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Generations Connect at VMRC

June 12, 2019

The sun is shining and VMRC’s front lawn fills with the joyful sound of children’s laughter as the Wellness Buddies gather for a Field Day event!

Wellness Buddies, which began in Spring 2018, pairs VMRC residents and Wellness Center members with area youth from the Simms Center Boys and Girls Club of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. The big and little buddies have been meeting twice a month throughout the school year and are together for a final event before the start of summer break. There are balloon tosses, egg races and a shaving cream Cheetos throw. The little buddies laugh as they see the big buddies donning silly hats and sunglasses to compete in a relay race. As the hour of fun comes to a close, the group shares in watermelon and other snacks before saying their goodbyes for the summer. They’ve spent the school year learning with and from one another as they joined in various activities like nature walks, art and swimming. On the surface, these get-togethers are light-hearted and fun, but on a deeper level, they’ve allowed both groups to interact with and develop meaningful long-term relationships with a different generation.

Wellness Buddies is just one of many ways that VMRC embraces intergenerational connection. GrandBigs, a resident/student partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters, began in 2015 and at the close of this school year, had grown to 10 GrandBig/Little matches. Several of the pairs have been together since the littles were in kindergarten! Another initiative this past school year was a Pen Pal program with English as a second language students from Skyline Middle School. Residents and students wrote back and forth to one another for several months before meeting in person. This allowed the students to practice their English reading and writing and allowed residents to learn more about the diverse population in Harrisonburg. 

VMRC’s interaction with students isn’t limited to elementary school. Its proximity to multiple institutions of higher learning allows for ample opportunity to host interns and nursing students as they gain experience and complete clinical requirements for their areas of study. The immediacy of Eastern Mennonite University, in particular, has provided several unique connections for resident and student engagement. In the fall of 2018, residents and EMU undergrads were classmates in a global literature class organized by EMU Professor, Martha Eads. The group met for weekly classes as well as took field trips together and enjoyed an end of semester meal in the home of Professor Eads. Read more about the class here. Currently, two EMU Master of Arts in Counseling students are living in a Park Village garden apartment as they volunteer in the assisted living pastoral care program and complete their graduate studies. VMRC residents can also be found mingling with students at the EMU tennis courts and while watching baseball games. 

Numerous events held throughout the year also encourage the coming together of the generations. Last fall, Life Enrichment hosted an outdoor festival for residents, staff and their children that included a petting zoo and pumpkin painting. In May, the second annual Bach for the Ages Concert was held on campus in partnership with the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival. The program encourages families to come and offers floor space right up front for children to sit close to the performing artists. The Park Gables Gallery features various art shows throughout the year with all ages encouraged to attend. One show featuring the works of area art teachers is particularly popular with teachers and their own children as well as students.

Although many of these intergenerational connections come from programs specially created to cultivate it, it happens in daily life at VMRC as well. With a staff of more than 400 ranging from teenagers to almost retirement age, there are five generations interacting with each other on a daily basis. It’s not uncommon to see a young employee chatting with a resident as he or she eats breakfast or to see a staff member sitting next to a resident at a campus-wide event. It’s a unique situation for those who live and work in a community such as VMRC and provides an irreplaceable opportunity for learning and engagement for everyone involved.



Meet VMRC's Outpatient Physical Therapist, Bhagwant Madane

May 8, 2019

Physical Therapist Bhagwant Madane landed at VMRC via California in May of 2015 and has found his niche. Born in India, Bhagwant earned his Bachelor’s in Physiotherapy from Sancheti Institute College of Physiotherapy. After three years of practicing physical therapy in a variety of settings including home health, sports-related, hospital and outpatient therapy, he moved to the U.S. and completed his Doctorate of Physical Therapy at California’s Loma Linda University. Bhagwant joined VMRC soon after graduation focusing primarily in in-patient rehab and some home health. In January of 2019, he made the move to full-time Outpatient Therapy.

With outpatient therapy, Bhagwant sees those who typically have a higher activity level than in-patient so treatment is geared towards getting a person back to their previous level of functionality and, in many cases, back to work. When asked what he enjoys about outpatient therapy at VMRC, Bhagwant says he “likes to see patients take ownership of their health and really work to improve their quality of life.”

In his spare time, Bhagwant enjoys sports, especially disc golf, music and traveling.


