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Resident Led Initiatives

October 1, 2019

Oftentimes a simple idea turns into something much larger than one may have imagined. Today’s blog post features several resident-led initiatives and programs that were formed from the passion and foresight of one or a few residents.

Juried Art Exhibition: Coming up on its 17th year, the Juried Art Exhibition began in 2004 as part of VMRC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Resident Betty Curry had a keen sense of how to bring the community to VMRC and did just that by hosting a national multimedia juried art exhibition on campus. From the start, residents Anne Shifflet and Irene Rebholz assisted Betty in making this vision a reality. Originally intended to be a one-time exhibit, it was held the next year due to its popularity and thus turned in to an annual event. Anne Pauley joined the team in 2006 and took the reins from Betty as director in 2007. Anne has since fully funded an endowment that will provide a foundation of annual support for future exhibitions. As of 2019, the fund is fully intact and continues to grow each year. Over the years, all but 5 states -- North and South Dakota, Montana, Nevada and Idaho -- have been represented in the exhibition. The show is now a hallmark of the VMRC community and draws thousands of people to the VMRC campus each June to see some of the finest pieces of artwork from around the county.

Transitional Care Center: John and Evelyn Heltzel were volunteers at The Mennonite Home, currently the site of the Woodland Park Homes, to be involved with John’s mother’s care. In 2000, the Heltzel’s moved John’s mother to the newly opened Park Gables. Several years later, in 2004, Evelyn required rehab after her return from the hospital and VMRC had nothing to offer. John proposed the idea of a rehab center and in conversation with management, VMRC agreed with John to receive $50,000 to establish the first 5 rooms and a small gym in Oak Lea for rehab. Evelyn died shortly after, but John continued his support of the rehab program until his death and left a sizable gift through his estate to establish the John and Evelyn Heltzel Endowment for Transitional Care. The funds are used to maintain up-to-date equipment for Transitional Care and the endowment nearly matches what John was giving annually until his death.

Shenandoah Valley Lyceum: The Lyceum was founded through the visionary efforts of Karl and Millicent Stutzman, residents of Park Village. Karl’s vision for the establishment of this program was that VMRC should offer and provide a series of lectures, concerts and entertainment for not only residents but the wider community. He gave the first gift in 2002 for the series. When Karl passed away, the family decided to fulfill his dream and the first gift came in December 2006. The family quickly decided to leave a lasting legacy of the lyceum and provide ongoing income through an endowed fund. The Shenandoah Valley Lyceum has created a unique opportunity to bring renowned speakers, musicians and entertainers to VMRC and fulfill Karl’s vision of engaging the broader community.

These are just a few of many resident-inspired events that have had a profound impact on the VMRC community and the greater Harrisonburg community. We are grateful for those who have been called to fulfill a passion and have given their time and resources to see it through to fruition.

2019-2020 Shenandoah Valley Lyceum Announcement

August 23, 2019

The 16th Season of the Shenandoah Valley Lyceum begins September 13 at VMRC’s Detwiler Auditorium. Each year a carefully curated group of authors, artists, musicians and storytellers come to VMRC to share their craft, enhancing the cultural and intellectual life of both residents and the greater community.

2019-2020 Lyceum Season

Ticket Information:

Single Tickets: $8 in advance; $10 at the Door
Season Ticket: $25
Lifetime Pass: $100

Tickets may be purchased in person at the VMRC Wellness Center (1481 Virginia Ave.) or by calling 540-574-3850.

The Lyceum is funded in part by the VMRC Shenandoah Valley Lyceum Endowment

Q&A with new Dining Team Members

July 30, 2019

VMRC has recently had the pleasure of welcoming several new staff members to the Dining team. A new Head Pastry Chef and Director of Dining started recently and the newly created position of Retail Operations Manager has been filled. Read on to learn a little more about who they are, why they chose to work at VMRC and the plans they have for the future of Dining! 

Michelle Wempe – Head Pastry Chef

Originally from South Dakota, Michelle graduated from the Culinary Institute of Charleston with a baking/pastry degree. She is an avid Harry Potter and baking fan and talks about both often!

What drew you to VMRC?
The ability to grow and be as creative as I wanted. I loved the idea of running my own bakery and so much creativity involved.

What’s your top priority for the next six months?
To grow the bakery and make the public aware that the bakery is completely homemade products made in house daily.

What most excites you for the future of VMRC dining?
I’m excited to be able to invent and try out new desserts for residents to try. I hope they'll be a conversation starter around the dining room table.

Chris Tetrault – Retail Operations Manager

Chris is originally from Northern VA (Ashburn) and graduated from JMU in May 2014 with a Business Management degree. Prior to VMRC, he worked for JMU Dining for five years as a Retail Manager. Two years ago he decided to further his education and was accepted to JMU’s Innovation MBA program. Chris enjoys staying busy and working with people, and VMRC has been a great fit! He has two Border Collie dogs (Duke & Bailey) and lives in Harrisonburg.

What made you choose to work at VMRC?
What really drew me to VMRC was the friendly atmosphere, the exciting vision, and it is a community I can see myself growing professionally in. I could immediately see that people cared for each other, and it was a place I wanted to be a part of.

