Part of: Member Ideas and Inspirations: Coronavirus

Touching stories and anecdotes from the front lines.

Member Story #14: How Small Acts of Kindness Make a Difference in a Crisis
Member Story #13: LPC Helps a Children’s Center Continue to Serve Vulnerable Clients During the Pandemic
Member Story #12: Provider Makes an Inspirational Video of Remembrance
Member Story #11: Provider Receives Out-of-This-World Thank You from Residents
Member Story #10: Couple Reunited After 6-Plus Weeks of Quarantine, With Great TV Coverage
Member Story #9: A Creative Video of Thanks for Frontline Workers
Member Story #8: A “Live Well” Parade Brings Residents and Staff Together
Member Story #7: Provider Launches Weekly “Prayer for the World” Conference Call
Member Story #6: A Music Video Highlighting Positive Spirits of Staff and Residents
Member Story #5: “Discharge Dances” for Residents Who Have Recovered from Coronavirus
Member Story #4: National Guard Helps Provider Protect Against Coronavirus
Member Story #3: Residents Let Off Steam With a Nightly Howl, Enjoy Live Music
Member Story #2: Touching Profile of a Resident Living Under COVID-19 Restrictions
Member Story #1: A Simple Human Connection


Member Story #14: How Small Acts of Kindness Make a Difference in a Crisis

Editor’s note: Thanks to Shiela Wallace, media relations for The Ohio Masonic Home, Springfield, OH, for contributing this piece. Part of this article was picked up by The Medina County Gazette.

As 2020 came to a close, many of us are feeling overwhelmed and struggling with the stress COVID-19 has caused in our lives. We are trying to find the positive and oftentimes we are not handling everyday life very easily. Everyone wants life to “go back to normal,” but instead people are hearing the phrase “our new normal.” Everyone wants to know what that phrase means. Most importantly, everyone wants to know, when is it going to end?

The Ohio Masonic Home (OMH) has felt stress from the pandemic, but they never forget to give back in support of the community. “Small acts of kindness are a way of life,” says Robert Lane, corporate director of procurement. “Sometimes, it’s a way to say thank you.”

Our Browning Masonic Community (BMC) reached out throughout 2020 with many “small acts of kindness” for residents, staff, their families, and the Waterville community. Lasagna dinners were donated for 40 Waterville firemen. Chef Gary created cookie decorating kits for BMC staff to take home to their families. For those who didn’t feel safe going to the grocery, their weekly grocery shopping was done for them.

Sidewalk chalk messages were left for those living in the villas. Everyone got to enjoy the “shop small” concept. BMC bought in bulk from small businesses and surprised everyone with little gifts. And we can’t forget the regular parades that brightened everyone’s day as they went through the BMC campus.

Our Springfield Masonic Community (SMC) reached out to first responders to make sure they had the PPE they needed. Some was shared with the Springfield Police Department.

While supporting the local police, SMC did the 12 days of Christmas with gifts for SMC employees. This community has been providing lunch to the staff for free since COVID-19 began. The employees’ children were not forgotten, as they enjoyed Trick-or-Treat goodie bags for Halloween while hosting a virtual costume contest. SMC held a virtual gift exchange over the holidays. Transportation is provided for community members who need to go grocery shopping. Church services have been taped and aired on the in-house TV channel.

In Medina, our Western Reserve Masonic Community (WRMC) donated supplies to The Children’s Center of Medina County, as well as PPE to the Medina Township Police departments. WRMC donated gifts to be included in holiday bags to the Medina County Office for Older Adults, for its Meals on Wheels deliveries. The community also donated 20 cases of shampoo to the Medina County Veterans Office for its 10th Annual Tank the Truck, which will go to veterans living in Medina County.

WRMC keeps its dining hall refrigerators stocked with complimentary food for employees to grab. The annual rummage sale got a new twist this year—it was a furniture sale for the employees.

All of these “small acts of kindness” are just what everyone needs to make people feel better, and in turn make ourselves feel better too. It may be the smile that we can only see in their eyes above the mask—or an unexpected kind word. What is small to one person may be a grand gesture to the next.

Member Story #13: LPC Helps a Children’s Center Continue to Serve Vulnerable Clients During the Pandemic

This story (edited for length) was written by Shiela Wallace, media consultant for The Ohio Masonic Home.

In our country we have historically seen some beautiful connections born during the most trying times, and this one is no exception. It started when Kimberly Valco, community relations manager for Western Reserve Masonic Community, Medina, OH, met Rhonda Wurgler, executive director of The Children’s Center of Medina County. They formed a bond that will stand the test of time.

