Parades and curbside visits bring joy to veterans’ home residents

Ronald E. Carrington | 5/28/2020, 6 p.m.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class William “Big T” Taylor had not seen his family since early March.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class William “Big T” Taylor had not seen his family since early March.

The 88-year-old former paratrooper, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, has been a resident at Sitter & Barfoot Veterans Care Center in South Side for more than six years. The nursing home, located on the campus of McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center, has been closed to visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

So Mr. Taylor was more than surprised and happy when a series of family parades were organized by the SBVCC staff to connect residents and their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic and lifting the spirits of everyone involved.

The parades, which began May 10, allow each participating family to decorate one car with signs and balloons and drive slowly around the Sitter & Barfoot entryway and then park for curbside conversations with their loved one.

Family members have to stay in their cars, with veterans sitting in their wheelchairs at specially marked locations on the sidewalk. While there is no physical contact, the event enables face-to-face conversations and family time using safe social distancing guidelines.

Mr. Taylor’s wife, Alma, and two of his daughters, Hester Clark and Sharon McGlone, were over the moon with the op- portunity to visit with him. They participated in the parade and wore colorful masks during the curbside visit, understanding the importance of safety first.

“It was fun. It was timely. Sitter & Barfoot did a great job,” Ms. Clark said.

Although they regularly FaceTime him via his iPad, the in-person visit was more intimate and special, Mr. Taylor’s family said.

“My father, who is very gregarious and wants to get out using his electric wheelchair, was talking to us leading up to the day. The confinement has been very difficult for him,” Ms. Clark said.

The parade and curbside visits was the idea of facility administrator Kim Elliott after viewing a similar event on Facebook. According to Tina Parlett-Calhoun, Sitter & Barfoot’s director of communications, the internal team loved the idea and wanted to make the parades happen in a safe and fun way.

To date, Ms. Parlett-Calhoun said, nine parades have taken place and are scheduled according to residents’ units and hallways

within the facility. More events are being planned, she said. “We asked families to register and RSVP so we would have an idea of how many family members would attend, she said in an email. “There is still a limit to one car, van or truckload (of family) for each resident. That way we could ensure social distancing and know how many families would attend.”