Category Archives: Resident stories

Purpose is a three-letter word

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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 —

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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

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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.

Devotion

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Throughout her life, 93-year-old LaVerne has been a devoted role model for her three kids and grand-kids. She moved into Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria, MN during a difficult year. George, her beloved husband of 70 years, was in hospice at the time. And then there was COVID.

“It was really hard at first,” LaVerne recalls. “Things got a little better. I got to go see him every day. I spent from one to four in the afternoon. I looked forward to that; it was enjoyable.”

While she was able to see and say good-bye to George, who was in a separate location, other in-person family visits were not allowed during the height of COVID. Instead, some video technology helped LaVerne stay in touch with her far-flung three children, in the Twin Cities, Nebraska and Texas.

LaVerne’s Twin Cities daughter Cathy Woodward also knows something about devotion. She painted the rock that LaVerne is holding as a thank-you for Windmill Ponds’ quality care. Cathy also contributed her comments about the COVID crisis as part of a 2021 video produced by LeadingAge – Minnesota to recognize the state’s caregivers. See the entire 5-minute video, which honors all the caregivers in Minnesota.

Beyond family, LaVerne is devoted to the friends she’s made at Windmill Ponds this past year, “The ladies are so friendly and neighborly,” she says. “They have a movie once a week, so we go together, and we play cards.” LaVerne says she and her friends are going to sign up for the regular boat rides on Alexandria’s many local lakes.

“It’s gone surprisingly very well,” LaVerne says putting the year into perspective, “because of the friendly people. You don’t get a chance to get too lonesome because there’s always something going on. I enjoy it here very much. I wouldn’t want to be anyplace else.”

Windmill Ponds offers assisted living in 65 one- and two-bedroom apartments, designed for seniors who enjoy an active social environment and expect high quality care.

Miss Congeniality

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At age 84, Laura has been a people person all her life. And the Cardinal is her favorite bird, as she proclaims on her sweatshirt. The bank where she worked was just a few miles from the assisted living community where she lives now, Vista Prairie at River Heights in South St. Paul.

“I started when I got out of high school when I was 17,” Laura says, about her career at the bank. “And I worked there for 40 years. I worked up to be a teller. I was dedicated to them and they were good to me. The two grammas would help me out because eventually I had four kids.”

After Laura married her high school sweetheart, Art, they had two daughters and two sons. It didn’t take long for all of them to conclude that she’s in the right spot now at River Heights, where she can visit with people and eat in a dining room.

“This place is nice. I like getting to go downstairs to sit with people to eat,” Laura reflects, since her April move-in. “I’ve met a lot of people down there and it’s been enjoyable. I’m really growing attached to the people. I’ve gone out walking with several different ones.”

All four kids’ families can visit often and now that it’s spring, Laura can use the two patios at River Heights where residents enjoy gardening and other outdoor activities. She’s used to that. Laura grew up in Stewart, MN in rural McLeod County, until the family moved to West St. Paul so her dad could be closer to his work in a packing plant at the nearby stock yards.

Laura has stayed safe throughout the pandemic. She also maintains her connections to her lifelong church in West St. Paul. A friend usually picks her up for the services, which have resumed in person.

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