It was December, 1984, Niles, Illinois, and the first time my wife Virginia and I had ever set foot in a nursing home together. Despite never being inside such a facility before, we felt God was calling us to minister to the elderly, said Steve Kacprzak, Executive Director of Love Thy Neighbor Ministries.

On that first visit we asked the Activities Director there to introduce us to someone with whom we could meet regularly. We told her we’d like to adopt a grandparent. Her answer was a firm No! We were shocked, until she explained that many well-intentioned people feel their hearts softened during the holidays, and so they flood the nursing home during December. Once the holidays are over, however, they don’t return. She told us, “January 1st is the loneliest day of the year for these people.”

I assured her we were doing this for the Lord and had every intention of faithfully visiting at least once a week until He told us differently. She said that we were welcome to come and visit with the residents and participate in the festivities during the month. And if we would return on January 1st she would introduce us to a woman whom she knew would love regular visits. We visited that month, meeting many residents and staff whom we continued to enjoy visiting with.

We returned January 1st and that was when we met Mildred Miller. Mildred at the time was 87 years young and a beautiful loving lady. She had been in that facility for about 3 years, had no living relatives and had outlived or lost track of her outside and church friends. Her sister, who had lived in the same nursing home, had died 2 years before we came into her life.

She had been confined to a wheelchair because of a botched hip replacement so traveling with her presented a challenge. We worked together, Mildred and I, and she would stand and I learned to help her pivot and seat her in our car. Once we were able to travel the world opened to her and us.

The Lord blessed our new “grandma”, our entire family and us, with 6 wonderful years together. During that time we did many special things. Mildred was welcomed, embraced and loved by her new family, so she welcomed the opportunity to come to our home for celebrations and holidays.

Mildred, Virginia and I took rides around the Chicago area and it was fun to learn things she remembered from her childhood about the neighborhoods. We went out to see the Christmas lights, the first time in many years for her. We took her to church with us whenever possible. We went to restaurants, where her favorite meal was pork chops. We took her shopping at JC Penney, her favorite store, where my dear patient wife Virginia helped Mildred try on clothes--no easy task for someone wheelchair bound.

I remember we went one evening to see the Buckingham Fountain along the Chicago’s lakefront. It was a little breezy and Mildred was sprayed with water and giggled like a child. One of the outings we took was with our young granddaughter Allison to the Chicago Botanical Garden in Glencoe. Mildred loved the outdoors, the beautiful aromatic gardens and of course the baby. Here’s a picture of that event.

There were many more enjoyable and adventurous things Mildred, Virginia and I did together. We praise the Lord for the blessing of having this special woman, our grandma, in our lives.

There were many residents at the nursing home in Niles and at other facilities that we met and had the pleasure of visiting with. In looking back over the years, the major difference I see is that today there are more residents and more facilities; people are living longer but the quality of life isn’t always better. The need for visitors has increased but the numbers have not. Today in addition to nursing homes you find assisted living centers and adult care homes. Our surveys show that approximately half of those who live in these facilities are without regular outside visitors.

That is why in 2002 Virginia and I started Love Thy Neighbor Ministries.

Ask yourself, who will go to share the Gospel and God’s grace and mercy with the residents?
Do you not say, “There are still four months and then comes the harvest”? Behold I say to you, life up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! (John 4:35)

Wouldn’t you like to adopt a grandparent and experience God’s blessings? Please don’t feel that you have to be as involved as Virginia and I were with Mildred. Just showing God’s love to someone by being there with them for an hour a week will make all the difference in this world and beyond.


Contact Us for more information on volunteering as a visitor

One on One Visits