Village residents have been taking part in.
Over the last several weeks, students in the ELSA program, a secondary education program for young adults with developmental disabilities, have been visiting Friendship Village to learn about the recycling initiative, with plans to start their own version at Elmhurst College.
Barbara Chin, an adjunct professor with ELSA, had heard about New Life for Old Bags at her church and learned about the program at Friendship Village. Jeannette Magdaleno, manager of lifelong learning and volunteer services there, invited Chin to bring her students to the community to learn from the residents.
“This was a good way for the students to work with seniors, as well as open themselves up to new opportunities,” Chin said, adding that the students now have worked with the residents twice. “This has exceeded my expectations,” she said. “The kids love visiting with the residents and we’re going to keep coming back.”
NBC 5 Chicago recently aired a story about the collaboration between ELSA and Friendship Village.
“This is a good experience,” said ELSA student Grace Garbe, an international student from Nigeria. “I want to go back to Nigeria and help my mom do this for the homeless in Nigeria. It will help them and is a good opportunity to use recycled bags. It helps give back to people.”
Magdaleno described the project as one “that just keeps getting better. Initially, it was a great project for the residents who love doing volunteer work, while keeping plastic bags out of landfills and providing sleeping mats for the homeless. Now we’ve got this added piece of working with the ELSA students. The residents enjoy working with the young people, and the students are getting so much out of the relationship as well.”