The Life Care Center of the Willows dining hall was transformed into “I Salici Bistro” on Wednesday and became filled with smiles, the sounds of music and the smell of great Italian cuisine.
The Italian phrase “I Salici” translates to "The Willows" in English and was thought up by Life Care Center of the Willows Activity Director Robyn Rutar.
“I thought that name would be fun and plus it makes everything sound authentic," she said. “I plan the activities here and this month I really wanted to do something special for this time of the year. So, we turned the dining hall into an Italian restaurant.”
The Bistro was operated by the Willows staff and their volunteers. Notable volunteers included Jennifer Vanderstar and her four children. Each child went table to table and spoke with residents of The Willows. After some small talk, the children took the residents orders.
“The kids volunteer at a lot of events like this,” said Vanderstar. “But tonight we are going to be fancy servers. We’re treating the guests exactly like if they were at a fine dining restaurant only with kids taking their orders!”
Having young volunteers was encouraged by Willows staff. Rutar recalled how she would similarly volunteer.
“Volunteering at a young age was something I used to do with my church and I thought that would be a fun thing to bring to the residents. It’s something they don’t get to see or do every day,” she said.
While the food was being served, a guitarist strummed and sung songs from a variety of eras. In between sets, he would share a short anecdote or a well delivered joke to have the crowd chuckling. More entertainment and laughs were on the way after the guitarist’s performance.
“After everyone has had their food, we’ll be playing a dating game that is basically an improvised card game," Rutar said. "It has two good qualities of a person and one bad quality of a person. After they draw, they’ll get the chance to say who they’d prefer to have on a date."
Laughter and great food were a highlight to many in the Bistro that night. For others, the night meant much more.
“It's a great night for close family and close friends to meet,” said Michael Austin, a resident at The Willows.
Austin sat at the table with his mother. They spent the night chatting with each other and sharing their conversation with fellow residents and staff.
“I’m so grateful my mother could be here,” he continued. “Sure, the games are fun and the food is great, but its friends and family that make it amazing.”
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