Category Archives: Life at VPC

Perfect Timing

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It’s not the honeymoon Andrea Rupe was anticipating when she assumed her role as the new executive director of Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows in North Mankato. Beginning March 23 she was immediately immersed in preventing a case of COVID-19 at Monarch, during the most serious pandemic in her lifetime. In many ways, Andrea’s timing was perfect, applying her 17 years of health care experience to this new challenge.

“On a few occasions already, I have tapped into my ability to manage stress,” Andrea said after her first week in the position. “I tend to look ahead at the end goal, in this case to keep all our residents and staff members safe from this virus.”

Andrea reports that the social distancing precautions have prevented her from getting to know the residents as quickly as she would have liked. She’s used to having coffee with residents at mealtimes and being involved with larger group activities, all of which are on hold – replaced with one-on-one interactions. 

“I was very impressed with how well structured everything is at Monarch Meadows, even in these unprecedented times,” she remarked. “We have an exceptional team, which was clear on the first day. They have been delivering high quality services for 20 years. That will continue, with more added intensity.”

Andrea completed the Leading Age Assisted Living Administrators Certificate program in 2019 and will earn a bachelor’s degree of Healthcare Administration this spring.

“We are eager for Andrea to contribute her expertise to our mission of compassion and joy,” said VPC President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Bettendorf. “Her enthusiasm and skills in quality care are a great fit for Monarch Meadows.”

Monarch Meadows is one of our largest communities with 86 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 12 care suites. Unfortunately, one of Monarch’s signature hospitality offerings, its Wednesday Breakfast in the Meadow, will need to be on hiatus while we’re responding to the threat of COVID-19.

An inquiring mind

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Martin under model of a Farmall tractor and bailer

Farming and agri-business are the roots of the geographic region we serve in Minnesota and Iowa. And few people personify that spirit better than Martin, a 92-year-old resident of Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, Iowa. He’s pictured here below a model of his trustworthy Farmall tractor, towing a baler. Implements like this got plenty of use during his 80 years of farming, which started when he was a boy.

Martin’s heritage goes back to 1913 when his family immigrated from Holland, in part, to avoid the bloodshed that would soon overtake Europe in the First World War.

“We lived on five different farms,” Martin recounts, “and the last one we lived on we bought.” That farm was 160 acres, close to Sheldon. Martin, his wife and five children did just about everything you can do on a farm, raising dairy and beef cattle, hogs, and cultivating corn, soybeans, alfalfa and oats.

One of his sons bought the farm and still maintains it. Martin was as wise as his years when asked if he thought his son is doing a good job running the farm, “He’s the son of his mother, so he’s smarter than I am.”

About 18 months ago and after he had lost his wife a year earlier, Martin moved to Fieldcrest with the support of all five children. While he’d rather be back on the farm, he’s made the most of his time, with his humor and his inquisitive mind. ”I would ask questions,” Martin says, “and when you ask somebody a question they talk, and you may learn something.”

Fieldcrest assisted living offers 69 one and two bedroom apartments for seniors who value a variety of ways to spread joy, and want access to personal care and supportive services. We also hope you’ll visit our 12 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Now it’s her turn

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Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria has been home to Delores for 13 years, longer than any other resident there. When you live to be 101, like Delores, it’s possible to outlive your resources. Social Security helps but doesn’t cover the full cost of assisted living services, food, medicine and other needs.

It’s a common situation in Minnesota, where more than 30,000 people get assistance from Elderly Waiver, a Minnesota Medical Assistance program for people who qualify based on their care needs, total assets and income. Delores is one of those people. The sale of her house in nearby Brandon, MN plus other savings and Social Security provided for her expenses for many years.

For the generation that Delores represents it’s the least we can do. Through their hard work and courage, they helped build the economy we enjoy today. In her case, after her husband died eight years earlier, Delores decided at 88, that it was time for assisted living.

“It was getting to be a little bit too much,” Delores remembers. “I did my own taking care of the place, mowing the lawn and having a garden.” That’s when her son and nephews helped her move to Windmill Ponds.

