LEWISTON — The mood was serious. The room quiet, except for the voice of beano caller Doris Forgues.

“Your lucky number is N-41,” Forgues said in a loud voice. “The first number is O-61,” she continued. “O-71. B-8.”

As Forgues called, St. Mary’s d’Youville Pavilion nursing home residents moved markers on beano cards, eager to win the $2 pot.

They were helped by junior volunteers, a team of students in blue shirts with volunteer badges.

Instead of playing video games or lounging in the sun, the volunteers, ages 12-17, spend part of their summer in the hospital and at the nursing home.

On Wednesday, Jared Gosselin, 12, sat next to resident Mae Young, 103, who played from her wheelchair. Gosselin helped Young move markers on her beano card.

Across the room, Natasha Bero, 15, helped Sister Lucille Cantin, 90, mark her cards. Junior volunteers also collected money and wheeled residents from their rooms to the game.

This summer, 28 teens are volunteering at St. Mary’s, said Volunteer Coordinator Jenny Cowie.

Some volunteer because they’re interested in the medical field as a career, they need community service hours for their school or they want to enhance their college applications.

Volunteers — today’s version of candy stripers — water plants, escort patients in wheelchairs from one section of the hospital and help nursing home residents with activities.

Wednesday’s activity was the much-anticipated, twice-a-week beano, very popular with residents.

“I love it,” said Sister Cantin, a retired second-grade teacher who taught all over Maine. She said the junior volunteers were a big help. “I’m slow in finding my numbers. They’re there to help me out. They’re wonderful.”

Natasha Bero of North Monmouth volunteers three days a week. She plans a career in the medical field.

“I can name everybody on Four West,” she said. “Tamaranda has been all over the world. She tells me about her stories. Sister Cantin has been a nun for 70 years. Bill and I get into it about sports all the time.” She’s a Celtics fan; he likes the Philadelphia 76ers.

The elders are inspiring, Bero said. “They have so much to tell you that people don’t stop and listen to.”

Jared Gosselin, 12, of Monmouth comes five days a week. He brings the residents their meals, waters the gardens and helps with activities.

“I like it,” he said. “It gives me something to do.”

Cassidy Stevens, 15, of Sabattus said she’s interested in a medical career and enjoys talking to elders. “It puts a smile on their face. It makes me happy,” she said.

Across town, Central Maine Medical Center has a similar junior volunteer program. That program has 55 student volunteers ages 13 to 16, said Director of Volunteer Services Susan Hedrich.

CMMC volunteers answer phones and call patients to remind them of appointments. They help professionals in the lab and radiology and work one-on-one with patients in a long-term, rehabilitation unit.

The program gives students exposure to hospital careers, not only doctors and nurses, but careers in security, lab and radiology, Hedrich said.

Volunteers also get a sense of community, of giving back, St. Mary’s Cowie said. “They see there are people out there who have a great need, that a simple hello can go a long way.”

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Possible pull quote: The elders “have so much to tell you that people don’t stop and listen to.” — Natasha Bero, 15, of North Monmouth


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