story & photo
by Maren Schober
They call her Nickie and they love her. The elderly residents of the Norwichtown Rehabilitation and Care Center eagerly await her visits, smiling as soon as they see her.
Nicole Andersen, 16, Preston, is a busy senior at Norwich Free Academy (NFA). Why does she take the time to bring cheer to the residents of the Care Center?
“I do it because I like to help people,” Nicole shares with a sparkle in her eyes. “These people are often lonely and do not have visitors. They love to tell me about their families and their past. They are so interesting! This also helps me with my people skills. I am learning to be relaxed and comfortable around people. I also bring them their mail and have dinner with them.”
What got Nicole started in volunteer work?
“My mother is a big influence. She is the director of the Preston Plains School Junior High Booster Club. When I was in junior high she encouraged me to volunteer in the Booster Club, which raises funds to help the after school sports programs at the school, such as soccer, track, basketball and cheerleading. The money goes to help pay for things like the team uniforms and for the coaches.”
As a student at NFA, Nicole hears about other ways she can help others. “In 2007,” Nicole tells me, “Larry Pontbriant, one of the NFA students, died suddenly from a heart attack while running in a race. Out of that tragedy was born the Larry Pontbriant Annual Memorial Race. I helped to direct this run in which monies are donated and collected to pay for defibrillators in the community.”
Nicole is a runner herself. “I run at times for the Tommy Toy Fund Run. Toys are given to children in shelters using the monies donated to this fund.”
Nicole does all this and still has time for her favorite sport, tennis. “I love to play tennis and play in tennis tournaments.”
Nicole gives so much of her time to help others; no wonder her eyes light up when she shares her experiences! Nicole is a big asset to her school and community.