Bertchi kids keep spirit alive

Bertchi School first grade students carry on tradition with ElderFriends

A vibe of excitement filled the first grade classroom at Bertschi School on Nov. 5. Children stood and sat quietly listening as ElderFriends staffer Crissy Gonzales appeared via Zoom to set the stage for the students’ next project: creating colorful placemats for ElderFriends Thanksgiving meal deliveries.

Crissy shared the ElderFriends philosophy that friendship is the best medicine for the loneliness experienced by many older adults in our community. Then she asked of the students, “Do you know how you help us?” “YES!!!” came the enthusiastic unison reply.

First grade teacher Jill Corsi and her colleagues have long partnered with Full Life Care’s ElderFriends program to engage students through a classroom visit and a project to create unique and colorful placemats to be delivered with Thanksgiving meals and seasonal surprise. Now in it’s 26th year, this classroom project has expanded to include a contribution of winter holiday art and often expands to include Valentines and Earth Day.

The Thanksgiving placemats in particular have become an anticipated activity for the first graders and a beloved tradition for ElderFriends participants, many of whom collect the students’ artistic placemats and bring them out to enjoy each year. Once again this year, glowing reviews poured in from participants.

“To the little ones who made the placemats, Thank You! The little turkey hands were beautiful, colorful and good for spills, too! My heart says ‘Thank You.’” – Debra.

“The placemats were, ‘High art’ for first graders. Thank you, Bertschi School!” – Frederick.

This year students also prepared their signature snowpeople to accompany December holiday deliveries to ElderFriends participants over the holiday week. This delivery stands in again this year for the group’s holiday party which is on hiatus for the second year.

Back in the classroom on that November day, the students had lots of questions. “How old is the youngest elder friend?” (Just turned 60.) “How old is the oldest elder friend?” (Hold onto your hats … 102!) “How do elders find out about the program?” (Referral from a healthcare provider, friend or family member). “Where do you get volunteers?” (Online listings, social media, through our website, and by word of mouth).

Crissy closed with a word of gratitude, having left the students motivated for the craft at hand. “We really appreciate your help, it means a lot to me, and I promise it means a lot to our elders.”

To learn more about ElderFriends and volunteer opportunities visit