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By Marge Knoth, Author, Activity Professional
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Marge Knoth attended Purdue
University and took her activity
director training at Indiana
University and her social
service at Ball State. She is
the author of ten books for
activity professionals. Her
books have been used as
teaching guides in colleges,
trade schools, and in activity
director courses throughout the
U.S. and Canada. They have
won both national and state
awards from the National
Federation of Press Women
and Women’s Press Club of
Marge has written a monthly
column, "A Letter from Marge"
for Current Activities in Long
Term Care. She has been
published in Family Circle,
Lady’s Circle, Women’s Circle,
Indianapolis Woman, Christian
Science Monitor, Event,
various Christian and craft
publications, and other
magazines and newspapers.
She wrote a weekly newspaper
column called “Do You
Remember?”, and wrote and
recorded a long-running series
of nostalgic radio
commercials. Also, she is a
motivational speaker having
traveled the United States and
Canada speaking at many state
and province activity
Resources are Everywhere
by Marge Knoth
Most every activity director, at one time or another, feels her (his) program is in a rut. But
what does she do then? Rather than lament about it, she uses it to her advantage.
She determines to turn her program around, to try new things, to come up with fresh
ideas. But where does she start? One way is to check out available community
I’d like to challenge you to lean back, put on your special extended-view goggles, and
stretch your image of “community” to extend beyond your local area. Are there
resources on the state or national level that you as an A.D. can draw upon? Indeed!
They are only limited by your imagination. Look on your bookshelf, in your kitchen
cupboard, in your magazine rack, or in the yellow pages. Think of major companies like
Coca Cola, Hershey’s, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, Pillsbury, and also major
magazine publishers. How about tourist attractions and annual events in your area–
The Indianapolis 500, Kentucky Derby, Mardi Gras, Miss America Pageant, Kennedy
Space Center, and the movie studios? Can they provide you with speakers,
information, promotional films, freebies, samples, coupons, posters, cookbooks,
recipes, or subscriptions? Think of your federal and state government. Would you like
a politician to visit? Could you use a copy of the U.S. or state constitution, a letter from
the governor’s office, statistics or information? How about some historic old trade
photos* for your newsletter? Often we don’t have because we don’t ask.
Consider doing some armchair travel using a National Park Guide by Rand McNally
(check your library). Share the maps and color photos with residents. Read about the
history of the national parks and the monuments. Visually ride muleback through
Nevada’s Yosemite Park, and see the 53-mile high Sierra Loop, the granite spires, and
giant sequoias. Visit Yellowstone and see Old Faithful spouting hot water in snowy
jets, 10,000 geysers, and mud volcanoes. See Mount McKinley with its glaciers,
caribou and black and white spruce trees. Check out the Everglades with its alligators,
the Petrified Forest in Arizona, and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. For other armchair
trips, collect free pamphlets about your state’s special attractions at visitor centers and
in hotel lobbies.
When a writer develops a mysterious scene, he might place an interesting character in
an ordinary place, but out of the usual context. For instance, a lively child on a
playground at midnight, or a man in a ladies dressing room, or a bull in a china shop.
As activity directors, we too can be creative with activities. Think like a writer. Consider
taking residents on outings in “out-of-context” places. Try a fitness center, maternity
ward, weight-loss center, travel agency, college campus sweet shop, liquor store,
computer store, aerobics class, or a health food store. If residents can not go out, bring
the “out-of-context” places to them with demonstrations, speakers, pamphlets, posters,
movies, and samples.
Your library provides numerous resources: movies, clip-art books, quote books, and old
Sears catalogs. You will find Chase Annual Events –daily listing of notable happening,
and birthdays and anniversaries of famous people. The New Address Book helps you
locate addresses of the rich and the famous. This Fabulous Century is a terrific series
of wonderful picture books of each decade from 1890. With just a phone call, the
reference librarian will locate an unusual fact or other needed information for you. Be
sure to get on the mailing list of a company called Dover.* They carry numerous clip-art
books, picture and other useful books, posters, historic postcards, cut-and-assemble
projects, stencils, presidential paper dolls, baseball cards, and patterns for everything
from teddy bears to kites. Their products are inexpensive.
