Author Archives: Jeff Smith

Seven years, no itch

Posted on

For seven years, Jeanine Schneider has planned and carried out the activities for residents of Vista Prairie at River Heights in South St. Paul, MN. Jeanine is busy preparing for indoor activities prior to another Minnesota winter. She’s responsible for residents on the assisted living side of the community and for the more specialized activities required in the memory care suites.

“If we’re doing an activity that not everyone can do, I’ll try to improvise,” Jeanine says. “Like maybe a memory care resident can look at a gardening book but not actually garden, or they can feel the dirt in their hands and get that tactile sensation.”

River Heights residents harvested fresh veggies this past growing season, cucumbers and tomatoes, as well as a variety of blooming flowers. The gardens also yielded lots of satisfaction.

“It’s the joy, knowing that ‘I grew this,’” for the residents. “Sometimes we do it from seeds, sometimes not.” While the tomatoes started as plants, the cucumbers came from seeds. Gardening isn’t the only source of joy at River Heights.

“I started this new thing. We give quarters if someone wins in Bingo and the residents get such a bang out of it,” Jeanine remarks. “Lately, I’ll pick one game out of the whole Bingo tournament and say, ‘If you win, all your tablemates win.’”

Jeanine also recognizes how much joy she gets out of seeing the residents joyful and having fun. “I’d want someone to take care of me and do things with me when I get older.” Fortunately for River Heights, that time is not near.

No seven-year itch for Jeanine, “I love it. This is kind of one big family.”

River Heights offers assisted living in 44 apartments in addition to its 16 memory care suites. Want to learn more about River Heights? Call Michael at 651-326-6501. He’s happy to give you a tour and introduce you to the whole dedicated staff.

Rita is moving to a new menu

Posted on

Rita Gronski may be most comfortable in her chef’s coat, but with praise and support from many residents like Dwight, she’s now serving from a new menu – the role of Executive Director for Vista Prairie at Brentwood in Rice Lake, WI. The promotion was official on September 27.

Rita not only was responsible for providing delicious meals and snacks at Brentwood for 11 years, but she’s also managed one of the community’s most complex departments ensuring that residents have the right nutrition for their specific needs. Her 30 years of experience in senior care have taught her that it’s all about choice.

“The residents here have a choice in their menu,” Rita explains. “When they come here, they have their voice and their choice in food, where they may have given up their choice about things like driving. If they have a recipe that they’ve made from when they were a kid, we will bring it into to the kitchen and we will make it.”

Dwight sees this personal touch as a compelling advantage about Brentwood, especially for his sweet tooth, “I relate to the variety of food. For instance, we have a lot of homemade desserts here.”

Rita will continue to spend time with new residents when they move in, “I want to know them. This is my time to visit with them and know their likes and dislikes.”

Rita’s leadership skills and devotion to the customer come in part from her ownership of an area family restaurant prior to becoming Brentwood’s culinary manager. A dietary management certification from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls provided her academic training.  Her work-ethic goes back to growing up on a diversified livestock and dairy farm.

“We are delighted to welcome Rita to her new position,” said VPC Chief Operating Officer Anna Petersmeyer. “Rita has become a trusted resource for the residents, in many ways beyond great food.”

The Brentwood community offers 28 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but want options for personal care and supportive services. We also offer 19 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Purpose is a three-letter word

Posted on

Joy – that’s the clear purpose Hazel has chosen for this chapter of her 92-year-old life, living at Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, MN. Joy has not come easy for Hazel. Eleven years ago, she lost her husband Bob. Since then, one of her four sons died, and she’s also recently lost two brothers and a sister. She’s the longest surviving of 13 siblings.

And still, she expresses lots of joy. “I love it here. I love the people. I take part in anything that I can to stay busy. That’s the reason I like it here.”

Activities Manager Catie Helgeson plans and provides many of the options that keep residents busy and Hazel is often by her side, helping out. “She wakes up with a purpose every day, bringing joy to others,” Catie reflects. “When we have entertainment, she’s right down there dancin’ with the other residents and just having a ball.”

The community was even more dependent on each other during this past COVID year when outside visitors were limited.

“We talked back and forth a lot and that kept me going,” Hazel remembers. “I knew – this is what it is — and I’ve gotta deal with it. So, I’ve tried to keep busy and just go with the flow.”

That’s been a theme for Hazel ever since she took a bus from her home state of Alabama back in the 50s, to visit her future husband’s family in Minnesota. They had gone together in Alabama while Bob was there on an engineering job. This was in December. They were married that New Year’s Eve.

“She’s a gift to all of us here,” Catie concluded.

The Garnette Gardens community offers 61 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but want options for personal care and the supportive services they need. We also offer 16 memory care suites. Nine care suites round out the options, offering enhanced care for people recovering from surgery or illness.

Two women met at a bar —

Posted on

Well not really. Karissa Kosek actually met 96-year-old Anne, a resident, shortly after Karissa assumed her new position as the Activities Manager for Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar, MN. They’re enjoying time together in Copperleaf’s Suds Room, where residents often gather for a beverage or a game of pool.

Karissa, 20, graduated from Ridgewater College in Hutchison, MN with an associates degree in marketing and communications. She and Anne became friends in July, soon after Karissa began her first full-time job at Copperleaf.

“Anne came to a lot of activities, so I got to know her first,” Karissa recalls. “She was someone who I could always rely on and know that she would be there.”

Reliability is Anne’s Copperleaf calling card. “I can’t sit still,” she says. “I’ve got a sewing machine here and I do things for people like sewing on curtains or whatever they want.”

In fact, her current project is to make lap-robes as gifts for every Copperleaf resident to keep them cozy this coming winter. She’s been doing this sort of thing since she retired 18 years ago from a career spanning more than 30 years as a health aide in nursing homes and group homes.

It’s one reason the move to Copperleaf 18 months ago came naturally. “It just felt like home,” Anne remembers.

Warm first impressions also helped Karissa get off to a good start, “The community here is very welcoming, and we’re always doing something; so it doesn’t ever feel like work,” she says.     

Copperleaf senior living community offers 55 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments, 20 memory care suites and seven care suites, providing 24-hour continuous senior care.

A cool tribute to a warm heart

Posted on

Bill’s loyalties are clearly communicated in the photo at left, from the kitchen at Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows in North Mankato, MN. In addition to being a patriotic American, Bill is a loyal University of Iowa booster and a proud Air Force veteran. But none of those bonds compare to his deep love for Barb, his wife of 54 years, who passed away earlier this year.

Bill and Barb’s family asked how they could honor Barb in some tangible way. Culinary Manager Barry Ahl had the perfect answer — a brand-new icemaker, which sits between Chef Barry and Bill in the photo. The icy installation is the right tribute for Barb’s warm heart because she and Bill had served as Monarch Meadows’ Resident Ambassadors for many months. They greeted residents in the community’s two dining rooms at mealtimes. Barb also baked cookies to give away, every day.

This is just one of many big-hearted stories from Vista Prairie Communities. And there are many ways to give, to help us support our mission of compassion and joy. Tribute or memorial gifts not only help remember a loved one, they provide those extra comforts that may elude today’s stretched operating budgets. We also appreciate gifts for capital investments that improve and expand our spaces or provide enhanced equipment.

A donation to the community of your choice or to Vista Prairie Communities is completely tax-exempt. For more information on giving options, or ways to volunteer please contact us at 952.837.0540 or development@vistaprairie.org.