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The Daily Guide - Waynesville, MO
  • Volunteers make a difference at Life Care Center

  • Life Care Center volunteer Gary Crawford has been helping out at the center for more than five years.
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  • On Thursday afternoons, music drifts down the halls of the Life Care Center in Waynesville.
    Each week a dedicated group of volunteers, known as "Georgia and the Gang," leads center residents, staff and visitors in an hour of singing. The group is made up of singers, guitarists, a piano player and one harmonica player, Gary Crawford.
    Crawford said he estimates he's been coming to the center every week for at least five years.
    He started on the invitation of his friend, Georgia Primas, who lends her name to the group and plays the piano.
    "I just enjoy all the people being here," Crawford said. "I just enjoy everything."
    Dawn Payne, center director of admissions and marketing and Sandi Brewer, center activities director, both said they're amazed at the dedication shown by the group of musicians and by Crawford.
    "The only thing that keeps Gary away is a flood," Brewer said. She added that the group performance is one of the highlights of the week at the center.
    "I literally just stand out there and cry sometimes," she said, explaining that Crawford and the group bring out joy even in residents who prefer staying in their rooms. "Even with our Alzheimer clients, it's like this brings something back," Brewer said.
    "Gary just warms people's hearts and makes everyone smile," Payne added. "This is just part of the Life Care Center family."
    Crawford has been playing the harmonica since he was a boy.
    "When I was (younger) there wasn't a Wal-mart," he said, explaining that his mother would go to Springfield to take care of shopping. To keep her son occupied on one of her shopping trips, he said his mother gave him a small toy.
    "She brought me a little harmonica … and I learned to play that," Crawford said. He started by teaching himself the two songs that accompanied the harmonica on a little card, but he was soon branching out and teaching himself more difficult songs and techniques.
    Now, Crawford leads the crowd in Christmas tunes, patriotic marches and familiar tunes from church.
    "He works for hugs," Payne added with a laugh.
    Crawford said he has no plans to slow down or stop anytime soon. "I'll just keep doing this until I get done," he said.
    "There's two things you don't change on the schedule at Life Care Center," Payne added as she watched a group of approximately 40 residents and their visitors sing and clap along with Crawford and the other volunteers, "and that's bingo and Georgia and the Gang."
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