Texas Teen Connects Generations Through Service

Daily Point of Light # 7766 Mar 12, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Audrey Staker. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Audrey Staker is the middle child of five. Her favorite place she has lived so far is Hawaii, and she has a pet ferret with albinism named Houston. She loves running, surfing, playing the piano and guitar and is youth group president of her church. Most of all, Audrey likes to brighten the days of senior citizens who live in senior care facilities.

What inspires you to volunteer?

I believe that everyone needs to support their communities. We’re only given a certain amount of time in life and it’s our job to make a big impact while we’re here. With so much darkness in the media the world can seem like an awful place. The more joy we spread, the happier people will be.

Tell us about your volunteer role with the Golden Years Club Nonprofit.

I started this club at my high school to make it easy for teens to volunteer at senior centers. Now, my role is to help it expand. You might not know this, but a lot of teens want to connect with the older generations, but they don’t always know how to start. I decided to make it easy for high school students to volunteer at senior centers. In my high school, they join the Golden Years Club. I support other high school students from other schools to start their own club so they can reach out to local senior centers and plan events and parties. I help them start their club and advise them.

Audrey Staker, right, creates name tags for residents and volunteers /Courtesy Audrey Staker

Within the club, we organize parties at senior living facilities for each major holiday. We have been getting involved with elementary schools and local choirs who come to sing and perform skits for the seniors. We encourage other community clubs to participate.

The Golden Years Club is very flexible. Depending on their schedules, there are students going to the senior homes every single day. The senior citizens are feeling the light that these teenagers selflessly spread. Some of the daily activities that the students particularly love are bingo calling, helping with dining, card night, board games, listening to stories, and movie night planning.

Right now, we’re brainstorming our Easter party. The elementary kids may do a little Easter skit, but for now we are planning on an Easter egg hunt in the senior home.

We have over 200 club members in our school. Out of a school of 2,000 kids, our club is the second or third largest club, right after the National Honor Society (NHS). We have served 1,000 senior citizens.

What inspired you to get started with this initiative?

I play piano and guitar every week at the local senior home. I shared this experience with some friends, and they wanted to be involved.

I’ve always loved hanging out with my grandparents. They have the coolest stories. They love telling stories, and I love hearing them. This sparked my love for the elderly.

What are your long-term plans or goals for the organization

I would love to see the Golden Years Club expand throughout Texas and eventually throughout the country. There are so many seniors who feel forgotten and there are so many high school students who would love to spend time with them.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

The connections I’ve made with individual senior citizens are priceless. I’ve heard so many stories about their past and their life experiences. I love seeing the joy when they get to share their past with a young person. It’s a big impact on both the seniors and the students.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

Young people want to volunteer. They’re just looking for the right opportunity. People will sometimes say, “Young people don’t contribute to their communities, they’re slackers.” That just isn’t true. The amount of effort I’ve seen put into volunteering by teens is just incredible. In fact, teens and younger kids can be the most effective. It’s surprising for adults to see teens stepping up, so they support our initiatives no matter the area of volunteer work.

Tell us about future partnerships, programs or events that you are excited about.

In two weeks, we’ll be hosting our Easter party at a senior center in Dripping Springs. This year, we’re bringing in elementary school students for an easter egg hunt at the senior center. Then, there will be a St. Patrick’s Day event at a senior center in Plano.

I am continually reaching out to organizations for fundraising. We have a 5K fundraiser walk planned in the fall, which will be a lot of fun.

The Golden Years Club stands with residents of local senior center during a holiday party /Courtesy Audrey Staker

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about?

Everyone has a passion. Everyone is capable of helping. I started small in my school and now multiple high schools in Texas have their own Golden Years Clubs. We spread love to senior citizens, and the positive impact it has made on high school volunteers is incredible.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

The main thing is to look at areas you’re interested in. Look online for volunteer opportunities in the area you’re passionate about. It’s hard to spend so much of your free time on something that you personally don’t care about. There are so many opportunities. We currently have 500 student members in Texas at various schools. Other clubs are always looking for volunteers, too.

What do you want people to learn from your story?

Young people can absolutely make a difference. We want to connect with senior citizens. I’ve seen hundreds of young people just in my area who want to connect with their elders and grandparents. Most of our volunteers don’t have grandparents living close by, so they miss out on that connection. They miss out on the wisdom that our elders can give us. Our elders have put in so much time nurturing us, giving the best years of their lives raising kids and ensuring their kids succeed, and many of them are spending their golden years alone. This is a perfect opportunity for both generations to get what they need. The seniors get the companionship and attention they crave. The students get the connection they need to the older generation.

When we visit the seniors, they see that they are appreciated for all they’ve done for us. I have made some very special connections. When I play piano or guitar at the center, this lovely old lady with dementia named Gabby always asks me, without fail, to play, “Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog.” Sometimes I’ll play it several times for her.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Audrey? Find local volunteer opportunities.

Jarmila Gorman