2017 Kitty Davis Award

2017 Kitty Davis Award

Jennifer Chen

2017 Jennifer ChenJennifer Chen should inspire every student who cares about volunteer service…above and beyond satisfying a school requirement.

Jennifer, a top student who heads off to one of the Ivies in the fall, started the Adopt-A-Grandparent Program in 2014 at the Hebrew Home after observing how positively residents responded to her visits. Today, the program flourishes. To recognize this successful initiative and her steady commitment to enhancing the well-being of older adults, she will receive the 2017 Kitty Davis Award. According to Manager of Volunteers Monica Mayer, the Kitty Davis Award for outstanding volunteer service was established in 1971 in memory of Kitty Davis, who served as president of the Women’s Auxiliary in 1939 and who was an exceptional volunteer at the Hebrew Home for more than 20 years. 

In the summer following 7th grade, Jennifer arrived at the Home to volunteer. Hedy Peyser, then the director of Volunteers, assigned her to the kinds of tasks that students typically perform, including assisting residents dependent upon wheelchairs who need help getting to activities, passing out food trays at meal time, and spending time chatting with older adults who especially enjoy intergenerational visits. She easily accumulated the necessary hours to fulfill her community service requirement, but in the process made many good friends with other volunteers and, as she says, "I liked what I was doing and decided to continue."

Recognizing that Jennifer was gaining as much as she was giving, Peyser encouraged her to write about her summer experience. To read today what Jennifer wrote nearly five years ago helps us to understand not only how a young student can be profoundly affected by a summer volunteer job, but also to see the benefit of an early experience on character development. In particular, in the case of Jennifer and other campus volunteers, it's clear that engaging with residents increases awareness of and sensitivity to  the challenges of individuals confronted with age-related changes in their lives.   

Two summers years later, in 2014, Jennifer took what she had learned on our campus and decided to launch the Adopt-A-Grandparent program. "I realized that a lot of residents felt lonely when they didn't have friends and relatives coming to visit them regularly." She wanted to fill what she perceived to be an obvious need, so she recruited friends from Montgomery Blair and Churchill to join her in this new endeavor. Since then, she has worked with 20 volunteers whose combined efforts have served nearly 50 Hebrew Home residents. Fortunately she has lined up a volunteer to take over the program's leadership role in September.

When she's not studying or volunteering, Jennifer shines on multiple fronts. She's captain of her high school's Mock Trial team, captain of the Varsity Tennis team, president of the Science Honor Society, and an active and ardent advocate for the Alzheimer's Association.       

Charles E. Smith Life Communities is grateful to Jennifer for her years of support for our mission and her sense of commitment toward enhancing the quality of life for residents of the Hebrew Home. We congratulate her on receiving a well-deserved honor and wish her much success going forward. 


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