DALLAS — High school students have every right to be upset about how the coronavirus crisis has either upended or, for seniors, ended their school careers.
But a group young men in Southlake is putting their own problems in perspective by helping other seniors -- senior citizens -- in need.
"It's just like really sad to see these people who have no one to talk to," said Ryan Westerberg, a Southlake High School senior. "I can't imagine that."
He's talking about men and women stuck in nursing homes. Most of them are not allowed visits, even from their own families, during the COVID-19 pandemic because of how rapidly the disease has spread in facilities worldwide.
Westerberg is a member of the Southlake Chapter of the Young Men's Service League, a national non-profit organization that encourages young men and their mothers to pursue philanthropic interests in their communities.
Earlier this month, with help from the Southlake Senior Activity Center, a local group of young men and their moms contacted 200 seniors by phone, to give them a friendly voice to talk to and to offer any help they might need.
"It was just good to talk to them and see what they were missing and see if we could help in any way," Westerberg said.
The Southlake Chapter of YMSL then made gift bags, filling them with candy, games, and a kind note. They expect to deliver upwards of 500 gift bags by the time the effort is finished.
With the help of nursing home staff, the gifts are stored for a considerable time to eliminate any coronavirus threat. Then they are delivered to nursing home residents like 94-year-old Dorothy Bishop at Discovery Village at Southlake.
"I was married 68 years to the same old man," she said in a FaceTime interview with WFAA. "And I had never been alone. So it's hard to get used to."
It's also been difficult for resident Mary McRae, just down the hall.
"You don't know what it means when you're quarantined since March 13, to have somebody think of you and do something nice for you," McRae said. "I was amazed that they would go to a stranger they didn't know and take the time to do that."
"We really are all in this together," said Jacqueline Westerberg, Ryan's mom. "And so we can serve from where we're at and have perspective about where others are at. Then that just builds a stronger community and that's what we're all about."
A simple gesture from one isolated high school senior to another isolated senior citizen means more than we might think.
"Aren't they the nicest things in this world," Dorothy Bishop gushed of the young men who sent her gifts. "I love every one of them."
And while safe, Bishop is counting the days until it's safe enough to thank every one of the young men in person.