Tag Archives: Alexandria

All in the family

Posted on

As the Alexandria Echo Press reported this week, Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds has a novel answer for the staffing challenge that plagues so many services these days. Employ an entire family. While they don’t see that much of each other on the job, four members of the Mattson family are now serving Windmill Ponds residents.

From left to right in the photo, Katie (Mattson) Childers is a part-time culinary aide, helping in the kitchen and serving residents at mealtimes. Katie’s brother Chris Mattson is the long-time activities manager. Kathy Mattson and husband Michael, the oldest sibling, are both resident assistants, Kathy for three years and Michael for one.

Michael works 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the week and every other weekend. His transition involved a career shift from retail, selling and fitting customers for CPAP equipment. He’s a registered respiratory therapist who earlier worked in that field for 33 years in hospitals and clinical settings. “I wanted to get back into direct personal care,” Michael reflected. “I like the variety, and places like this needed help in the pandemic.”

Kathy and Michael have been married for 36 years. She’s a long-time caregiver who wanted to go to a smaller setting. “I like to get to know everyone that we’re working with, residents and staff,” she says. Kathy described her care for a 90-something resident with whom she has a close trusting relationship. “She’s really neat. You go in and visit and we just talk.” And all the while, Kathy is helping her take a bath or get dressed or about anything she needs to do.

Chris Mattson, the middle child of the trio, has served as the Windmill Ponds activities director for 11 years. Chris says the best part of the job is “making a resident’s day, even if the resident is 103.” While Alexandria winters do get long, he eagerly awaits summer on the area’s beautiful lakes. He’s a long-time volunteer for Let’s Go Fishing, which provides summer excursions for Windmill Ponds residents and other nonprofits.

Katie is the youngest Mattson sibling. “The residents here each have a gift; there’s something special about each of them that lets you strike up a conversation,” Katie relates. “They have so much purpose left and so many gifts to give. They enrich our lives, so much.” Katie works the dinner service and weekends, and during the summer, when she’s not teaching interior design at Alexandria Technical and Community College. She has been on the faculty there five years, after a successful career as a designer.

Why do they do it? Good seeds, planted by the siblings’ parents are one reason. Their mother Carmen encouraged the kids to volunteer with senior care facilities when they were growing up. She died in 2016 after a four-year stay at Windmill Ponds. Their father George passed away six years earlier, having run an interior design business since 1959 and also teaching at Alexandria College.  

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.

Devotion

Posted on

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.

Roots and Wings

Posted on

Family roots helped guide a career in pharmacy, a profession instrumental in vaccinating his generation against COVID-19. Air Force wings propelled him to meet his wife of 56-years. Duane Hammargren’s roots and wings have influenced his 89-year journey, with a few fiery detours along the way. The Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds community in Alexandria, MN has been Duane’s home for more than five years.

As a boy and later a young man, Duane’s roots grew deep in drugstores. He swept the floor at the store his dad owned. After his father became a traveling rep for a pharmaceutical company, Duane was called home from his first year in college to drive his dad from store to store, following a serious car accident.

Those experiences grew Duane’s wings to his own career in pharmacy, enrolling at what is now North Dakota State in Fargo. Wings of a different nature led to a detour. Four days after he joined the Air National Guard while in college, his unit was called to active duty during the Korean War. Following his Air Force discharge two years later, he met and soon married his bride Joanne.

“She was a wonderful person. I married up,” Duane says. He resumed his pharmacy studies in Fargo. In the next three years, Jo gave birth to two of the couple’s five children. During those school years, Duane supplemented Jo’s income as a nurse by working full-time in a drugstore in Moorhead. 

“I really enjoyed the school and the classes,” Duane recalls. “Just before I graduated, I was initiated into the Rho Chi Pharmacy Honor Society.” Now a licensed pharmacist, Duane and Jo wound up in the Twin Cities suburbs where his professional roots and wings eventually combined with his beloved partner and mentor Don Hanson in the business of pharmacy.

Duane vividly recalls another detour in those early years, “Thanksgiving Day, 1965, got a phone call that the whole shopping center was on fire.” It started in a back room of the Gamble store next door. While the store was a total loss, Duane and Don set up shop in a small vacant drive-in restaurant – and were back in business the same day, at least to dispense prescriptions.

“When we moved back into the main store after the fire, Don sat down with me and wanted to know if I’d like to be his partner,” he remembers. “I went to work as a pharmacist and when I came back after the fire, I was a partner!” Don and Duane eventually expanded to four pharmacies, which they managed until they sold all four and retired in 1983.

Duane and Jo moved to Alexandria where they found a house on Lake Ida until yet another detour. Their car exploded in their driveway and set the house on fire – another total loss. They had already put down roots on that lot, so they built a new house on the same site.

After Jo passed away in 2011, life got lonely for Duane, even with 15 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. He decided to move to Windmill Ponds five years ago. Considering the pandemic’s challenges, Duane credits the community’s executive director, Chris Carter, “I feel that her handling of the virus has been excellent. She’s done an excellent job.”

Duane’s roots in health care make him a believer in the value of the COVID-19 vaccine. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he says. He’ll get his second dose of the Moderna vaccine at Windmill Ponds on Feb. 16. The community offers assisted living in 65 one- and two-bedroom apartments, designed for seniors who enjoy an active social environment and expect high quality care.

editor’s note — Windmill Ponds plans to resume inside visits following required COVID-19 testing, in compliance with Minnesota Department of Health guidelines.

Communion

Posted on

Communion has many meanings for Audrie, shown on the right. This past summer she’s been communing with her two daughters who also live in Alexandria, MN. Peggy and Connie are pictured here during a gazebo visit to Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds*, where Audrie has lived for the past year.

More recently a communion Audrie holds most dear, the Catholic Eucharist, was served by a local priest in the parking lot. “The hardest thing for my mom is not being able to go to church,” Connie said during a recent Windmill Ponds visit.

As the pandemic has evolved, so have the options for Audrie’s daughters to stay in touch. The visits started virtually and will progress to periodic assistance in Audrie’s apartment as Connie and Peggy apply to be essential caregivers. Still, they’ll be required to stay physically distant.

“It is hard, but I think it would be worse to give her a hug and then have someone get sick,” says Peggy. “At the end of the day, that’s the bottom line.” The daughters, who are among nine siblings, understand the need for safety in a regulated environment. Peggy was an elementary school teacher. Connie ran a day-care center.

“We both understand this accountability, having to keep people safe,” Connie reflects. They also appreciate Windmill Ponds’ extra efforts to combat loneliness. “I was very pleased that they started these bus rides,” Connie continues. “It’s a way to get out but they’re still with their community. They were able to social distance on the bus.” Activity Director Chris Mattson is the chauffer for the Tuesday – Thursday jaunts around the area in the community’s bus.

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.

*editor’s note — Windmill Ponds will resume outdoor visits, weather permitting, and in compliance with Minnesota Department of Health guidelines.