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Havre de Grace's Don Osman gives Citizen Care Center residents new reasons to SMILE(S)

Citizen's Care Center resident Lois Watters, left, and Golden SMILES volunteer Kathy Moffat pray together before Moffat begins reading from the Bible.
Citizen's Care Center resident Lois Watters, left, and Golden SMILES volunteer Kathy Moffat pray together before Moffat begins reading from the Bible. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

Don Osman has come "full circle," as Janet McDonald puts it.

The prominent Havre de Grace volunteer leader, retired teacher and one-time Harford County School Board member, is returning to the site where his longtime community high school service club, SMILES, got its start: Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center.

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Havre de Grace High's SMILES (Service Makes an Individual's Life Extra Special) group was ended for what seemed like for good in 2012 after nearly 30 years giving students and others a chance to volunteer and help out around the community. By then Osman had been retired for seven years and said he thought it was time to let go.

Sitting in a quiet corner of the Citizen's Care Center in Havre de Grace, resident Lois Watters listens intently as Golden SMILES volunteer Kathy Moffat reads a few passages from the Bible.
Sitting in a quiet corner of the Citizen's Care Center in Havre de Grace, resident Lois Watters listens intently as Golden SMILES volunteer Kathy Moffat reads a few passages from the Bible. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

But now he has launched a new volunteer group called Golden SMILES, which began after he realized he could help brighten the lives, once again, of residents at Havre de Grace's only nursing home.

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So far, Osman has brought together three volunteers who help read to Citizens' residents, as well as drop off groceries for them. He is getting ready to enroll three more local helpers in the Golden SMILES group.

"I just enjoy being there. I have been there now since the 1980s, when SMILES first started and for me, it's like home," Osman said. "If they [residents] don't have family, then we can go out and we shop for them. Sometimes we surprise them. We bring treats they are not expecting, and they appreciate that also."

Janet McDonald, a volunteer coordinator who has worked at Citizens Care since 1972, said Osman's group has added a special touch to the nursing home.

Citizens Care has about 100 registered volunteers, with 10 to 12 active on any given day to help the building's 184 residents, she said.

Osman's new group began when one resident, who had terminal cancer, asked if Osman could help her.

"She said, 'If I gave you money, would you shop for me?'" he said. "We really struck up a good friendship in her last six months. She said, 'Would you be interested in doing this for other residents?'"

That was a year ago. Osman brainstormed with the resident on how to run the new group, and they considered calling it "Senior SMILES" before Osman's son said it should be "Golden SMILES."

Golden SMILES volunteer Kathy Moffat, right, shares a laugh with Citizen's Care Center resident Patty Peterson as they chat in a hallway.
Golden SMILES volunteer Kathy Moffat, right, shares a laugh with Citizen's Care Center resident Patty Peterson as they chat in a hallway. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

As listed in the nursing home's newsletter The Chit-Chat, Golden SMILES "will provide any resident that has the financial means to a service to order and receive products from local and surrounding stores."

The volunteers are also "available to provide one-on-one escort service for residents when transferred to an 'out of the facility' medical appointment."

On a recent weekday, Osman delivered cereal and some other foods to Karen Wiley, originally from Bel Air. She has lived at Citizens Care for 14 years, is unable to drive and said her family cannot visit her very often.

"It's been wonderful," Wiley said about Osman's delivery service. "He is very cooperative and resourceful and we have gotten to be pretty good friends."

The residents get regular meals but the volunteers can get them special items, like chocolates from nearby Bomboy's Candy.

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McDonald pointed out Wiley is a volunteer herself, regularly delivering mail to other residents as a member of the nursing home's Guild Volunteer Auxiliary.

Getting personal items from Golden SMILES "is an added bonus," McDonald said.

In another corner of the building, by a window overlooking Revolution Street, Kathy Moffat was reading from the Bible to two other residents, Patty Peterson and Lois Watters.

"I was interested in doing something in the community and volunteering," Moffat, who also lives in Havre de Grace, said, adding that the nursing home staff had asked if someone was available to read the Bible.

Moffat said taking part in Golden SMILES has been a good chance to serve people.

Don Osman, a retired teacher, recently launched a new group called Golden SMILES, after he realized he could help brighten lives, once again.
Don Osman, a retired teacher, recently launched a new group called Golden SMILES, after he realized he could help brighten lives, once again. (BRYNA ZUMER | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

She first met Peterson, who has been at Citizens for 18 years, and helped make purchases for her.

Peterson and Watters seemed to enjoy the reading and the time together with a new friend. Moffat noted with a smile that she sometimes stumbles over the names of people and places in the Bible, "but Lois tells me; she knows them."

Watters, who is originally from Joppa and has been at Citizens for about two years, said she has appreciated the reading.

"I look forward to it," Watters said with her characteristic, wide smile, explaining that when she first came to the nursing home, she could not even remember basic information about herself.

"This has meant the world to me because I couldn't remember my name, nothing...eventually I knew her name and it started bringing back things," Watters said about the volunteers.

McDonald added: "Both of these ladies look forward to Kathy coming twice a week."

McDonald pointed out that Peterson is a member of the volunteer auxiliary, as well.

Moffat also said she looks forward to doing the reading.

"I have met new friends," she said about the volunteer opportunity. "I think God has a purpose for me; I think God has a purpose for everybody."

Karen Bauer, another former Havre de Grace High teacher who retired five years ago, is the third Golden SMILES volunteer. She also has helped read books like romantic biographies to some residents.

"My friends consider me like a guest," Bauer said about the residents she helps. She has been coming in three times a week, and said it is special for the residents to get a visit from a stranger, someone who purposely wants to see them.

She has also become "almost like family," she added.

"It's a joy. It's an honest-to-goodness joy," Bauer said. She began reading for about an hour but realized even when residents seemed to be asleep or indifferent, they often knew where she was in the book.

Bauer said the group was open to everyone, not just those who are retired, and Citizens Care gets volunteers who are as young as 14.

"If people are looking for something to do, this would be a good spot to fit into," she said. "Havre de Grace has such an active older population, anyway, like Young at Heart [group at the Havre de Grace Activity Center]."

Osman said he hopes to get more volunteers for Golden SMILES to make residents' lives at Citizens even better.

"It's just nice being there, and anything we can do, it's just a good atmosphere," he said. "There are a lot of us who are seniors who have some time on our hands, and it's nice to be able to do that."

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