Super Kids

Teens assist seniors at Weinberg Woods, part of the Summer in the City project. From left: Jessica Katz, Leah Szmidt, Danny Gross, Sylvia Shapiro, Andrew Lebovitz and Doris Caplan. (David Stuck)
Teens assist seniors at Weinberg Woods, part of the Summer in the City project. From left: Jessica Katz, Leah Szmidt, Danny Gross, Sylvia Shapiro, Andrew Lebovitz and Doris Caplan. (David Stuck)

Like all good counselors, Danny Gross, 17, is willing to go that extra mile to make his campers smile.

So the Owings Mills resident gamely donned a frilly apron, as he helped out with the afternoon’s activity, which was making pudding parfaits.

Only his campers weren’t raucous kids. They were residents of Weinberg Woods Independent Living on Clarks Lane in Baltimore.

Weinberg resident Lottie Latin gave Gross and the other teen counselors a big thumbs-up for their work.

“They are great. They know how to make a good parfait,” she said.

The teens and the Weinberg Woods residents were taking part in a new week-long summer camp for seniors — a joint project of Weinberg Woods, the Edward A. Myerberg Center and the Jewish Volunteer Connection’s Summer in the City program for teens.

Gross helped senior campers Leah Szmidt, Sylvia Shapiro and Doris Caplan layer fruit, chocolate bits and smushed Oreos into their puddings to make their colorful parfait creations. Counselor Andrew Lebozitz, 17, of Lutherville circled the room topping the parfaits with whipped cream.

“I don’t often indulge in something like this,” Shapiro said with a laugh.

“I had the best time today,” added Szmidt.

Caplan noted that she never went to camp as a child but was certainly enjoying the experience.

The Summer in the City program provides teens with a new service project every week. In addition to the senior camp, the teens also volunteered at the Super Kids reading
enrichment camp for Baltimore City school kids, and they worked as CITs at the Volunteer Connection’s Camp Tzedek, a one-week summer-service camp for elementary students.

Gross said he was really enjoying working with the seniors.

“It’s kind of like having many grandparents,” he said, noting that seniors have a lot of stories to share. “Everything they’ve been through, just hearing about the experiences they had growing up [was interesting], and a lot of them are Holocaust survivors. With that aspect you really get a lot out of it.”

Mount Washington resident Toby Spokes, 16, was a little nervous about interacting with the seniors, but he said they were all so friendly.

This was Jennifer Goldberg’s second year as a Summer in the City volunteer.

“They’re a really friendly group,” said the 16-year-old Pikesville resident.

“As soon as you sit down and introduce yourself they’ll start talking with you,” noted Bethany Miller, 15, of Reisterstown.

About a dozen teen counselors were on hand for the residents, who enjoyed such activities as Zumba Gold, a yoga class, getting-to-know-each-other ice-breakers and a joint crafts project. “Today we did Zumba, I’m still tired. I really enjoyed everything,” said senior Clara Block.

And camp isn’t camp without a few outdoorsy creatures, which, in this case, were provided by the Irvine Nature Center, which brought in a snake and a turtle among other animals for a hands-on learning program.

While the seniors and teens had a lot of intergenerational fun chatting and taking part in the activities, the teens had an extra learning component each day. They learned about the Weinberg Foundation and its programs and used hands-on techniques to explore issues of aging. For example, at times they wore glasses smeared with Vaseline to mimic age-related vision changes.

The seniors could attend as many or as few sessions as they wanted. As an incentive they earned a ticket for a prize each time they came for an activity. Prizes included such practical treats as a book of stamps, gift cards and a challah.

Amy Landsman is a local freelance writer.

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