The youngest of seven children, Delores was raised on a diversified farm in Douglas County. She and her husband eventually operated the farm for 15 years, but farming took a toll on her health. That led to a seven-year career in the Douglas County Welfare Department where she assisted county residents who needed help.

Delores found more perspective later in life about what it takes to operate a community like Windmill Ponds. She and her husband devoted several years to manage motels and apartment buildings, both in Arizona and back in Minneapolis. While she has outlived many of her fellow Windmill Ponds residents, she still enjoys its care and comfort. “I consider it’s like a community of friends,” Delores says. “You make of it what you do with yourself.”

103 Valentines

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Ken and Kathryn in their Goldfinch Estates apartment

Ken was born on Valentine’s Day 103 years ago. He and Kathryn are at home in a beautiful Goldfinch Estates apartment where they have lived for three years.   

That 1917 Valentine’s Day brought a blizzard to the family farm near St. James, MN. Summoned to look after the birth, the doctor relied on a one-horse sleigh to race seven miles through the night. After he hurried to get the horse in the barn and wipe it down, he attended to his duties. Ken described what happened next, after the doctor cared for the new arrival.  

“The doctor wanted to go home, and when they went to the barn, they found out the horse died.” Ken’s dad did the right thing. He replaced the horse with one of his own. “He didn’t want to keep feeding the doctor,” Ken remarked with a twinkle in his eye.   

Among the traits Ken and Kathryn have shared for 71 years of marriage, is their humor. They met at a party in Minneapolis after Ken got back from combat in the North Pacific during World War II. Ken was enrolled at the Minnesota School of Business at the time. 

“He had dark hair,” says Kathryn, who at 95, does not color her hair. “He asked if he could take me home and three other girls also got in the same cab. When we got to my house, I jumped inside and closed the door. He had to pay for the other three too.” 

Their spirit resulted in marriage after Ken finished college, and successful business careers for them both. Over his 17-year career with Allis Chalmers Ken became a sales promotion manager, serving a three-state region. A short stint with DuPont followed that. Meanwhile, Kathryn’s career was in accounting. 

“My very first job was for Imperial Printing and the head accountant was one of Ken’s teachers at the business school,” Kathryn recounts. That may have influenced her confidence in the romance. 

They lived and worked for nearly 50 years in the Twin Cities until it was time to retire. Those decades led to weekend camping trips throughout Minnesota and eventually winters in Texas and trips around the country in their motor home. 

Kathryn’s back injury prompted their move from Lewisville, MN a few miles south to Fairmont and their assisted living apartment where they get the care they need. They’ve become active members of the Goldfinch Estates community, which offers 92 one and two-bedroom senior apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services. We also offer 41 memory care Suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Painting Memories

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While Josie Olander’s service helps awaken the senses of Copperleaf residents, she didn’t expect it to include painting a mural on one of the memory care unit’s walls. Executive Director Jennie Marcus had the idea, and Josie, who joined the staff a little over a year ago, made it happen. She painted a couple hours at night, starting around Thanksgiving and going into early December — after her regular evening shift ended.

“A farm scene came to mind,” Josie says about the process. “I come from a family of farmers; my grandpa was a farmer and my uncle still is, in Renville County.”

Several memory care residents chatted as Josie created during the three-week sketching and painting process. She remembers one who had especially valuable advice. “He raised horses and his information flowed out as he stepped back into that role. It was just awesome,” she remembers. “He also taught architectural drafting… so when I was drawing the barn, he had some legitimate pointers on my perspective.”  And perhaps the ultimate affirmation for an artist – “the resident said the mural brings a lot of life to the place.”

Josie’s resident assistant role takes her to all three Copperleaf choices: assisted living, care suites and memory care. “I just want to help out where needed,” she explains. Variety in her work is a theme. During the day she’s a para-professional at Dream Technical Academy in Willmar, providing an opportunity to practice her professional skills with high school youth as well.

Josie also responded to some self-imposed pressure – completing the mural in time for the annual Copperleaf holiday party. “I stayed that night until about two in the morning, but I got it done!”

Copperleaf senior living community offers 55 one-and-two-bedroom Assisted Living apartments, seven Care Suites, providing 24-hour continuous senior care, and 20 Memory Care Suites.