Facing Challenges Head-on through Volunteerism and the Power of Community
As the year draws to a close, one thing that essentially everyone can agree on is that 2020 has been anything but normal. Yet, even though many of the events and social activities that typically make Emerald Heights such an engaging place to live have had to be put on hold or adapted to the virtual setting in order to comply with national and state safety guidelines, residents, management and staff have rallied to preserve — and even strengthen — the deep sense of community that is a hallmark of the Emerald Heights lifestyle.
Not only have residents banded together to support and protect each other, but they continue to show their appreciation for all of the efforts undertaken to ensure that Emerald Heights continues to be a safe and fulfilling place to call home. They’ve also been generous with their time, talents and skills, working to benefit others within the greater Redmond community. Even amid concerns when the pandemic first hit about what might lie ahead, their readiness to volunteer created an abundance of opportunities to bond with each other and connect with the surrounding community, all while observing the newly established safety measures.
A Caring Community that Feels Like Home
As Emerald Height’s board chair, Danna VanHorn, put it during a recent webinar, one of the board’s corporate values is to foster a caring community that feels like home.
“It’s a collaboration of board, staff and residents all caring for and about each other, all focused on the well-being of the other,” she said. “We are thriving, not just surviving, during the past 10-plus months. We are better together.”
Grant Linacre, the executive director at Emerald Heights, echoed that sentiment.
“When you walk into Emerald Heights, you feel a spirit of caring. Staff caring for residents, residents caring for residents, and residents caring for staff. Through this crazy pandemic year, we have maintained that spirit of caring,” he remarked.
Transcending Uncertainty with the Spirit of Caring
The collaboration between Emerald Heights’ management and the Residents’ Association, which consists entirely of resident volunteers, demonstrates the spirit of caring that permeates the community. The Residents’ Association has worked closely with the management team to help make decisions about how to move the community forward throughout the pandemic and has created a Normalization Advisory Group to serve as a sounding board for their fellow residents. The group also has been instrumental in explaining to other residents the reasons for some of the decisions that have been made.
During the previously mentioned webinar, residents Nancy Clancy and Glenn Rimbey, who are president and vice president of the Residents’ Association, respectively, talked about some of the many committees that form the structure of the resident government at Emerald Heights, as well as some of the volunteer activities undertaken in the last year.
Nancy noted that there are “probably close to 75 resident committees” at Emerald Heights, giving resident volunteers lots of ways to be involved.
“If you don’t see something you want to do,” she said, “grab a friend and start a committee!”
As an example, she said that in the early months of the pandemic, probably late April or May, a resident called her and suggested creating thank-yous to show their appreciation for everything the staff was doing to help keep the community safe. They decided to take the many stacks of brown paper bags that had been used for meal deliveries and turn them into colorful thank-you signs, which were displayed all over the Emerald Heights campus. Hundreds of residents got involved in the effort.
“It was a lot of fun for the residents and the staff,” Nancy said.
Glenn called attention to several other efforts that resident volunteers have poured their energy into, such as the Toys for Charity program. Each year, those with woodworking skills make different kinds of toys to donate to local charities. Last year, he said, they ended up giving about 1,000 toys. This year, even though the woodshop was closed for several months, they still were able to give about 400 toys.
The sewing committee was another point of focus. In response to the widespread shortage of personal protective equipment earlier this year, resident volunteers set to work sewing thousands of masks, which were distributed to their neighbors, staff members and organizations outside of the community.
Focusing on Emotional and Mental Well-Being
Grant Linacre also mentioned that, along with assistance from LeadingAge Washington, an organization that works to advance solutions for senior care and housing, some of the residents worked to advocate for the safe reopening of the pool at Emerald Heights and those at other senior living communities.
“We’ve come up with very responsible rules around the use of the pool, which is not only a huge source of exercise but also overall emotional and mental well-being,” Grant said. “It has almost been a godsend to have the pool open again.”
Throughout the year, all of the residents had the chance to “find purpose and meaning in whatever the craziness of life was in the moment,” as Grant put it, whether it was by pitching in to deliver meals to other residents after the community dining venues closed to in-person dining, helping to wipe down handrails and other frequently touched surfaces in the campus common areas, or connecting with their neighbors via Zoom classes, weekly worship services and other virtual get-togethers on the in-house TV channel.
Looking Ahead with an Attitude of Resilience
Above all else this year, residents and staff have expressed their determination to continue creating the sense of community — the esprit de corps — that is such an integral feature of Emerald Heights.
That same determination will no doubt lead to additional opportunities to volunteer and form connections within and beyond the community. We’re already discussing how to turn the mentor program, in which resident volunteers help newcomers become acquainted with their neighbors and surroundings, into a virtual experience so they can safely continue to assist new residents with their transition to Emerald Heights.
We are offering virtual tours of Emerald Heights and personal tours by appointment. To set up a time to visit our community in person, call 866-553-4576 or fill out our contact form below.