Channel@Work: To Grandma's House We Go

Channel@Work: To Grandma's House We Go

A Channel@Work volunteer team made a trip to Grandma's House, an intergenerational nursing home.

On Saturday, March 9, the group of solution providers, vendors and UBM Tech Channel staff arrived at the Orlando Health and Rehabilitation Center to participate in a variety of improvement projects, spend quality time with the children on-site and introduce the fun world of tablet technology.

This project was made possible through the generous underwriter support of Microsoft, and the contributions of other vendor technology donors. The project took place in conjunction with the XChange Solution Provider 2013 event in Orlando, Fla.

Hands On Orlando Takes The Lead

For this Channel@Work project, we connected and coordinated through Hands On Orlando (HOO), a nonprofit organization that plans and leads volunteer projects across Central Florida. HOO already had a connection to Grandma's House, which helped to create a project that was more personal and interactive. Volunteers self-selected project groups, choosing from Builder Buddies, Play Pals, Green Thumbs, Paintastic, Care & Share and Hard Drive.

Bench Building 101

The Builder Buddies group set to work on constructing benches and garden boxes -- starting with moving and cutting the boards. The group was building out the back garden area, which will provide visitors and volunteers expanded space to walk, explore and enjoy on wheelchair strolls with Grandma's Gang.

Sealed With A ... Sealant?

The Builder Buddies worked hard all afternoon, creating the benches and garden boxes from scratch (this was not an IKEA project!). The surfaces were sanded smooth, and then sealed to endure the outdoor elements. The finished work looked professional and inviting … pretty impressive for a group that knows their way around a keyboard more than a toolbox.

Trimming The Hedges At The Edges

The Green Thumb team went to work on the gardens and grounds. This gave Grandma's House the opportunity to have some work done that was on their outdoor wish list. One of the projects was pruning back the hedges. This improved the aesthetic of the space, as well as opened up the walkways for easier wheelchair access routes.

Spring Cleaning And Planting

Some of the Green Thumb team really got down and dirty, clearing space (raking and hauling leaves, brush, etc.) and digging holes to plant new shrubs. Plants were selected to make the garden spaces more interactive, allowing wheelchair strolls to become enhanced sensory experiences -- engaging sight, smell and touch.

It's For The Birds

One of the Paintastic team's projects was painting birdhouses. These sweet little dwellings are an addition to the garden, and will hopefully entice some bird friends to take up residence. Volunteers painted designs that would be visually appealing for people to see too; Charlie and a few other eager residents happily lent a hand.

A Puppet Production

The Care & Share group was tasked with creating original puppets, blankets and puzzles for Grandma's House. The team stretched their imagination, knowing that a little whimsy could go a long way. They took some special orders, as word spread that there were new puppets available.

Puppet Pals

Puppets brought so many smiles! Turns out they are great for little shows -- and for decorating the arms of the chairs. The puppets made it easy for volunteers and children to interact. It appeared that the puppets were pretty hungry; we saw a lot of them trying to eat kids' fingers, shoulders and stomachs.

A Picture For All Seasons

One of the Paintastic group's projects was creating original artwork to represent the four seasons. The paintings were slated to be hung in rooms for special occasions, and rotated on the walls of the common areas to add some extra color and variety. It was an impressive body of work, especially for the time frame in which it was accomplished.

Wheelchair Strolls Through The Gardens

The Play Pal group took residents out on wheelchair walks for fresh air, a change of scenery and to check out the other project teams. The walks provided a wonderful one-on-one activity, with plenty of sights and sounds to experience together. Grandma's Gang depends on volunteers to increase the frequency of the outdoor excursions.

Petting Zoo For A Day

As part of their donation, Microsoft also had a petting zoo brought in for the day. Animals provided a great way for the volunteers to connect with children as well as elderly residents through a high sensory experience. The petting zoo brought in rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, a pig and more. Bringing the animals to the center brightened the day for many.

Building Out The Library

Care & Share meets Builder Buddy ...There was a special project inside Grandma's House: building a new bookcase to hold the 250 books Microsoft donated to the library. The books added new titles and replaced some of the popular books that had become worn. The expanded library sets the residents, staff and volunteers up for some fun reading interactions.

Revving The Rec Room

In true Channel@Work style, the Grandma's House project included a few technology highlights. New televisions were added to the playroom and study common areas, giving residents and staff the flexibility to offer more than one program option at a time, and to play with the new Xboxes that were added as well.

Introducing The Tablets

What Grandma's Gang wanted most was tablets … so that is what Channel@Work delivered. In total, 14 donors provided more than 40 Windows 8 tablets for the house. Several of the residents have limited or no opportunity to leave the campus. Tablets bring the outside world to them, and improve the quality of their lives. The technology provides educational games, drawing, movies, access to information and more.

Staff was scheduled to receive training on the use of the tablets first, but some of the residents were so eager to get started that plans changed right on the spot! Personal demonstrations were given, and activities began immediately.

Opening A Whole New World

Leo, who has been known to steal tablets from staff and volunteers, was particularly excited about the tablet donation. Residents young and old intently listened to music, drew pictures, watched videos and played with buttons as they began to explore the colors, sounds and interactions. Grandma's House has added Internet Café to its weekly activities program list. The tablets are creating new and unexpected connections between the generations.

IT Channel Community Unites To Give Back

Eric Martorano, senior director of SMB channels for Microsoft, is the main driver behind Microsoft's continued and generous support of Channel@Work. He closed the volunteer day with thanks to all and reflections on the experience. He shared what he has realized time and again: We come to give back to the kids, but we get more back ourselves. He is inspired to see the channel come together to make such a positive impact.

Universal Excursion

Thanks to Eric Martorano and his team from Microsoft, 12 kids from Grandma's House took a dream trip to Universal Studios. The group received royal treatment, as entertainers and characters from a variety of shows stopped in to visit and perform for them. The kids also picked out souvenirs to take home. They definitely had opinions on what they liked, and managed to find ways to communicate their choices!

Channel@Work Video

Congratulations and thank you to all of the volunteers and donors for the Grandma's House Channel@Work project.

As sole underwriter, Microsoft made this all possible. The additional support from the following technology donors made the tablet wish a reality: AVG, Cisco, Dell Partner Direct, Eaton, GreenPages, Interlink, Intronis, McAfee, Microsoft, Reflexion, Ruckus, Samsung, Symantec and Tandberg Data.

Watch the volunteers in action in the Channel@Work video

Also, view and react to pictures from the project on the XChange Events Facebook page.