By Janet Wetzel
Mention the name Patrick Hayes at a nursing home in Milford and everybody there knows whom you're talking about.
He's the young man who goes door to door at SEM Haven Nursing Home, invites residents to the bingo sessions, helps with the games, walks them back to their rooms, then helps with clean up. He's also the one that breaks out his harmonica and plays a rousing rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In."
Patrick, 20, has Down syndrome. But to residents at SEM Haven and St Andrew the Apostle Church in Milford, where he also volunteers weekly, they see just a good friend and an active helper.
Volunteer Patrick Hayes gives out candy to Rose Schoenlaub after she won a round of Bingo during the weekly game at SEM Haven Health Care Center in Milford Tuesday afternoon.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
Patrick's mother, Victoria, 56, who works beside him, said she's well known, too, "but just as Patrick's mother."
The mother and son show up at SEM Haven at least once a week to sort and deliver mail. They also assist with special events such as carnivals. Sometimes Dave Wilson, a staff member, picks Patrick up and takes him to dinner, then to help with bingo.
"They're two of the most dedicated and faithful volunteers ever," said Sandy Thomas, development director at SEM Haven. "They're well loved by all of the residents. When they're not here, they're truly missed. Patrick has such a joy for life and such a fun spirit. Victoria has such a patient and gentle way about her."
Twice a week they volunteer at church. After Sunday Mass, they put the more than 800 missals and songbooks in order, and pick up trash or bulletins.
People wonder how Victoria fits it all in with being a wife to David, a mother to six, including five daughters, and grandmother of three. But she insists that the family helps make it possible.
"It's not a burden to do this. It's a blessing ... an answer to prayer for us," she said. "When it's his work day, he goes to bed on time and gets up ready to go. He's usually standing at the door waiting for me to get in the car and go. He's a blessing to have around, and he has a lot to give to others. People love him, and he loves them back."
Do you know a Hometown Hero - someone in your community dedicated to making it a better place to live and helping others? E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax: (513) 755-4150.
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