‘Make a Senior Smile’ program for SAGE initiated by 16-year-old

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SUMMIT, NJ — Rowan Carpenter said he remembers the moment he decided to do something nice to help older adults during COVID-19. The 16-year-old Summit resident was on a Zoom call with parents, fellow students and guidance counselors at his school, Union County Vocational–Technical, discussing the challenges of remote learning. Carpenter said he agreed with his peers as they spoke openly about feeling isolated and disconnected. “We call it virtually isolated,” he said.

He said this got him thinking about older adults and how they’re feeling during the pandemic, especially those living alone. He knew he wanted to help. Years ago, his great-grandfather delivered Meals on Wheels, and, more recently, his father, Brian Carpenter, did as well. This gave Rowan Carpenter the idea of connecting with SAGE to do something for the nonprofit’s Meals-on-Wheels clients.

He came up with the idea of collecting items from local residents to create gift bags that he would help hand-deliver. He made fliers, and his father created a Facebook page called Make a Senior Smile. The community response was amazing. The Carpenters put a donation box outside their front door, and it filled up again and again. People donated blankets, kitchen towels, soaps, socks, mugs and much more. “I wanted the clients, who aren’t able to get out, to know they are not alone,” Carpenter said. “I wanted them to know people care.”

Amy Stuart, SAGE’s volunteer coordinator, said she was awed by Carpenter’s commitment to making this happen and orchestrating it so beautifully. “Rowan’s act of kindness is just overwhelming, and the impact he made on these people is really remarkable.”

Carpenter estimates he and his mother, Michelle Miller, were able to put together more than 100 bags. He recently went out with a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer and delivered bags to a number of very surprised clients. “Everyone was so appreciative. You could tell it meant so much to them,” he said. Asked how he felt doing something so kind and thoughtful, he answered, “Thank you (SAGE) for giving me the opportunity.”

To support SAGE, visit its website: www.sageeldercare.org.