About VMRC Outpatient Therapy

VMRC partners with Select Rehabilitation, a leader in the contract rehabilitation services sector, to bring top-quality physical, occupational and speech therapy services to VMRC residents and the surrounding community. Prospective patients can schedule a free question-based screening to determine if they might benefit from treatment or a hands-on evaluation can be scheduled with a physician’s order. Each patient receives an individualized treatment plan developed by a licensed therapist that is based on their skill level and goals.  Treatment plans may include the VMRC Wellness Center’s gym equipment and/or water therapy in the Olympic-sized warm water pool.

VMRC Outpatient Therapy works with people of all ages and accepts Medicare, Workers’ Compensation and most insurance. To learn more, visit www.vmrc.org/outpatient-therapy

2019 Claude Hess Distinguished Service Award Recipients Named

April 19, 2019

Congratulations to Carolyn Nowlin and the late Pres Nowlin, recipients of this year's Claude Hess Distinguished Service Award. This couple was nominated by five different VMRC employees from five different areas of campus so it's evident that their impact on the VMRC community stretches across the entire campus.

As one nomination form read, "This couple certainly has service in their nature, if not in their genes. These volunteers reach out to others in a way that doesn’t make one feel like they are doing “for” you, but instead, are doing “with” you. They serve others regardless of age, status, ethnicity or other labels frequently attributed to “others”.

This couple's volunteer endeavors have included helping escort residents in wheelchairs to and from on and off campus programs, volunteering as a Grandbig at Waterman Elementary, helping in the Main Street Cafè as a Hospitality Host, serving on resident councils, supporting the VMRC Christmas gift fund, assisting with VMRC Foundation fundraising initiatives and escorting residents to and from Shining Cuts salon appointments.

Thank you for giving of your time and talents and touching so many lives at VMRC.

Meet the VMRC Supportive Living Social Services Team

March 18, 2019

The month of March is designated as National Social Work Month. Social work is defined as “work carried out by trained personnel with the aim of alleviating the conditions of those in need of help or welfare. VMRC is privileged to have a dedicated Supportive Living Social Services team. On any given day, you can find this team helping residents and families navigate being part of the VMRC community. Their work days include leading care and service plan meetings, coordinating move ins and move outs, planning discharges to help patients and families feel as prepared as possible to leave short term rehab and working with families to understand Medicare, insurance, appointments, and payments.

 Pictured L to R: Karen Mitchell, Mandy Slabaugh, Heath Hensley, Monica Rhodes, Megan Robertson

Karen Mitchell, Social Services Manager, Assisted Living

Karen has worked at VMRC for eight years. When asked what her typical day is like, Karen says “ a typical day for me involves following up and assisting residents and families, keeping service plans up-to-date, and assisting to coordinate the move in and move out processes for residents.”

Mandy Slaubaugh, Social Services Manager, Complete Living Care

Mandy will celebrate her five year anniversary at VMRC in April. When asked what her proudest moment has been thus far, she says “Working together to find creative solutions to a big problem.”

Heath Hensley, Social Services Assistant, AL and CLC

Heath recently graduated from James Madison University with a degree in Healthcare Administration and has worked at VMRC for about 16 months. One of the requirements of Heath’s degree program was an internship which he completed here at VMRC. Retaining Heath as an employee after his internship has been mutually exciting for the SL team and Heath.

Monica Rhodes, Patient Navigator, Transitional Care

Monica has worked at VMRC for more than 14 years. When asked what she would like people to know about her position, she said “I love that my coworkers have truly become like family. Who we work alongside of makes such a difference and I’m incredibly thankful to work with friends who enjoy having fun and also believe in working hard towards a common goal.”

Megan Robertson, Student Intern

Megan is a Mary Baldwin University intern working with Karen Mitchell. We are grateful to have Megan and appreciate her many daily contributions.

The VMRC Supportive Living Social Services team contributes significantly to VMRC being a community of hope, meaning and growth for people to age well, live fully!

Women's Caregiver Event Offers Support

February 20, 2019

Are you or someone you know a caregiver to a loved one? If so, you’re one of 43.5 million caregivers in the United States. And, if you’re female, you make up 75 percent of caregivers who are taking care of aging parents, children or their partners/spouses.

This year’s theme for Women in Focus will be on female caregivers: “Take Care: Stories, Songs & Prose for Caretakers.” The Arts Council of the Valley and Court Square Theater are presenting Women in Focus 2019 on Sunday, March 24 at Court Square Theater in downtown Harrisonburg. VMRC is the sponsoring organization because it believes strongly in the focus - to nurture, support and encourage female caregivers. Doors open at 2 p.m.; the program begins at 2:30 p.m.

Emily Young, VMRC’s Volunteer Services manager, will speak about “Self-care, Service and Survival” by sharing reflections on how incorporating meaningful service into your caregiving rhythm can positively impact many aspects of your own well-being.

