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Service through song

Every Sunday evening for the last two years, The Homestead Assisted Living facility in Rexburg, Idaho, has been filled with young voices. Elderly residents gather in three of the four main buildings as about 25 young students from BYU-Idaho sing hymns and children’s songs for an hour.

Richard Sant, the current group leader and a senior studying communication, said the group consists of students from all majors and housing complexes. They aren’t an official club, and almost none of them are music majors. They are simply a group of students who had a desire to serve and help bring some joy to the residents of The Homestead.

Sant got involved when the group began and has kept it going by selecting hymns, forming a Facebook page and keeping up relations with the residents. But, his singing service really began before moving to Rexburg.

“In high school, in my junior year, I went to sing at a rest home called Kolob,” Sant said. “So we would ‘hie to Kolob’ each week and sing to the older residents there.”

Sant said the good feeling that students get and the appreciation and love from the residents is what has kept people coming for so long.

“I think the group is really perpetuated by the people we sing to because they really appreciate what we do,” Sant said. “So, I guess we will go until they don’t want us to or until we all leave.”

One of those residents is 92-year-old Russell Hillman. Having lived at The Homestead for nearly two years, Hillman has been involved with the group since its foundation. After the singing is finished every Sunday, Hillman stands and offers words of appreciation and a small piece of candy as a token of the residents’ appreciation.

“The group started coming and they had no real conclusion at the end,” Hillman said. “I thought someone should say thank you, so I asked them if I could stand and say thank you, and they said, ‘Of course!’ So, I started saying something at the end of the singing.”

Hillman talked about some of the people he has served throughout his life. He said that he hopes he has left a mark on the world. He hopes that his service, given through candy, testimony and gratitude to the Homestead Singers, leaves “a knot” in some of the students’ lives.

“One night they sang ‘I am a Child of God,’ and I added that I also knew that we are all children of God,” Hillman said. “I hope I have made a difference here.”

In a place like Rexburg, where finding service opportunities can be more than a little challenging, the Homestead Singers are a shining example of the power of consistent service.

Sant, when asked what he would say to students looking for ways to serve, said “The movie Robots says, ‘see a need, fill a need,’ and I think that is my advice too. Sometimes you have to look hard to find a need, but if you look hard, you can find one. I think if you are invited to do something that can help someone, then just do it. Do something for your roommate or your spouse to help them and make them feel better.”

The Homestead Singers invite everyone to join them in singing every Sunday at 6:15 p.m. in building four of The Homestead complex. More information can be found on the group Facebook page: “Sunday Evening Homestead Singing.”

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