Bowling alleys will occasionally give you old pins and balls. A car or tractor dealer
might bring a new vehicle for residents to view, or provide picture brochures about new
vehicles for men to ponder. Check out nurseries, near the end of the season, for
freebies–trees, bulbs, or packet of seeds. Bookstores and city news stores may
provide free magazines, newspapers, and books. Stationery counters are flooded with
extra greeting card envelopes that they simply discard. Ask for them. Make friends with
a printer. Annually he disposes of outdated wedding albums, large sturdy, 3-ring
binders with cards and some plastic pages. These can be reused to store party
invitations, clip-art and photographs. He might also give you scrap paper, note pads,
and sample calendars. Get outdated wallpaper books from paint stores. They can be
used as scrapbooks, or for crafts. Your local newspaper can provide big “roll-ends” of
blank newsprint that seems to last forever. It is great for murals or posters or drawing
paper. Ribbon factories have been known to give free ribbon.
Consider asking your Fuller Brush man to display his wares for residents while they
reminisce of how he once visited their homes. Ask a Tupperware or scrapbooking
dealer to do the same. Ask Arthur Murray or Fred Astaire dancers to perform the fox trot,
charleston and modern dances for residents. The YWCA may supply young tap and
ballet dancers. Square dance clubs love to perform. Men’s service clubs like Kiwanis,
Elks, Rotary, and Knights of Columbus have been known to provide funds for worthy
events, or needed big items. Ask uniformed military recruiting officers to speak to, or
visit with residents. Civic theaters may offer free play tickets, or loan you props and
costumers for special events. A bike shop employee may assemble a new bicycle in
your facility and tell residents of bicycle changes over the years. Invite a garden club to
landscape a bleak spot outside, plant a flower garden, supply a bird bath, or
demonstrate flower-arranging. Consider asking a rifle club to hold a gun show for men,
or a saddle club to provide a speaker, video, or bring a horse for western day. Ask a car
club to bring their historic vehicles for a car show.
While activity directors faithfully involve residents with grammar school children, they
may overlook some resources offered by high schools and nearby universities.
Perhaps your residents would like to view college archives. (Purdue University has
Amelia Earhart’s personal things, and the University of Oklahoma has Will Rogers’
things.) A college volunteer might prepare a “mini” course for residents. University
departments are often willing to provide speakers, show movies, or present
demonstrations. Check out the departments of horticulture, history, journalism, music,
drama, physics, recreation, photography, and forestry. Hotel and restaurant
management might demonstrate how to set a formal table, show films, or bring
leftovers for a special event. You can sometimes get fertile eggs and borrow an
incubator from the poultry division to hatch chicks. ROTC might hold practice drills in
your facility. Check out the International Center for Hawaiian or other dancers to
perform. They may also hold international food fairs or arrange for foreign students to
demonstrate native clothing and foods. Invite your college coach and some players to
come and play basketball with your residents (Purdue’s coach, Gene Keady, did this for
High school printing classes may print your newsletter inexpensively. Ask art classes
to provide door decorations, party decorations, and favors. Ask food classes to do a
cooking demonstration. Invite German, Spanish, or French clubs to send students to
chat with foreign-born residents in their native languages. Ask the drama class to hold
rehearsals in your facility–also singing groups. Ask your wrestling teams to bring mats
and hold a wrestling match on your activity room floor. I did this and the men (and the
ladies) loved it. We served beer and pretzels.
Don’t overlook your police and fire departments who may bring a police car or fire
engine to your facility. They may demonstrate finger-printing, or how to put out a simple
fire, or give a canine demonstration. (When I did this, residents thought sure the dog
was going to tear off the training officer’s padded arm.) Ask for a tour of the police
station, jail, or fire station. Consider asking a retired policeman or fireman to talk about
his former profession. And how about this often overlooked resource–pilots and flight
attendants? Since flying hours are strictly limited, they may work only three or four days
a week. Invite them in to talk about their careers, or to volunteer at your facility.
As you can see, resources are everywhere. Dare to think big and don’t be afraid to ask.
The worst they can do is say no. Just keep your eyes and ears open, and you will soon
be locating resources in the most unusual places.
*Millions of historical photos: National Archives, Still Picture Division, 7th and
Pennsylvania Ave., NW, 18th floor, Washington DC 20408, or check online.
*Dover Publications, 31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, NY 11501–free catalog.