GENESEO – Kristina Sym and her boyfriend, Jeremy Di Bari, are putting their Catholic faith in action by sitting down for hours and talking to 91-year-old Christina Scoville, a parishioner at St. Mary’s Parish in Geneseo.
Sym and Di Bari are both 19 and freshmen at State University of New York College at Geneseo. They spend a minimum of two hours a week visiting with Scoville, a widow who lives in this Livingston County community. The two college students met Scoville in April and quickly became friends with her although she wishes they ate more often at her home.
“They don’t even like tea or coffee,” she said, as the two students laughed.
“I can’t say I’m partial to coffee,” Di Bari added.
Sym and Di Bari met Scoville through the Faith In Action program of Catholic Charities of Livingston County. FIA is sponsored, in part, by the Livingston County Coalition of Churches, an ecumenical organization. The program began in the fall of 2002 and was funded by a start-up grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
FIA pairs volunteers with “care recipients,” generally people in their 80s and 90s living at home, according to Christa Barrows, FIA coordinator. Barrows said FIA has about 41 volunteers currently serving more than two dozen people, many of whom require some assistance to remain at home.
“A lot of them need transportation to medical appointments, errands run to the grocery store and housekeeping,” Barrows said of the care recipients. In some cases, she added, a care recipient may only need a one-time service. In other cases, like Scoville’s, regular social visits are desired, she said.
Keeping seniors living in their own homes is FIA’s goal, according to Tim McMahon, executive director of Catholic Charities of Livingston County.
“The hope is by providing basic kinds of assistance – that people may be able to stay home for a longer period of time and avoid going into a higher level of care prematurely,” he said.
FIA volunteers are recruited from area Catholic and Protestant congregations as well as area colleges, and are asked to spend four hours a month serving a care recipient, Barrows said. In addition to aiding people in Geneseo, FIA volunteers are helping people in Mt. Morris, Wayland, Lima, Dansville, Avon, Nunda, Conesus and Livonia, she said.
Sym and Di Bari have been volunteering with FIA since the fall of 2003, and said they enjoy the feeling they get from serving others.
“It’s a nice break from the usual college studying,” Sym said. “It’s nice to sit and talk with Christina and find out what the town was like 50 years ago.”
“It’s more than just the regular college experience,” Di Bari added. “The pleasure you (sense) from the person you’re visiting rubs off on you, too.”
Both of the students said they enjoy Scoville’s company.
“She’s a talker,” Di Bari said with a smile as Scoville regaled him and Sym with tales about the chain of drive-in movie theaters she and her late husband once worked. She also counseled them against drunkenness and cohabitation, two sins she believes too many college students commit.
Scoville said she likes the fact that young college students are willing to spend time with her, especially since not all young people are interested in paying attention to someone her age.
“They’re afraid I might talk to them,” she quipped of some of the town’s college students. However, that’s not the case with Sym and Di Bari, whose visits she said she cherishes.
“I’ve got something to look forward to,” Scoville said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To volunteer for Faith In Action, call Christa Barrows at 585/658-4466, ext. 18, or e-mail her at email@example.com.