Five-year-old Mila Miller stood in Peggy Hecox’s room at Gering’s Heritage Estates back in December, while wearing Peggy’s blue rubber exercise band draped over her shoulders and around her neck as a scarf, during one of her weekly visits with the residents in the past.
Mila abruptly stopped in the midst of her story and performance to howl like a werewolf, while holding Peggy’s book of sermons and prayers in her hands, pretending as if she could read her tale of werewolves and mystical creatures from the pages in front of her.
Mila is Heritage Estates youngest volunteer, who has been making visits to the nursing home with her great-grandmother, Armeda Freel, to spend time with residents such as Peggy for the last 3 1/2 years.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch her and even more fun to listen to her,” Peggy Hecox said. “She is someone everyone here seems to look forward to and enjoy.”
Since recent COVID-19 nursing and care home closures, Mila said, she misses her weekly visits to see those she calls her friends at the nursing home.
Armeda said since March 11, COVID-19 has kept Mila from making her routine visits to Heritage Estate’s monthly birthday parties and weekly bingo days, Mila’s favorite time to visit.
Mila told her mother of how she misses her time spent with the residents, when the two began to make signs to bring to the windows of the nursing home, as health regulations have kept them from entering the facilities, Armeda said.
The signs, covered in bright stickers and uplifting messages, were given to the staff of Heritage Estates on May 13, to hang and display around the facilities after Mila danced on the sidewalk and presented them to residents outside of their windows.
Peggy said she and the other residents have come to miss Mila’s visits over recent months of quarantine and isolation measures, but now have resumed their time together, through the glass windows of Peggy’s room.
While Mila is what her great-grandmother and the residents may consider "famous" for her stories, she said her favorite activity is twirling as she dances and sings her favorite songs, one of which is “You Are My Sunshine.”
“I like going there to dance,” Mila said.
Mila has sang her songs to the residents throughout her visits in the past, her great-grandmother Armeda said. After one specific singing performance, a resident gave her a quarter for her talents when Mila began to ask the residents, “Do you want me to sing for you too.”
“She said grandma' Look (referring to the quarter),'” Armeda said, “I told her 'Oh no, you need to give that back.'”
Armeda said the man insisted on her keeping the quarter as he told Mila,“No, keep it, that is the best entertainment I’ve had all day.'”
Mila and her great-grandmother plan to continue making their sidewalk visits until regulations ease and allow them to enter the building, to continue their visits with the nursing home residents.