The Children’s Center of Medina County works with children of all ages, from infancy up through 18. It works with young people who are dealing with difficult and heart-breaking issues, including physical and sexual abuse as well as human trafficking. It also works with children that are in the foster care system.

Western Reserve Masonic Community is a life plan community, serving adults aged 55 and up. So how do these totally different entities form a connection when they seem to have nothing in common?

Valco listened to Wurgler talk about the struggles that the children’s center was experiencing due to the pandemic. The Center was working to find PPE and cleaning supplies to keep its daily operations running safely. Kimberly heard the stories of staff going from store to store, just to find basic necessities to keep the Center operational. Valco decided to step outside her daily routine and help.

The Children’s Center was not like everyone else—sheltering in place during the pandemic. Visits to the Center, in fact, have more than doubled. With that huge increase in visits, sadly, there is always an increase in abuse cases during these times. Abuse still happens, but because of the lockdowns, abused children do not routinely see the safe adults who typically report abuse. Home is not a safe place for everyone, and these children may be isolated at home with their abusers.

Valco began working with Rob Lane, corporate director for procurement, who helped procure the needed supplies and sent them to the Center.

“Frankly, given the heritage of The Ohio Masonic Home, originally being a children’s home in the early 1900s, it felt like we had a chance to go back to our roots as an organization while providing assistance to our neighbors today,” Lane says.

The first delivery of supplies has arrived to much excitement. Most people don’t get too excited over hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies, but if that’s what is needed to keep the children of Medina County healthy and safe, it’s very gratifying. It means the Center can continue to work with and educate hundreds of young people who come through their doors every day.

Member Story #12: Provider Makes an Inspirational Video of Remembrance

On March 10, Lambeth House, a full-continuum provider in New Orleans, LA, learned of its first confirmed COVID-19 case. It came approximately 3 weeks after independent living residents had actively joined the city of New Orleans in celebrating Mardi Gras, where festivities extended for weeks. Those activities would create the perfect storm for the residents and leadership team of Lambeth House because they took place immediately before it was known how rampant COVID-19 was in the New Orleans area.

In addition to isolation, illness, and death brought by the pandemic, the local press was brutal, portraying the community as a place to die. What the media failed to report, however, was the community’s resilience and its success at controlling the virus at a time when very little was known about it. It wasn’t reported that by March 29, there were no further contagious positive cases of residents at Lambeth House, and there hasn’t been one since.

Leaders at Lambeth House created a video, “Lambeth Strong,” to show how its residents and staff have weathered the storm. In a focus group with residents, COO Jeré Hales was inspired by a resident’s comment.

“One of them said it was hard for her and her neighbors—and she had lost her husband—'but we always find a way.’”

“That brought tears to my eyes,” says Hales. “I’m not a poet, I don’t write … it’s not my thing, but the words just flowed and I jotted them down, and sent them to this resident’s box.”

Hales’ poem struck a chord with the Lambeth House marketing team. One team member knows musician Kristin Diable, who agreed to write music for the poem and record the song, “We Find a Way.”

See the “Lambeth Strong” video at the organization’s Facebook page, or at YouTube. It is mostly a collage of still photos collected over the course of the pandemic, with some video included.

“It’s been therapeutic, cathartic,” says Hales. “We’ve gotten incredible feedback. The residents have expressed gratitude for how the song and video was able to capture their remarkable experience.”

Member Story #11: Provider Receives Out-of-This-World Thank You from Residents

When the residents of Lenbrook, a life plan community in Atlanta, GA, decided to thank the organization for its work during the pandemic, they thought way, way, way out of the box.

One Lenbrook resident knows a NASA scientist, Dr. Tony Phillips, who is involved with Earth to Sky Calculus, an organization founded by a group of high school students in 2010.

Several times per month, Earth to Sky Calculus sends special helium balloons aloft, “to search for new life forms in the stratosphere and to monitor the effects of cosmic radiation on Earth’s atmosphere.” The balloons routinely achieve altitudes of 112,000 feet (more than 21 miles). Once that altitude is reached, the balloon breaks, and a parachute brings the camera and instruments down. The program raises money, in part, by allowing people to send objects up with the balloons, to be photographed while in the stratosphere.

The Lenbrook residents sent up a sign that reads, “Lenbrook’s management is HIGHLY valued by all residents.” Framed against the background of the Earth below, it’s an arresting photo.

Learn more, and see the photo from space, at the Lenbrook website.

