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Music and memories at Bethany

Volunteers lead weekly sing-a-long

By Angie Landsverk

Helen Morey (left) plays the piano, and Phyllis Hunt leads the singing at the weekly sing-a-long at Bethany Home. Angie Landsverk Photo
Helen Morey (left) plays the piano, and Phyllis Hunt leads the singing at the weekly sing-a-long at Bethany Home. Angie Landsverk Photo

Wednesday mornings of just about every week of the year find Phyllis Hunt and Helen Morey in the same place.

That place is Bethany Home, where they lead a sing-a-long in the chapel.

Hunt uses a projector to show residents the words of the songs, while Morey accompanies on the piano.

They have been doing so for more than a decade.

Hunt began volunteering in this way 17 years ago.

“I remember Lucille Salter was working at Bethany. She called and asked if I was interested in leading a sing-a-long,” Hunt said. “I came and liked it. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, because I had never done anything like it before. The folks are so gracious and so sweet. Over the years, I had some who I know looked forward to it all week.”

For about the first five years, others played the piano during the sing-a-long.

About 12 years ago, Morey joined Hunt.

“I love that she could do it,” Hunt said, “because she’s such an old dear friend.”

Her comment was in reference to the many years the two of them worked together at Trinity Lutheran Church, when Hunt was the choir director and Morey was the organist.

“So we’ve known each other for a long, long time,” Hunt said.

The two of them are a perfect fit for Bethany Home’s sing-a-long, because they are about the same age as the residents.
Morey is 90, and Hunt just turned 80 on Wednesday, Nov. 25.

“If someone younger was leading, they wouldn’t know the songs,” Hunt said. “It takes us back always, and it’s always fun.”
She has a large collection of music from which to choose.

Each sing-a-long includes six secular songs and six old hymns.

Hunt also choose songs based on the season.

When she does not have the music for the piano, Morey, who began taking piano lessons around the age of 8, knows it and simply starts playing.

Hunt also noted that Morey’s hands are a little shaky until she starts playing the piano.

Some residents sing with Hunt, while others listen.

“I tell them this can be a listen-a-long or a hum-a-long. It doesn’t have to be a sing-a-long,” Hunt said. “I always tell them I don’t have auditions. We have a good time, and I feel blessed to be able to do that.”

Sarah Halstead said this is a beautiful story of volunteering.

“What’s cool about this is these volunteers were alive at the same time as the residents. They remember the songs,” said Halstead, who handles social outreach at Bethany Home.

She said the sing-a-long is one way the nursing home brings music into the lives of its residents.

Through the Music and Memory program for those who have dementia, Bethany Home is also able to find songs which are meaningful to residents, create playlists for them and watch how they react when they listen to them.

Halstead said it is a useful idea for those in a facility and those who are not.

Bethany Home accepts donations of iPods and iTunes cards for this program and is always in need of volunteers.

Those interested in being matched to a particular area in the nursing home may contact Halstead at 715-942-1412.

She said Hunt and Morey’s sing-a-long is an example of how the Music and Memory idea may dovetail into another area.

Hunt enjoys volunteering at Bethany Home and throughout the community.

“I think this gives meaning to life,” she said. “I hope that I can just serve the Lord all my days. I would be very lonely if I didn’t feel I wasn’t doing something worthwhile.”

Morey enjoys playing piano with her.

“It doesn’t matter if no one is singing. She’s so vibrant, full of life. she brings some joy to their life,” Morey said of Hunt.

Morey discovered her own love of music at a young age and is happy to share that love with others.

“My life has been good. I can’t complain. God has been good to me and my family,” she said. “Music is therapy. What would the world be without music?”

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