Twice a week, Susan Dodd stands in front of a group of seniors — ready to direct a choir of chiming bells.
The group — Atria Silver Bells — is made up of two smaller groups of Atria Senior-Living facilities, the Willow Park Shakers and the Copeland Chimes.
The ringing chimes bounce off the walls of the foyer each Monday and Friday, creating a concert for the residents and aiding in a second purpose.
“I believe that every person has a purpose and a meaning, and it doesn’t matter what our age is, if you’re not doing what your purpose is or (don’t) have a purpose in your life, then you’re not happy,” said Ms. Dodd, the enrich life director at Willow Park. “My goal and what we’ve done with this bell choir is to give them a purpose.”
The group plays a wide variety of music from Christmas carols, Easter music and patriotic tunes.
Bell ringers joked that it took them a matter of minutes to learn the craft, and Ms. Dodd said the bells are designed so that anyone can play them even if they do not know how to read music.
The tunes begin with a piano, and Mrs. Dodd holds up instruction cards to the choir. The cards represent a chord of music, and the colors on it correspond with different colored bells in the choir for varying notes.
Lois Pattillo, 86, said she lives near the foyer of Willow Park and looks forward to the music.
“They have really become quite entertaining,” she said, adding the choir has nearly doubled in the past year.
The group commonly gives back to the community with free concerts, and last week they drove to Gladewater to make children in the Truman W. Smith Children’s Care Center smile.
Theron Boothe, a 91-year-old resident of Willow Park, said the group received more from the experience than they gave.
“It’s heartfelt to be able to see these children and then recognize some of them have difficulty in staying alive, let along enjoying music, and you can see them pat their foot and hands trying to stay with (the music),” he said.
Thelma Taylor, a 72-year-old Atria Copeland resident, said a few of them dressed up as clowns and gave the children balloons after the performance.
“We had a good time and put all the balloons on the children’s beds and made some animals out of them,” she said.
Betty Boles, a 79-year-old resident of Willow Park, said the experience was humbling.
“If we just help them just a little bit, it’s worth every bit of it,” she said.
Ms. Dodd said the Silver Bells has taken pride in their group and takes their bell ringing seriously. She said they practice twice a week even if they do not have an upcoming performance, and even named themselves.
“Our first experience when we went out to play in the public, they were doing manicures and facials on each other, so they were all ready to go to perform,” Mrs. Dodd said. “They are very proud of it. … They take it very seriously, and they love it.”
Beyond the public service, bell ringers said they have forged friendships.
Ms. Taylor said she moved to Atria from Palestine in January, and being a part of the group has helped her make friends in her new town.
“I enjoy it, and we feel like they are going to miss us if we weren’t there, or come get us,” she said.
Ms. Dodd said the seniors also are getting a little brain exercise out of the experience.
“I read a study online that said music uses 100 percent of your brain, so when I relayed that to them, they were like, ‘this is even better,’ because they are using their brain, and giving back to the community and having purpose,” Ms. Dodd said.