Senior creates Friend-to-Friend program
Since January 2011, senior Nick Henninger has been John Levas’s best friend. Henninger met Levas by volunteering at Gallagher Services, a group dedicated to aiding developmentally disabled people in the community.
“John and I work on the computer together, learning to type and use computer programs. We also take walks to the library, where John loves to look through the DVDs and CDs especially, play ball, write letters to John’s family members, play videogames, and just talk,” Henninger said.
According to Spiritual Development Coordinator Kathleen Roberts, class of ’69, Henninger has been very important to Levas. “He’s really making a difference in John’s life,” Roberts said.
“I’m so glad that John’s been a part of my life for the past two years. It makes me so happy to know that every week when I go to see him, he’ll be excited to see me and ready to have a great time together. I try to put in a lot of thought and effort to all of my visits, but I always come out thinking that he gave me so much more than I gave him,” Henninger said.
Henninger’s visits with Levas inspired his senior project in creating a Friend-to-Friend program. Henninger is running this program in partnership with Gallagher Services, a division of Catholic Charities.
According to Director of Residential Services Fronzie Williams, Gallagher Services uses “the power of human relationship and our pursuit of excellence [to] continually open the doors to a fuller life for people with developmental disabilities and those who serve them.”
Roberts represented Gallagher Services at the Friend-to-Friend program’s first meeting Tuesday, Oct. 4 after school. According to Roberts, the point of the program is to get individuals with developmental disabilities “involved as much as possible in the community.”
“We’re hoping to involve the folks in some of the social occasions JC has,” Roberts said. For example, Henninger made it possible for some developmentally disabled people to attend JC’s performance of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” last spring.
Henninger has been involved with Gallagher Services since December 2009. His brother, Joseph Henninger, class of ’10, “had been volunteering with them for about a year before that.”
“He had a big part in convincing me to volunteer with Gallagher. Without him, none of this would have ever come about,” Henninger said.
Henninger decided over the spring to create a Friend-to-Friend program at JC as his senior project. “I knew of the incredible impact that such a program could make on both the guys and girls at Gallagher, and the entire JC community,” Henninger said.
The Friend-to-Friend program’s first event will be a get-together with Gallagher folks at the Homecoming football game.
“One or two JC students will be paired up with each person from Gallagher. It is my hope that this system will help create strong bonds between the students and the guys and girls from Gallagher,” Henninger said.
Sophomore Megan Greig is one of the students excited to participate in the program. “I’m excited because my church did something like that but I never got to do it, and it just seems to affect people positively,” she said.
Senior Dana Grimmel shares this excitement. “It sounds like a great idea. I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.
Students will also receive direct service hours for participating in the program.
According to Henninger, students that are not officially a part of the program can still participate, as long as he has notice at least three days prior to the event.
The Friend-to-Friend activities will all be held on campus.“The activities will mainly be group activities, but with each volunteer paired up with a guy or girl from Gallagher, the one-on-one relationships will still be formed,” Henninger said.
According to Roberts, Gallagher Services is looking forward to a partnership with the school. “We want this to be their school in the community. I’m really excited about what Nick is trying to do,” Roberts said.
Adam Kuester is a News Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.