By MARY RAINWATER
Slocum resident Billie Turknett has always enjoyed spending time working in the nursing home, working and/or volunteering at various elder-care centers since the age of 19.
Most recently she has found enjoyment in reading to bed-bound patients, and has taken on the task of building up the libraries in Anderson County nursing homes as well as recruiting more volunteer readers to help her.
Turknett recently founded a ministry called Assisted Living and Nursing Home Readers, in memory of her grandmother, and hopes to encourage others to volunteers.
“I feel the Lord led me to do this — that it is my purpose in life,” she said about the ministry’s origins. “I have seen how it changes the patients — those that are agitated become calm... and it brings me a lot of joy too.”
Turknett, with the exception of one reader at Cartmell Home, is the only reader that she knows of in Anderson County. She primarily reads to patients at Elkhart Oaks Care Center.
“I only read to bed-bound patients,” she said. “Some of them do have families, and some don’t. And those families that do come, don’t usually come to read to their loved ones, but to visit them.
“I love the patients and seeing their reactions,” she said. “And I love to read. I get to read a chapter or two at a time to them.”
According to Turknett, some of the patients are required by law to be read to and that responsibility often falls on the home’s already-busy activity director.
“Having a reader at the nursing home would be a great benefit to the activity director,” she said. “It would keep them free to focus on other activities for the residents.”
Patients enjoy being read to from all kinds of books — ranging from the Bible to romance to suspense authors like Dean Koontz.
Donations of book, particularly large-print Bibles and books, are being sought to help build the libraries of nursing home in Anderson County.
“Blazer’s Books in Palestine recently donated over 300 books to the ministry,” she said. “I am currently sorting through those donated books and will distribute them to the local nursing homes.”
While Turknett’s focus is primarily on gathering readers for Anderson County and East Texas, her reach goes far beyond that, as she welcomes people in every state to get involved in the ministry.
“We have someone in Henderson County that recently stepped up to help in that area,” she said. “Donations taken for a specific state will be sent to help in that area.”
The ministry, Turknett emphasized, is not about herself, but about putting action to one’s faith.
“This is all for the glory of God, not for me,” she said. “It is not about me, but about the patients and their need for readers.”
Those interested in being a volunteer reader or who would like to donate books or money for the purchase of books may contact Turknett at 903-707-5426. Respective nursing home activity directors also may be contacted about reading to patients.
Information also is available on the ministry’s website at www.assistedlivingandnursinghomereaders.org.
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org