Once a girlfriend, always a girlfriend

Many residents at Arbor Village Assisted Living in Kent look forward to Wednesdays like nine-to-fivers look forward to weekends.

Auburn’s Alcantar shares stories – and nail polish

Many residents at Arbor Village Assisted Living in Kent look forward to Wednesdays like nine-to-fivers look forward to weekends.

That’s because Wednesdays mean manicures, gossip, a lovable dog named Dolly and a chance to hear about Jessica Alcantar’s week.

Auburn resident Alcantar, 23, is a longtime volunteer at Arbor Village, and Wednesdays are her favorite day of the week, too. To her they mean catching up with some of her best girlfriends.

“They’re in their 60s, 70s and 80s, and I feel like they’re my closest friends even though we’re generations apart,” she said. “I just love it. I can talk to these people like they were my 20-something girlfriends, and they talk to me the same way.”

Alcantar, who runs a pet-care business for a living, has religiously visited her Arbor Village friends almost every Wednesday for 3 1/2 years; she always calls to let them know when she can’t make it. She and her 10-year-old whippet, Dolly, show up at around 1:30 p.m. and spend the afternoon visiting with residents in lobby, making special trips to individual rooms and doing manicures for women in the activities room.

Alcantar says she thinks her regular visits provide some stability for the residents and brings them the comfort only an animal can provide. And she says she gets at least an equal amount of value out of her time with them.

“Some of them see their families only sporadically or they don’t live close, so having me there gives them some kind of stability, I think,” she says. “They love petting Dolly and learning all about her and hearing my stories from the week – boring stories and exciting things and anything that’s happened to me.”

She says manicure hour in the activities room always turns into gossip hour, with residents always asking her about everything from what she ate for dinner to how her marriage is going. And Alcantar loves hearing stories from their deep breadth of experience.

“I love being around people, and I love meeting new people, and every week we’ll have a new person come down to get a manicure, and they’ll tell me their stories,” Alcantar said. “I love the stories.”

She knows many residents well, and she can almost always remember their favorite nail-polish color – even when they can’t. She has become a fixture in the retirement community, and it seems her best friends there wouldn’t have it any other way.

“If I wouldn’t have moved to Arbor Village, I wouldn’t have met her,” resident Veronica Hardey, 82, said. “So I’m so thankful that I moved to Arbor Village.”

Hardey was one of three residents to attend Alcantar’s wedding last year. She called the volunteer a very good friend.

“She’s a very, very good person,” Hardey said. “She’s really concerned about us. I couldn’t stop praising how good she is. There would be nothing you could say that she wouldn’t help you out with.”

The feeling is mutual, Alcantar said, and she thinks her friendships will keep her coming back every week for a long time to come.

“They all joke about when I’ll have babies, and how they want to see me pregnant,” Alcantar said. “I’m in for the long haul with these ladies.

“It’s sad that they’re in their last stages of life, but I want to be there for them during this time to make it as good as possible.”

Contact Daniel Mooney

at 253-437-6012 or dmooney@reporternewspapers.com