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Residents Helping Residents: Coming Together for Support, Shared Interests During COVID-19

Amidst the changes and uncertainty of the last several months, one thing has remained the same – we are here for each other. While COVID-19 has upended so much about “life as usual,” our resilient residents have found ways to adapt, connect and care for their neighbors.

As a retired occupational therapist, resident Dorie built a career helping people maintain the skills they need to complete activities for daily living. Upon moving to Essex Meadows three years ago, Dorie wanted to continue helping people find joy through mental and physical wellness. She found an opportunity right away to participate in the resident health committee.

“My role has been incredibly rewarding, but it takes all of us to be successful,” Dorie said. “This committee is a real team effort, and I am so thankful for everyone.”

Dorie says that prior to COVID-19, the health committee members would volunteer in the Health Center working with Ann Swaller, the Activities Director, to augment activities for the residents there. Since the start of the pandemic, the committee has not been able to go to the Health Center. However, they have worked with the Resident Health Service and the social worker, who provided a list of residents on the independent side who needed special help adjusting to the isolation and lack of structure.

“With the lovely spring and summer weather, we were able to see individuals outdoors,” Dorie said. In addition, Dorie says that her predecessor as chair of the Health Committee, resident Judy, started the Reading to Connect Program for the residents on the independent side of Essex Meadows. There are now three groups of leaders for this great program, which will restart in November.

Resident Bob has also enjoyed volunteering his time to connect with his neighbors.

“My wife, Nan, and I enjoy meeting new residents and inviting them to do socially-distanced drinks or dinner,” said Bob, Essex Meadows resident. “While the last several months have certainly been interesting, I can’t imagine moving into a new community right now – but that’s why Essex Meadows is so special; we support each other and want this to feel like home for everyone.”

Bob says his inclusive attitude comes from his 22-year military career, where he was fortunate enough to meet new people across the country. He and Nan brought that same positive, caring attitude to Essex Meadows when they moved in nine years ago. “When you have to move regularly, you are always in a new place – that attitude of, let’s make everyone feel welcome and included that’s just what we did on base.”

In addition, Bob was asked to show movies twice on Saturdays and once on Sundays, once the pandemic started as he had been involved with Hamilton Hall electronics. Residents can then watch these movies in Hamilton Hall, the Billiards Room, or on a local television channel.  With the exception of one weekend, Bob has been doing this since late March.

Along with socially distant gatherings, Essex Meadows residents have been finding more time to enjoy the outdoors. Nikki, chair of the resident gardens and the landscape committee respectively, has been a life-long amateur gardener and was immediately drawn to the opportunity Essex Meadows provides to continue gardening and to work with other gardeners and those interested in the landscape.

The Resident Gardens have 27 raised beds and several ground beds available for residents to have their own plot to cultivate. “The abundance of blossoms and color was spectacular this year. The joy is shared not solely by the gardeners but with those who walk or take one of the golf carts out there to enjoy the sun, read or meet with a friend.

Gardening is good for the soul and particularly this summer when leaving the property was limited. Tending our gardens was a true respite during this time. Unable to go out and peruse the nurseries, we were fortunate that local vendors were willing to deliver seedlings and supplies to us,” said Nikki.

Nikki goes on to say that she has enjoyed chairing the landscape committee as it provides an opportunity for those who love gardens and gardening to share that common interest and to be involved in landscaping decisions at Essex Meadows. Relevant policies are reviewed and updated, as necessary. Members become involved in various projects supporting Essex Meadows’ focus on plants native to the area. A current project involves identifying wildflowers in the front meadow and producing a brochure for interested residents. In addition, Nikki says the committee voted to purchase an additional bench and table to make an outdoor area more accessible to those residents who live in the rear wings. “The committee voted to dedicate the bench in honor of our COVID-19 caregivers,” said Nikki. “We were pleased the resident council approved this expenditure.”

The Essex Meadows grounds staff keeps the committee informed of its activities and projects and the committee in turn has a voice. The fact that Essex Meadows has so much land, paths and sitting areas, has been a boon and blessing for residents this summer, when trips outside were not possible. “Any role the committee can play in making the property more attractive is rewarding,” said Nikki.

Another shining example of resident contribution is also found at Meadows Mart, the resident-run store which provides a select item of groceries and dry goods for purchase. The history of Meadows Mart is founded in the spirit of volunteerism from the residents, who have used the proceeds from the store for projects and donations as identified by the Resident Council. “During the pandemic, this was really a full team effort,” said John, resident and president of Meadows Mart, Inc. “We had our transportation team make runs to and from the grocery store, and our food and beverage team was critical in providing items that were difficult to get. Our housekeeping staff was also there helping take orders.”

As Meadows Mart transitions from a business entity to a committee-run store, residents would like to give John special thanks for his tireless commitment as president of the store. During the pandemic, John played an instrumental role in delivering groceries and fulfilling orders so residents could get what they needed.

Thank you to all our residents to have come together to support each other during this time!