Reaching Across Generations

August 31, 2022


Campus Life teens reaching across generations to encourage Thurston Woods residents

Rosalie Currier | Sturgis Journal

Published 4:19 p.m. ET Feb. 1 2022

A group of typical St. Joseph County high school students on Monday night were hanging out at the Campus Life gymnasium in Sturgis. It included teens from Sturgis, Burr Oak, Centerville, Colon and Constantine.

During free time, many of the girls gathered in groups and a majority of the boys played games on the gymnasium floor.

When Chad VanDosen, executive director, called the group together, the adult volunteers explained that on this night, it wasn’t about them. They were doing a service project: writing notes to residents at Thurston Woods.

Ken Mills was in attendance, taking photos of the students to include with the cards so recipients would have a face to go along with the name.

VanDosen asked the teens if they have relatives at Thurston Woods, but none do. They were writing to friends they haven’t met. People who were teenagers many years ago and are in much different stage of life today.

Without hesitation, the 45 teens sat down and began to write, two notes apiece.

Alanna Randazzo, a Constantine High Schools sophomore, said, “I just like making people’s day better.”

Maddy Dirschel of Colon, who attends Burr Oak schools: “It’s fulfilling, actually.”

Ben Reed a Centreville sophomore, wrote his notes in cursive. He had attended Factoryville Christian School, the reason for the now-unusual skill among his peers.

Some wrote original messages and some followed ideas from the leaders.

Staff and volunteers joined in penning several cards.

Seth Miller said he was picturing his grandmother and writing as if it were directed to her.

The idea for the project came during a planning meeting. Mills remembered how such notes were important to his father.

Scott Miller said that on one occasion before the pandemic, they took students to visit residents, but this may have been equally as meaningful.

Rebecca VanDosen added, “There no such thing as a hand-written letter anymore.”