“I am humbled when I think about what our residents have had to endure and what our associates have had to balance by coming to work—with their pressures at home and the challenges at work,” says Lenbrook President and CEO Chris Keysor. “To see what great lengths our residents have gone to show their appreciation is extraordinary.”

Member Story #10: Couple Reunited After 6-Plus Weeks of Quarantine, With Great TV Coverage

Hooverwood, Indianapolis, IN, was the site of a heartwarming scene when residents Joyce and Don Hoffman were reunited after being separated for 6 weeks by the coronavirus.

Joyce Hoffman tested positive for the virus on May 1 and the couple had to live separately. Fortunately, her symptoms were mild.

Staff arranged the homecoming as a surprise for Don. The couple, both age 90, have been married for 67 years.

The story got strong television coverage, including appearances on the Today Show and on ABC News (the latter video is the better of the 2).

Member Story #9: A Creative Video of Thanks for Frontline Workers

The finance team at Presbyterian Senior Living, Dillsburg, PA, put together a clever video, “A Quaran ‘team’ Message,” to thank frontline staff. It features brief appearances by 29 staff, who keep the narrative moving along, one word at a time. You’ll have to watch the whole video to see how the message comes together.

Member Story #8: A “Live Well” Parade Brings Residents and Staff Together

The independent living team at Bluestem Communities, Hesston, KS, has been intentional about connecting with residents every week. One week it was cookie delivery; during another week, staff delivered “hugs”—in the form of Hershey’s chocolates.

In the last week of April, the communities held a Live Well parade, involving 400-plus independent living residents at Kidron Bethel Village (North Newton) and Schowalter Villa (Hesston). Residents were sent advance emails about preparations, inviting them to make posters, dance, wave and wear their Bluestem Communities shirts.

“They definitely got creative and made some amazing posters,” says Director of Communications Morgan Redding. “As staff drove by, they played music, threw candy, and took photos and videos.”

At Showalter Villa, the kids from an on-campus childcare center participated as well.

A “teaser video” of the parade is available; the full parade is covered on the Bluestem website, and on its Facebook page.

A few residents commented on the parade:

  • “Thanks for the fun parade by all of the staff. So many of you joined! And so many of the residents stayed afterwards to visit. It was great! Thanks for your planning this!”
  • “Thank you for the Live Well Parade! I loved it; you all gave us a boost! That was really fun.”
  • “We liked the nice craziness of the parade!”

Member Story #7: Provider Launches Weekly “Prayer for the World” Conference Call

“We’re one world, fighting the same battle.”

That’s how Keisha Clark, director of development at the Stoddard Baptist Home Foundation, Washington, DC, describes the thought behind her idea to create “A Prayer for the World.”

Originally conceived as a one-time, dial-in conference call for prayers led by a pastor, the concept is now a regular weekly event, offering prayers for the whole world as it fights COVID-19.

A link to A Prayer for the World is on the Stoddard Baptist COVID-19 webpage. It is scheduled for Wednesdays, 1:30 p.m. Eastern. The call-in number is 319-527-3511, and the access code is 245464. Stoddard asks that callers skip their name announcement, and keep their phones on mute.

“We invite a different pastor each week. I share with them our mission and how it’s not specific to our organization, but to coronavirus and the plight of the world,” Clark says. “We get different perspectives.” Guest ministers have been from the Washington, DC, area, but Clark says she is recruiting pastors from other parts of the country for future prayers.

“We have a schedule, to stay on topic and within a certain time period, because for health care workers, time is precious,” Clark adds. She serves as moderator and introduces the minister. Steve Nash, Stoddard Baptist Home president and CEO, includes brief remarks as well.

“I’ve had donors and supporters reach out to ask us if we want to continue doing this,” Clark says. “People really feel the need to come together and pray as a body, and it has struck a chord with a lot of people. It’s humbling to hear people say they are excited for next week’s call.

“We’re one world, fighting the same battle. We all need prayer.”

Member Story #6: A Music Video Highlighting Positive Spirits of Staff and Residents

Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS), Cincinnati OH, has produced a positive, fun music video highlighting the great work by their employees and residents during the coronavirus crisis.

Laura Lamb, president & CEO, sent a link and the story behind the video:

“I know you will agree that we are all tired of hearing the negative sound bites about nursing homes during this pandemic.

“We at ERS wanted to help. You may have heard that Tennessee’s governor asked the music industry to come up with songs for PSAs for the state. Big and Rich came up with a song, ‘Stay Home.’ Great content in lyrics that support handwashing and staying home. Being an 80s child myself, growing up with MTV, I enlisted the help of our risk management team to produce a music video for our residents and staff. The goal was to add some joy into our day.

