Often when a tragedy or an illness impacts someone’s life they become despondent or discouraged. Not true of Mary Gran resident Carolyn Vann. The 72-year-old Vann suffered a stroke in March 2011 while teaching a Compensatory Education class at Sampson Community College. After rehabilitation, she went looking for something to do. What she found was a continuation of her profession and her love.
Vann said she loved teaching and after she had become comfortable with the idea that she would be staying at Mary Gran she felt that she had to do something to put that love to use once again.
“I have always done something during my lifetime,”noted Vann. “Before I had my stroke, I would sometimes bake one or two cakes before going to work in the mornings. During the holidays, I would bake 20 to 30 cakes a week. People loved my multi-layer chocolate or caramel cakes. I also would make aprons for people. I always tried to make them to match the person’s personality or career. For example, if the person worked with cows, I would use a cow patterned material. Once I became settled that I was going to have to remain here I decided I had to do something and I went to see Kay Hobbs.”
Her stoke has left Vann unable to accomplish these tasks.
Hobbs is the activities director for Mary Gran. “We have some wonderful volunteers here at Mary Gran, but it is great when a resident feels the need to do something to help their fellow travelers here, Hobbs pointed out.
“Carolyn is not only great leading the Christian small group discussion, but has filled in teaching Sunday school and assists with collecting money when we hold fund raising activities such as our Relay for Life events. She also is busy all during the day visiting new residents and helping to make them feel welcome to their new surrounding. She is an invaluable resource for us and helps me so much,” added the activities director.
As a teacher, Vann worked with special needs adults at the community college. At Mary Gran, ironically, two members of her Wednesday afternoon Christian discussion group are former students.
“We talk about almost anything in our group meetings,” explained Vann. “I usually read a passage from the Bible and we then discuss it and relate it to our lives. Sometimes I feel that they may not be getting anything out of it, but Kay tells me that after leaving the group some of the ladies will be asked by the nurses what they talked about that day and they can tell them. I have been reading the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Book or Ruth. We all seem to relate to the story because we are all women,” cited Vann.
The Christian small group meets each Wednesday and there are five or six ladies that attend each week.
“We are hoping to expand the small group meetings to offer it more days so that more people can become involved. We can’t put it on the weekly schedule because it would become a large group and we would lose the intimacy of the small group discussion. Some of these women will not talk except in this small group setting,” remarked Hobbs.
Being a Christian has been a long-time experience for Vann. She taught Sunday school at her church, Sharon Pentecostal Holiness, for 50years before her stroke.
“I taught the young married class. I truly enjoyed teaching the class and still miss it. The funny thing is that when I was teaching the class I couldn’t get them to do anything themselves. Since I had to leave because of my illness they have taken over the teaching duties and share them and are keeping the class going strong,” said Vann. “My sister from Wilmington pointed out to me one time on a visit that the sign out front reads ‘Mary Gran, a Christian environment.’ I believe that God wants me to help promote his story while I am here,” stressed Vann.
Her stroke did not effect her speech or mental abilities but did effect her left side and limits her ability to stand and walk, as well as the use of her left arm and hand. However, she plans to begin playing the piano again with one hand and hopes she will be able to play for some of the services at Mary Gran.
“It is wonderful to be free enough and able to share God’s word with my fellow residents. It helps us all to realize that things will be better and we have a bright future through living the Christan way,” Vann stressed.
The teacher was named the 2012 Mary Gran Ambassador for Relay because she raised more funds than the others among the many things she does to help out at the center.
“I am so thankful to God for allowing me the opportunity to serve him in this way. Too often when things get us down we forget to thank him and to continue to serve him. Through what he allows me to do here I can continue to do something I love and spread his love at the same time,” concluded Vann.