What does a typical day look like in your role?
A typical day for me is staying hands-on in the café and supporting my team. I enjoy getting to learn from everyone I work with and bringing new ideas to the table. I spend a lot of time developing others, while also getting to learn new things every day from our residents and staff.

If you weren’t working in this field, what would your dream career be?
If I was not in this field, my dream career would be working hospitality management in another country. Preferably somewhere warm! I recently went on a trip to Vietnam and Thailand as part of my MBA program where we visited international companies, and learning a new culture was very exciting.

Michael Friend – Director of Dining

Michael has 20 successful years as a General Manager. He leads by example and develops strong teams dedicated to quality, service, and exceeding guest’s expectation. Michael has 3 adult children. His youngest graduated from UVA this May. Michael worked on the Island of Antigua for the previous 4 years. He is grateful to be back in Virginia surrounded by family and enjoying time with them! Michael enjoys hiking and appreciating God’s amazing beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Michael also enjoys landscaping, working out, and playing basketball.

What drew you to VMRC?
I believe with all my heart VMRC was an answer to prayer, it was a “calling”. There were other options, and I asked God to make it clear what door to walk through. He answered definitively, and Christ led me here. The genuine passion of VMRC Leadership, the residents and their relationships with each other and VMRC staff, made it immediately clear VMRC is a special place.

What does a typical day look like in your role?
In Dining/Food and Beverage, there really isn’t a typical day. Each day has priorities of its own. Most mornings I do a “good morning” walk visiting each area of dining, speaking with our team. I then assess the day’s priorities and add them to that day’s calendar. I enjoy spending peak meal times in one of our dining venues. My days include continuous communication with my leaders and team members and my door is typically open as I welcome conversation with residents.

What’s your top priority for the next six months?
My top three priorities include enhancements to our Café that more prominently feature our bakery and farm, developing tools to daily assist my managers in being wise financial stewards and improving consistency and continuously offering healthy options.

Inspiring Mature Travelers

July 3, 2019

Summer is peak travel season and planning ahead can make for a smooth trip. For travelers 50 and older, if a trip entails a lot of walking, it’s important to know one’s abilities and limitations. Cindy Jones with Earman Travel in Harrisonburg said senior travelers have different activity levels, so she always asks her clients if they have any mobility issues.
“Walking on uneven surfaces, cobblestone surfaces or steps can pose a concern for some people,” she said.
When making arrangements for older clients, Jones, a certified accessible travel advocate, asks them if anything (about their health) has changed since the last time they traveled. She has clients who are visually and hearing impaired as well as clients who may be immuno-compromised, use oxygen or may use a wheelchair/power chair.
Part of the services Jones provides includes verifying that room and bathroom design features are “accessible” for the client who needs an accessible room such as a roll-in shower. “It’s important to communicate any medical supplies needed when traveling – whether it be oxygen or a walker.”
Travelers who take medication should be familiar with the do’s and don’ts associated with packing medication, especially since states have individual laws pertaining to the labeling of prescription medications. The Transportation Security Administration website offers important tips on packing medication for domestic and international trips.
Opinions on securing travel insurance can vary as much as the types of travel insurance available. Coverage is available for vacations to theme parks, international travel, medical evacuations or other medical emergencies.
Dave Eshleman, 78 and wife, Joyce Eshleman, 73, of Harrisonburg have traveled to the Middle East, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Rome and Greece. As travelers and trip organizers for tour companies in the United States and Canada, they recommend travel insurance.
“With an investment of [$2,000-$4,000] it is strongly recommended for older individuals because of the uncertainty with health issues and in the case of lost suitcases,” according to Dave Eshleman.
Jones recommends travel insurance to all of her clients when there are portions of their trips that are pre-paid and are non-refundable.
Travel insurance “would entitle them, pending claim approval, to a full refund of non-refundable trip costs if they are canceling for a covered reason,” she said.
The most common reasons for canceling a trip are injury, sickness or death of them, their traveling companion(s) or immediate family members.
Packing can be a dilemma for some travelers. To keep the content of her bags organized, Joyce Eshleman uses 2.5 gallon plastic bags for her clothes – an outfit in a single bag.

“They keep the suitcase in order, plus the bags play a dual role in making it easier to store dirty clothes,” she said.
On a recent trip to Egypt, traveler Betty Chappell, age 74 of Penn Laird, used a small, lightweight backpack instead of a pocketbook. “It worked well to hold things I would need during the day, and I could stuff a jacket in it. Chappell said she often overpacks for trips. “However, I think packing cubes are really helpful for keeping things organized. It’s helpful to have small zippered bags to keep things I may not need every day. I have one for hand sanitizers, tissues, etc. One for first-aid things,” she said.
Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, the federal government will require travelers to present an upgraded REAL ID compliant credential to board domestic flights. Until then, you can use your current Virginia driver’s license or identification card to board a plane.
“As far as who should get a REAL ID it really boils down to personal preference,” said Heather Ream, director of Marketing & Communications for the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport. “I would say anyone who travels at least once every couple of years (or may need to enter a military base) would benefit from just upgrading. A full-size passport or passport wallet card are also REAL ID compliant if travelers would prefer to use this form of identification.”

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


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“The response from the VMRC community of staff and residents has been quite welcoming.  We've enjoyed meeting friends old and new which has been very enriching.”

- New VMRC Resident, 2018