“Our Risk Management Team—who often are perceived internally as the ‘rule team’—wanted to do something fun, yet in keeping with all of our messaging about safety. They made a music video with our residents and staff that [is guaranteed] to make you smile.”

Enjoy the ERS video here.

Member Story #5: “Discharge Dances” for Residents Who Have Recovered from Coronavirus

The Jewish Home Family, Rockleigh, NJ, has had COVID-19-positive residents, and has started a tradition of “Discharge Dances” by staff to welcome recovered residents back to their apartments:

Jewish Home Family staff has also been decorating their PPE masks, isolation gowns, etc. with slogans and witty puns. There is another video of a PPE fashion show put on by employees.

Member Story #4: National Guard Helps Provider Protect Against Coronavirus

After Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced, on April 2, that the National Guard would be mobilized to help disinfect Georgia nursing homes, Lenbrook, Atlanta, GA, was contacted by the National Guard.

The organization’s COVID-19 Task Force welcomed the opportunity. On April 9, 42 troops (3 National Guard platoons) arrived at Lenbrook and worked for 8 hours over 2 days. The troops’ remit was to disinfect places the virus could hide or linger, not to clean. They worked in common areas, laundry and maintenance areas, the health care center, and assisted living.

John Clark, Lenbrook Nursing Home administrator, wrote an interesting account of the visit (including photos), available on the Lenbrook website.

Member Story #3: Residents Let Off Steam With a Nightly Howl, Enjoy Live Music

At Kavod Senior Life, Denver, CO, residents are getting involved in the 8 p.m. “howling” that’s been going on in many communities. On April 16, some Kavod residents joined with neighboring apartment complexes in full force.

Enjoy the howling here.

One participant, Mardene, says, “I've been howling every night! I'm in the East building facing east, so the big apartment buildings in front of me howl long and loud—lots of young people with cowbells and flashing lights!

“It's so freeing to draw in a huge breath and let it rip!”

On April 22, Kavod invited a ragtime band to play outside resident apartments—15 minutes on each side of the building. (See a local news article on the band’s visit.) On April 29, Kavod invited bagpipers and drums to play.

“The band choices are ones that can be loud, so we can project all the way up to our highest floors,” says Christie Ziegler, director of communications and marketing.

Kavod is supplying a beverage of choice (beer, boxed/canned wine, or soda), delivered to residents’ doors, so they can enjoy happy hour.

Member Story #2: Touching Profile of a Resident Living Under COVID-19 Restrictions

A recent article in the Dallas Morning News is a touching and entertaining profile of a resident at CC Young Senior Living, Dallas, TX.

The article, “Does coronavirus worry a 94-year-old Marine who survived World War II? How Dallas elders see the pandemic,” by Metro columnist Sharon Grigsby, profiles resident John Gould.

Gould, a retired American Heart Association employee and piano tuner (he became the latter at age 65), is a church leader, trumpeter, woodworker, and long-time CC Young resident.

The article includes his good advice for everyone: “Take it easy, pray for each other and look after your neighbors, even if you don’t know them that well—especially those who are lonely or really fragile.”

Member Story #1: A Simple Human Connection

This story comes direct from Jeannee Parker Martin, president and CEO of LeadingAge California:

“Yesterday [April 1], my son, Christopher, who lives in Philadelphia, told me that he called an 85-year-old man whom he had befriended while in college. He hadn’t heard from him for 6-9 months, and when he called him several times the past few weeks, there was no answer.

“He was driving by this gentleman’s house early yesterday morning so he decided to go up and knock on the door (social distancing of course) to make sure he was okay. A young man answered the door, and told him the older man had sold the house and moved into a nearby retirement community. Christopher learned that the community is The Hill at Whitemarsh, a LeadingAge member in Lafayette Hill, PA.

“[My son] called the front desk and asked to be connected to his [friend]. He was immediately connected, and lo and behold, the older man was doing fine and Christopher was glad to speak with him. We don’t get too many happy stories these days, and I really liked that he didn’t stop at the first ‘no answer.’”

Visit our COVID-19 resources section for more resources.

LeadingAge wants to hear from you! Tell us stories of how your organization is adapting and innovating to manage with the coronavirus crisis. We are looking for stories about: staff management, worker welfare, and recruitment; childcare; care and services for residents and clients; personal protective equipment (PPE); communication; food services; advocacy; resident engagement; heartwarming anecdotes; and more.

Contact Gene Mitchell at gmitchell@leadingage.org or 202-508-9424.