Going off to college is an exciting time full of lots of different emotions. For most students it’s the first time they’ve left home, and that is both thrilling and terrifying.

One of the biggest fears many students have is about their living situation. What will their dorm room be like? Will they like their roommate? What if they don’t?

Lancaster Bible College (LBC) students Madeline Mitchell and Rachel Ford don’t really have to worry about that, though – their living situation is very different from that of a typical college student. That’s because they live in retirement communities!

As part of LBC’s social work program, the girls receive housing accommodations in exchange for doing 60 hours of volunteer work every month for the communities they live in. Madeline lives at Garden Spot Village in New Holland while Rachel has made a home at Woodcrest Villa in Lancaster, and they complete a variety of jobs that range from helping in the kitchen to just spending time with the residents.

Although the program is still in its early stages, the benefits to both the students and the other residents has already been tremendous.

“Every time I walk out my door there is a smiling face to greet me and tell me to have a great day!” Rachel said. “These amazing people have already impacted me in so many ways with their incredible sense of care and love as they have welcomed me into this family.”

“Living here has made me come out of my shell even more,” Madeline added. “You constantly have people coming up to you as the new girl who want to get to know you more. They’re always ready to engage in conversation with you, bake cookies for you, or want to have coffee with you – it’s pretty fantastic to just have that sense of community!”

The students aren’t the only ones with great things to say about the program. Steve Muller, chief operating officer at Garden Spot Village, said the other residents have loved having Madeline around.

“While we’re still solidifying just how the program will work and look in the coming years, we’re pleased with how it’s progressing thus far,” he said. “Our residents love having a college student living among them. Madeline is almost a surrogate granddaughter to them!”

Jennifer Bicher, director of residential living at Woodcrest Villa, echoed Steve’s sentiments.

“It’s thrilling to see the many ways this program is benefiting our residents as well as the profound impact it’s having on the life of a young college student,” she said. “We’re grateful to be a part of this exciting endeavor!”

Both Rachel and Madeline have plans to go into social work. Living in these retirement communities will provide them with invaluable experience for when they graduate and go out into the “real world.”

“I always wanted to work in a setting like Woodcrest Villa,” Rachel said. “I felt this would be a great opportunity to love on these people who each have a story to tell. Each one has contributed to the world we live in today – and I want to learn their stories and benefit in their wisdom.

Would you love to see more schools start programs like this one which allow young people to interact with and learn from the elderly residents of their community? So share this!