Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Susan Shinn
Salisbury Post
Most kids would prefer to spend their Christmas vacation at home, playing video games, watching TV and generally relaxing.
Not Mariah Mason.
On holiday breaks and summer vacations ó whenever school’s out ó Mariah accompanies her mom Devonia to Liberty Commons Nursing Center, where she serves as the facility’s youngest volunteer.
Mariah, 10, is a fourth-grader at China Grove Elementary School. She’s been volunteering at the nursing home for four years, typically coming about 20 hours a week during the summertime. She recently was named the elementary winner in the Service Above Self youth awards.
“I started coming with my mom, and I said, ‘I think I like it,’ ” Mariah says. Devonia purchases medical supplies for the nursing home.
“She would come every day if I let her,” Devonia says.
Mariah says that her favorite thing to do is pass out ice.
She helps take patients back and forth to rehab and will stay to toss a ball back and forth or applaud when a patient throws a bean bag into a small bin.
“I help pass out trays in the dining room, and I sit in patients’ rooms and talk to them,” she says. “I think the residents need somebody around them to talk to. Sometimes, they can be lonely.”
She takes her own initiative, her mom says proudly.
“It thrills you,” says teacher Hope Mason, who nominated Mariah. “It’s one of those joys teachers don’t see all the time.”
Mariah would like to be a certified nursing assistant when she gets older, and a doctor after that.
“I know more people than my mom here,” she says proudly.
Residents and family members alike are pleased with her efforts.
“She’s a cute lady,” says Jean Wilson, whose husband Charles is a resident. “She does a lot of good stuff. She’s just a real sweet little thing. She knows everybody. It’s nice to have her around.”
Laura Collins is Liberty Commons’ activity director.
“She is wise beyond her years,” she says of Mariah. “She’s just a doll. She’s very responsible.”
With Mariah taking around ice, her mom explains, that gives the CNAs a lighter duty. “They think she’s a lifesaver.”
Devonia was a CNA for 15 years, and still keeps up her certification. She and her husband, Joseph, own a cleaning business. They have two sons, Cadarreus, a sophomore at South Rowan High School, and Devin, a seventh-grader at China Grove Middle School.
So Mariah could stay home with her brothers during breaks if she wanted to ó she just doesn’t, her mom says.
“This is her thing. This is what she loves to do.”
“She has been working so hard today,” says Ron Thomas, who’s visiting his sister, Elouise Eller.
He gives Mariah money for a Coke.
“When you get big, you’re gonna be a doctor, I just know it,” he tells her.
Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or