On April 22, Marcie Jones celebrated the anniversary of a business she and Murt Bickett created 14 years ago — an intergenerational daycare that brings children and senior citizens together.
The result was Tigard's Gentog, a facility that is unique in the greater Portland region.
"It doesn't happen in very many places anywhere in the country. Adult daycare programs are also kind of unique in Oregon," Jones said. "It's very common in some states, but in Oregon, it just isn't."
To her knowledge, Gentog was the first intergenerational daycare in Oregon, and today, the only other one in the Beaver State that Jones is aware of is in Bend.
Gentog's history goes back to when both Jones and Bickett worked for a national credit reporting agency for a quarter of a century before realizing it was time for a change.
"When it was time to move on from there and start something else, she wanted to work with kids and I wanted to work with seniors," Jones said.
They ended up joining Generations United, a national organization focuses on intergenerational programs, attending its annual convention in 2007. Later that year, they traveled to the St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a unique facility begun by Edna Lonergan, a Franciscan nun.
Not long after attending the two-day workshop there, they got their dream project off the ground, opening their doors at 11535 S.W. Durham Road.
"That's how we knew it could work," Jones said of their Milwaukee trip. "We modeled what they did on a much smaller scale that we could afford."
While Gentog uses a Christian-based curriculum for the children in their care, and the seniors pray before meals, Jones said the daycare is not affiliated with any specific church, and there are those attending daycare programs who are of different faiths.
While the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the business, and they had to shut down or cut back on programs at times, it's now going full-bore.
"We've been doing the intergenerational activities again, all of March and April," Jones said. "The elders right now, we're averaging 12 to 15 a day."
Of those, whom they refer to as "grandparents," six or seven have direct interaction with the kids.
"We do something different every day. We play games or we read stories together or we do art together," Jones said.
The art tables double as the grandparents' lunch tables. In addition, there's now a snack time for the two groups to meet as well.
Some of the grandparents come for only several hours for socialization, while others are there all day. Most of the attending grandparents have dementia or some type of physical frailty and generally need some type of assistance with families who still want to keep the elders at home.
"It's a magical feeling when they're together," Jones said about when the two groups interact.
On a recent chilly day when the children couldn't play outside, Jones said a group of 5-year-olds joined the "grandmas" in watching gymnastics on television — and then practiced their own gymnastics on the rug.
"And as they returned to their classroom, I heard them say, 'I love the grandparents,'" she said.
Jones said when she thinks back on why she helped Gentog, she sometimes wonders what she was thinking.
But, she was quick to add, "It's been fabulous since day one."
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