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Group of healthcare workers dancing their way into the hearts of seniors at local nursing homes

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Posted at 11:53 AM, May 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 12:34:51-04

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio — They’re creating a community while cutting a rug.

A group of healthcare workers is going above and beyond to give back and make Northeast Ohio a better land. News 5 Anchor Mike Brookbank caught up with members of The Cleveland East Senior Network as they danced their way into the hearts of seniors living at a local nursing home.

On a dreary, damp afternoon, a much-needed burst of energy breaks up the daily routine for the residents at the Laurels of Chagrin Falls.

"We have a waiting list of people who are waiting for us to come out,” said Shalom Plotkin, among the volunteers who stopped by the skilled nursing and rehab facility.

The network, formed at the start of the pandemic, is made up of professionals who work in area nursing homes and hospices.

"Every Tuesday, at 2 o'clock, you will find Cleveland East Senior Network out and about sharing some love,” Plotkin said. "When we first started this, we had no idea how long this would go for."

Classic feel-good tunes like "We Are Family," "Sweet Caroline," and "YMCA" blast from the giant speaker Plotkin rolled into the community room on the second floor.

"We decided we needed to do something to give back to the community,” said volunteer Melinda Smith. "It gives them their history, they think about their past and they enjoy it, it creates endorphins."

For about 20 minutes the volunteers bust a move to a variety of songs, and when they create a connection with their audience, it doesn't take long to see residents do the same.

"This is their home. This is a chance to make the home a little bit brighter,” Plotkin said.

Gracie Amato caught the performance with her 94-year-old mom, Lillian, who just couldn't get enough.

“A lot of happiness, joy,” Amato said. “This made their day."

"Music is uplifting and everyone can relate to it,” said Debbie Rider, a hospice worker who tries to make it out every Tuesday. "It gets lonely in here, especially with COVID, I know we're breaking out of it a bit."

In the last two years, members of the Cleveland East Senior Network have performed at 27 facilities.

"We danced in every kind of weather from rain to snow to blistering heat," said Smith.

"They absolutely love it and we're very grateful,” said Tabetha Bland the rehab director at Laurels of Chagrin Falls. "It's been a tough year, a tough couple of years, especially on this population."

The good vibes here last well beyond the final song — a morale boost that comes at a time when the residents here need it most.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.