Music, Fifth Graders Speak To Westwing Residents
DEWITT, Iowa -- The magic of music cast
a spell over Westwing Place.
Toes tapped, residents “danced” with
fifth graders from their wheelchairs, and
smiles slowly came to their faces as they
re-lived memories from a song being
The Party of Four quartet of saxophone
players, led by Genesis employee
Danelle Kvapil, spoke the universal
language -- music -- to residents of one
of Iowa’s top-rated nursing homes.
“There are going to be days in a senior
facility that seem long and the residents
may feel blue. Music makes it all go
away,’’ explained Melodie Schutt,
activities manager for Westwing Place.
Party of Four, made up of Kvapil, Jennifer
Krogmeier, Scott Angelici and Julie
Craighead, was in tune with its Westwing
audience. The quartet’s music included:
“It Might As Well Be Spring’’ from the
movie “State Fair;” “Fly Me To The
Moon;’’ Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies;” and,
the Gershwins’ “Our Love Is Here To
But it wasn’t only the music that made
the day brighter. Angela Hofer’s class of
fifth graders from Central Intermediate
School certainly helped during one of
their regular visits to Westwing.
The teacher has been taking her classes
to Westwing Place for seven years. Her
classes have been adopted by Westwing
Place. At least once a month, the kids
arrive to interact with the residents. They
play video games, make crafts and
sometimes just talk with residents.
For some of the kids, it’s a chance to see
their great-grandmother or grandfather.
In a community the size of DeWitt, it isn’t
unusual for them to know one of the
residents. Hofer’s students come back on
weekends, breaks and in the summer to
visit. Some of her past students have
returned as Westwing volunteers.
“They get so much out of it,’’ Hofer said
of her students. “I have had students in
the past, not this year, who seemed to
fight me on a lot of things. None of my
students have ever fought me on coming
to Westwing. They look forward to it.’’
The Central Intermediate students aren’t
reluctant to sit down to talk with a
resident or do activities their peers might
not consider very cool, such as dancing
at the front of the room to music that is
70 or 80 years old.
“The kids learn history from talking with
the residents; they learn compassion and
generosity,’’ Schutt said. “For some of
these kids, this might be the only
interaction they have with people from
Westwing Place has been
nationally recognized for
its quality of care. Schutt credits the
facility’s outstanding reputation to a staff
that regards the residents as family. “This
is not a care facility. It’s home for our
residents, but it’s also home for our staff
and volunteers,’’ Schutt said. “I’d like to
think the fifth graders feel the same way.’’
It’s pretty obvious they do.