“The last thing a busy, tired, burned out caregiver needs is another thing to do. But, as it relates to self-care, purposeful and personalized volunteerism might be just what the doctor ordered,” Emily said.

Presenters at the event will focus on the often overlooked side of caregiving: the needs of the caregiver and discuss preventative screenings for physical well-being as well as how to maintain mental health during difficult times.

Learn more about Women in Focus 2019 at valleyarts.org.


Resolution to Succeed

January 30, 2019

The start of a new year is synonymous with new goals – goals to eat better, goals to exercise more, and goals to treat our bodies better. As we settle into the year, however, it’s easy to let those goals fall by the wayside and stick with the same routine we’ve always had.


VMRC is privileged to have a vibrant and enthusiastic Wellness Center team who thrive on helping you achieve the goals you set for yourself. From one-on-one training to fitness classes to programs on brain health, healthy eating and living well with chronic conditions, the Wellness Center is a vast resource. Use it!

Meet the Wellness Center Team

Pictured from L to R:
(Back Row) Tori Mayes, Jessica Weirich, Anna Sommers
(Front Row) Brittany Williams, Melinda Noland.
Not pictured is Mario Estevez who was busy with a wellness center member at the time this photo was taken

Melinda Noland - Director, Wellness Center
Melinda has been in the role of Wellness Center Director for more than 4 years.  She has been in the Wellness/Fitness industry for over 15 years and in the healthcare programming field since graduating from JMU in 2001.  Melinda is a certified Group Fitness Instructor and regularly teaches classes on land and in the water.  Her energy is contagious making her a great fit for motivating others.  In Melinda’s spare time, she enjoys taking yoga classes, spending time exercising outside with her dogs (Howie and Maverick) and her husband Aaron, and she loves exploring new dining destinations in the Valley.     

Jessica Weirich - Manager, Wellness Center
Jessica’s passion for health and wellness began at a young age.  Raised in the Valley, she loved playing outside and being active.  Growing up, she played numerous sports and was a student trainer for the ladies tennis team during her senior year of high school. Believing that helping people become healthier and active was her drive in life, Jessica pursued a degree in Health Assessment and Promotion at James Madison University with a minor in Nutrition. After college, she became a certified personal trainer and worked as an Assistant Manager at a local gym in the area for 4 ½ years. About a year ago, through some amazing people, she was first informed about a position open here at VMRC Wellness Center. Jessica says “I couldn’t be more thankful for everyone here; the relationships give my heart so much joy!  I am able to promote health and wellness to residents and community members and give them the resources they need to age well and live fully!”

Mario Estevez, Aquatics Supervisor
Originally from El Salvador, Mario has worked at VMRC for 17 years and currently serves as the Aquatics Supervisor. Mario says he enjoys VMRC and his job because he is able to make others feel good by listening and helping members and residents. Mario is the father of two sons and a daughter and the grandfather of 4. He and his fiancé have one four-legged son, Max.

Tori Mayes, Fitness Assistant
Tori is a recent graduate of George Mason University with a degree in Kinesiology. Prior to the Wellness Center, she worked in a hospital-based rehab and fitness facility in Woodstock, VA. While there, she grew to love fitness for the older population, ultimately leading her to VMRC. Tori grew up in Shenandoah, VA and enjoys spending time with family and friends exploring the valley, going antiquing and on adventures with her blue heeler, Bella.

Anna Sommers, Fitness Assistant
Anna was born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley and graduated from Liberty University with a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology in May 2018. While in college, she coached middle school volleyball and basketball. Anna describes herself as having a “heart for people and lifetime fitness.” She enjoys exploring the outdoors and has a bucket list goal of hiking all of the trails in Virginia. 

Brittany Williams, Fitness Assistant
Brittany is a graduate of nearby Eastern Mennonite University with an undergrad degree in Recreational Leadership and Sport Studies, and minors in Coaching, Exercise Science, and Psychology. While at EMU, she participated in several clubs/ organizations, helped with the campus’ Campus Ministries and ran track all four years. In her free time, she enjoys coaching high school competition and sideline cheerleading, catching up on Netflix shows and attempting to recreate ideas found on Pinterest.

If you aren’t yet a member of the Wellness Center, see what it’s all about with a one-week free trial membership. And, take advantage of special February savings with 50% off the enrollment fee.






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“For us, volunteering gives us the opportunity to meet people from all areas of the VMRC campus and has broadened our perspective and understanding of the community we now call ‘home’.”

- Carter and Mary Ellen Lyons