St. John’s students ‘warm hearts’ at Parker Jewish Institute

THE COURIER/Photo by Erica Camhi

Back in 2009, college sophomore Colleen Turner bought her mom the simple gift of a blanket during an extended hospital stay for multiple sclerosis treatment. Turner wanted the blanket to evoke for her mom a sense of home — even if she couldn’t be there. The gesture generated so much interest on the hospital wing and had such a “warming” effect that the Turner family handed out blankets to all the patients on the floor.

“It put a huge smile on her [mom’s] face. She couldn’t be at home so it was a piece of home that she could have with her. And it made every other resident feel the same way,” Turner said.

So in 2011, when Turner and her fellow students of St. John’s University were charged with executing a campaign for Parker Jewish Institute that would promote goodwill during the holiday season, Turner, inspired by her experience, convinced her classmates to adopt “warming through blankets” as the campaign’s theme.

“We [the Turner family] did this during the 2009 holiday season and I saw what joy it gave [the patients]. I wanted to be able to bring that same happiness to the residents of the Parker Jewish Institute,” Turner said.

So she and her classmates, after much coordination with Parker, kicked off a fundraising campaign for the blanket distribution.

The project came to fruition this past Sunday, December 11, when the 15 students, under the title of the “Warming Hearts Society,” held “Warm Their Hearts Day” at Parker Jewish. Joining them was their professor and scores of volunteers, including St. John’s Sigma Chi Beta fraternity as well as the Concert Choir, which incorporated caroling into the blanket distribution.

“It’s the very big St. John’s community that really gave us the push that we needed to get the blankets and be able to do this,” Turner said.

Phyllis Shafran, the professor of the class — Public Relations Campaigns — applauded the students’ efforts in making the “Warming Hearts” concept a reality.

“This became more than just a class project. I’m a teacher here for well over a dozen years and I’ve never seen this level of enthusiasm,” Shafran said. “These students raised money through sororities, fraternities and basketball games to buy the blankets.They developed a logo with a heart and had every one of these blankets inscribed with their logo and they gift wrapped them.”

Shafran also praised the good partnership of Parker, which fully embraced the project and “made a good idea easier to implement because of their support.”

Parker’s President and CEO, Michael N. Rosenblut, also commended the program.

“Parker is strongly committed to a new movement in long-term care, called ‘culture change’ or ‘resident-centered care,’ under which seniors in nursing homes enjoy the same experiences as those living in private homes and apartments. During the winter holiday season that often means getting together with family and friends. The ‘Warm their Hearts Day’ created by the students at St. John’s University was a wonderful example of the intergenerational joys of the holidays, and a great way of saying ‘we care for you.’”

For more information or to inquire about future events, contact [email protected]

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