Freshman entertains Cambridge Place residents, spreads holiday cheer with accordion melodies

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Austin Haney performs music for the residents of Cambridge Place on Dec. 1.

Collin Marquard, staff writer

Senior citizens at Cambridge Place sit in silence at their retirement home, waiting anxiously for the arrival of Austin Haney and his esteemed accordion.

“I’m here to make their time and play for their joy,” Haney said.

Haney volunteers every two weeks at Cambridge Place, playing his accordion for all the residents. Haney said his mother got him involved in volunteering. He already had the accordion and was learning to play.

He said the first couple days of him playing for the elders, he would recieve tips. Except, he would refuse. He said he felt it was wrong to take tips from these people because he enjoyed it and loved it.

“Personally I think everyone should volunteer,” he said.

Haney said one thing he looks forward to is talking with his favorite resident, Andy Kukay.

“I remember talking to Andy the first couple days of volunteering there. My most vivid conversation with him was when he told me about the first airplane he ever saw,” he said. A lot of people at the home are lonely, and don’t get many visitors, Haney said. So, Haney said he thought he should go and visit these people and give them something to look forward to, someone to share their day with, someone to express their feelings to. He said that Kukay would talk for hours about his old mission days, especially the WW1 parade. Haney sits for hours at the home talking to the people of Cambridge Place; he said he lets the old folks talk to him about whatever they want. Whether it’s the meatloaf they had for lunch or an important memory, such as the airplane for Kukay, Haney will listen becauses he cares about them, he said.

Haney said he encourages anyone to volunteer. Whether you donate your time to helping the community, or playing the accordion, its worth the effort to feel that feeling of generosity, he said.

“I encourage everyone to do this, no matter what your talent may be,” he said.

Haney said he remembered one old man in particular. Haney was playing at the Cambridge Place, as his weekly schedule intended. However, a new face joined the audience.

The new man sat quietly and watched as he played, he said. After he finished the song he just learned, the old man came up to him and shook his hand. He told Haney that that was the song him and his wife danced to on their wedding ago, almost 70 years ago.

“[I’m] glad I get the opportunity to brighten their day even if mine isn’t at its best,” he said.

Haney said that someone’s attitude makes a big difference when doing something such as volunteering. He said if you’re not in a good mood, then you won’t be giving off that positive engery to those around you. Haney said that even when he is in a bad mood, he looks forward to that day where he makes people happy and joyful.

“[Being anything but happy] just won’t do it. I look forward to playing for them,” he said. Haney doesn’t just play for strangers. He use to play for his grandfather who was very proud of him for learning an instrument like the accordion, he said.

“[There are] very few feelings that compare to doing something such as that [volunteering].”