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11/20/04-Winnsboro

17 Year Old Spends Memorable Birthday

For most 17-year-olds, a birthday celebration means time spent with family and friends.  But Jennifer Criner of Winnsboro will be the first to tell you she's not like other 17-year-olds.

For her birthday this year, Jennifer decided to celebrate with the residents of Whispering Pines Nursing Home.  And it's a birthday neither residents or Jennifer will soon forget.

Criner looks right at home in a room full of senior citizens.  She said she's always been that way.

"I think it's just kind of there.. it's built into me," said Criner.

It was a few weeks ago that Jennifer got the idea of spending her birthday not with friends, but with nursing home residents.  The idea caught some at the nursing home off guard.

"She wanted to give presents to the residents instead of receiving them and we have never heard anything of such a kind heart on a teenager," said Activities Director Ellen Sustaire.

Sustaire got permission and told Criner she could come down.  With a few of her friends, Jennifer came.  The girls brought with them presents, birthday cake and their friendship.  It's that friendship directors say is most valuable to these residents.

"You can just see it in their eyes, they sparkle, smiles come across their face... they just simply love the reaction of them they love the young people," said Sustaire.

For both young and old it's a birthday that won't soon be forgotten.

"All you have to do is look at their faces.. that's something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life," said Criner.

"Our residents will remember this and remember the kindness... of the young girl that they celebrated her birthday," said Sustaire.

Jennifer is a junior at Winnsboro High School.  She says she hopes to one day become a journalist.

Chris Gibson, reporting
cgibson@kltv.com

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