LaVona Duryea and Paula Blind are neighbors at Good Samaritan Society – Lake Forest Village in Denton, Texas. The village sits near a beautiful lake in the middle of a forest. The two, 83 and 78, live in twin homes across the street from one another.

“We have a beautiful, beautiful layout here on campus. There are lots of trees. There are hills. We have the lake. We have a garden here. That’s the thing that makes this campus so unique and pretty,” Lavona says.

Friends reunite

Seemingly endless outdoor space for recreation has helped residents deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Having best friends nearby makes a big difference as well. LaVona and Paula are reuniting at Lake Forest Village after years spent apart.

“Our boys, her youngest and my oldest, played basketball together in high school here but it had been so long,” Paula says. “I only recognized her by her name.”

That’s because LaVona moved away from Denton for a bit and then came back. She’s been living at Lake Forest for seven years. When Paula showed up across the street, it was a great surprise.

“Is that not awesome? Yes. You never know what happens in life. Sometimes things go around and come back around,” Lavona says.

The best friends love to tool around the campus on LaVona’s golf cart with their dogs, Shooter and Bandit. Both are incredibly active in their community.

“I just like doing things for people and always have,” Paula says.

Finding projects

On their trips around the village’s grounds, the two have come across several improvement projects that peaked their interest.

“Somebody told me one time, ‘If you ever stop, you never get started again.’ So, I’ve always kept that in the back of my mind. Keep moving,” Lavona says.

Following that mantra recently, LaVona and Paula wanted to do something about a few deteriorating benches on campus. When they heard there wasn’t staff available to fix the sitting areas, the friends volunteered their services.

“We just asked. We said, ‘Well, if we did it ourselves, would that be all right?’ They said sure!” Lavona says.

“That’s one of the reasons we get along so well. We see a need and we just kind of go do it,” Paula says.

The two started planning on sanding and refinishing the benches where they were and went to their local hardware store for supplies.

“We kind of wrote down what we thought we needed and we went to Lowe’s," LaVona says. "It needed to be sanded first and then stained and sealed. We purchased everything they told us we needed and we began to do it."

Giving back

In addition to fixing two benches, they started a fundraising campaign to purchase more for the campus and lake area. Their volunteer efforts don’t end there.

“It’s kind of difficult to for both of us to see something that needs to be done and close our eyes to it,” Lavona says.

When COVID-19 kept outside cleaning crews from taking care of the village’s fitness center, LaVona and Paula organized a group to pitch in. They found enough residents to sign up for a day of cleaning each to help keep it open. That’s not all.

“I crocheted all these winter hats. In fact, I’ve got a bag sitting right beside me now with about 25-30 hats that I’m about to take down to Our Daily Bread, which is a soup kitchen for homeless people,” Paula says.

This shared passion for serving is part of the reason they’re so close. Despite the pandemic, they’re still giving back. They urge others to find a need and fill it. It’s something they’ll continue at Lake Forest Village.

“I love it. I love it. That’s the way I was raised and that’s what I’ve always believed is that’s what you do. It makes us feel good to be able to do that,” Lavona says.

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