DELPHOS — Emily Dienstberger learned to play the piano when she was 5 years old and now 10 years later is using those skills to make the lives of people with Alzheimer’s better at Sarah Jane Nursing Home in Delphos.
Dienstberger, a 16-year-old sophomore at Delphos Jefferson High School, was one of 12 winners of the 2019 Jefferson Awards for Public Service. Of the 12 recipients, one individual will be chosen as the region’s representative and travel to Washington D.C. for the national Jefferson Awards celebration.
She and her sister Kylee have visited the nursing home for the past five years every week to play the piano and sing for residents. The residents struggle with memory loss, but she has figured out the old songs they all know and love. She also serves the nursing home as an activity aide with Sarah Jane Nursing Home in the summer working 10 to 12 hours per week.
“I used to always go over to my grandma’s house where she had an old piano and learned to play the piano,” Dienstberger said.
She said playing the piano allows her to express herself.
“My favorite part is when the residents sing along. They may not remember a family member because they have Alzheimer’s, but they remember the songs,” Dienstberger said.
There is a new resident at the nursing home who loves Elvis Presley so her mom bought her a a 100-song book of Presley songs she plays on the piano for residents.
In addition to playing the piano at the nursing home, she also has added organ lessons since last June. She hopes to continue volunteering to lead her church in worship as she has done for nine years on the piano.
Her piano teacher Sherly Fetzer nominated her for the award and said she has taught her piano for the past 10 years.
“We recently had my mother and father in law pass and I asked her to play the music,” Fetzer said. She said she knows Dienstberger has touched people’s lives and will continue to make an impact.
In addition to her service at the nursing home, Dienstberger volunteers at the Canal Museum through its mentors program and is a Junior Optimist helping with activities.
She holds a 4.0 grade point average earning three hours of college credit, has done two years of Student Council and volunteers for tutoring and concession at school events. She is in choir and show choir and participates in the yearly musical at her school.
Dienstberger has volunteered at the breakfast program at the St. Peter Lutheran Church for the last three years that has grown to meet the Delphos community needs.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.