CLINTON – Two years ago, Reginald Jeter underwent spinal surgery that went awry, giving him an infection and leaving him barely able to walk.
As part of his recovery, he was sent to live at the Clinton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, whose staff, he said, helped him rehabilitate to the point where he now walks a quarter mile every day.
Now, more than a year since arriving at Clinton Nursing, Jeter, along with several other residents, had a chance to relive their younger days during the center’s “Senior Prom for senior citizens” event, a gesture that Jeter said exemplifies the commitment the center has to its residents.
“The staff – I got to give it to them – they work hard,” he said. “We’re like family. We stick together and there’s a lot of comradery. We help each other just like family is supposed to.”
Keisha Dyson, founder and president of Butterflies and Bowties Inc., a local nonprofit that works to raise domestic violence awareness and help senior citizens and children with special needs and disabilities, coordinated the event.
As someone who grew up in Clinton with five grandparents, Dyson said she makes a point to not only give back to those who have given so much to the world, but also show that senior citizens still have a lot left to give.
“A lot of people don’t realize the significance in our seniors,” Dyson said. “Once an adult, twice a child, we come here and someone takes care of us. If we live a good, long, abundant life, we need someone to once again take care of us. All our seniors in nursing homes want is your time and to feel loved. And that’s our mission, to provide that and let them know they are not forgotten.”
After previously throwing successful Christmas and Easter themed events, Dyson came up with the Senior Prom idea this past April as another way to commemorate Clinton Nursing's residents.
Butterflies and Bowties started a clothing drive in which people could donate their clothes in support of the event. They also accepted help from residents’ family members and Shoppers Food Warehouse, which provided the catered food.
Since 1999, Denise Jackson has worked at Clinton Nursing as the activities director. Prior to helping Dyson put together the Senior Prom for senior citizens, she had never heard of Butterflies and Bowties, as the nonprofit started up just last year.
However, she is now more than grateful for the work that has been done for her seniors, whom she strives to bring joy to their lives.
“I love what I do and do what I love, so I treat each and every one of them as if they were my mother, father, grandma, great-grandma, sister or brother,” she said. “I give what I can give back and do my activities according to their lives.”
Giving residents their independence while still providing the services they need is a quality that separates Clinton Nursing from many other nursing homes, Jackson said.
Resident Marcia Thompson said she’s very appreciative she’s still able to go about her day knowing there is the constant support of the staff behind her.
“At a lot of places, it’s not like this. Here you can go and see things and do things. It’s nice,” she said.
After a night of eating, dancing, socializing and thanking those who helped organize the night’s festivities, two residents, Margaret Gray, 98, and Dennis Foster, 59, were crowned the prom's queen and king.
Butterflies and Bowties now has a two year commitment with Clinton Nursing, meaning Dyson plans on periodically throwing events such as the Senior Prom and Bingo Night for the residents during this time.
But she said they also plan on expanding their services to more nursing homes across the county and getting local school children to volunteer their time in helping their elderly neighbors.
“The best thing about seniors is what Andy Rooney said: ‘I’ve learned the best classroom is at the feet of the elderly,’” Dyson said. “We have to get our children and the school systems to tap into this. Let them learn from this experience.”