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20 Years of Compassion and Joy

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When resident Marv Diekerlers got his COVID-19 vaccination in January, he was part of the latest chapter in the 20-year history of Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, Iowa. That history was the topic of this article by Justin Rust, managing editor of the Sheldon Mail-Sun, which we reprint here, with permission:

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Fieldcrest celebrates 20th anniversary – June 21, 2021

Providing a joy filled atmosphere is the goal of the staff at Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest Senior Living Community in Sheldon.

That goal was tested recently by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the facility to close its doors to visitors for about a year to help protect the residents from a virus that harmed seniors the most.

It also left them isolated except for their interactions with the Fieldcrest staff and their fellow residents.

The goal didn’t change, though. It only amplified how important it was to remain joyful.

“We have remained positive and joyful and committed to having the best experience you can have,” said Fieldcrest senior executive director Calvin Diekmann. “Plus we are keeping them safe. We offered the vaccine and we have done just wonderful in the past 16 months.”

As the pandemic winds down, it comes as Fieldcrest is celebrating a major milestone since the facility at 2501 E. Sixth St. reached its 20th anniversary this past week.

A celebration was planned for Thursday, but a heat advisory forced the Fieldcrest staff to postpone it until Sept. 16. Diekmann and his staff didn’t want the residents to suffer from the extreme heat.

“Our main goal is to always serve the residents and help them live in a joy filled environment,” Diekmann said. “That’s always our main goal.”

When Fieldcrest was opened 20 years ago, it has 56 assisted living rooms. In 2014, 13 assisted living rooms were added along with 12 memory care apartments. That was the same year VistaPrairie became the ownership company of Fieldcrest.

Diekmann has been with Fieldcrest for nine years.

“By far my favorite part of this job is listening and visiting with the residents,” Diekmann said.

The residents are also Fieldcrest director of health and services Jennifer Roos’ favorite part of her job. She has been with Fieldcrest for seven years.

“No matter how bad your morning started, once you walk through the door, there’s a resident to greet you,” Roos said. “It changes your day. I love coming to work every day and I love my job. I love seeing them all.”

While the residents help the staff stay positive, keeping that same attitude was hard with the pandemic.

The staff knew it had to push through during the toughest stretch of the facility’s 20 years.

“Him and I, we had to stay positive because all of the staff was looking up to us. If they saw we weren’t being positive, it was huge for them as well,” Roos said. “So being positive and coming in every day, doing the best we could to keep the residents safe and happy and keep the staff safe as well. It wasn’t easy, it was hard every day, hard on the staff every day and we made it through.”

Roos gave credit to Judy Wallace, Fieldcrest’s activities manager, and Heidi Starkenburg, Wallace’s activity assistant, for keeping the residents in good spirits over the last year.

“I really saw Judy evolve throughout the pandemic because she had to change so much,” Roos said. “Heidi did one on ones with residents all day long. They were huge during the pandemic with really keeping their spirits up. There were no group activities during it. Judy would take arts and crafts to them and they had different games they would do with the residents.”

Diekmann added he had to watch for remote control cars since they would be racing down the hallways.

Fieldcrest opened back up to visitors in April and group activities resumed for residents a couple of months ago.

“Last week Judy and Heidi brought a bus full of residents to Hills Park. They had watermelon and there may have been a small water fight,” Diekmann said with a laugh. “They came back and some of them stopped by my office to say how much they enjoyed it. They are so glad we can do those things again.”

Wallace has even been able to bring back a fan favorite.

“She has an ice cream truck and the residents love the ice cream truck,” Roos said. “She has different flavors of ice cream and music they can play. It’s one of the residents favorites as well.”

With all of the amenities and activities Fieldcrest offers, Diekmann said the facility is “pretty unique.”

“We are the only assisted living facility in the area with full sized kitchens and two bedroom apartments,” Diekmann said. “Our staff is just amazing. They are so resident focused and we live the joy every day. During COVID, sure there would be good days and bad days but our staff always came back with a smile on their face. We have the most courageous staff ever. I am bias but that’s what I would say.”

Even with all that Fieldcrest has to offer, it’s the residents who impress Diekmann the most.

“I am just in awe every day when I come in here. It’s just so rewarding when a resident tells you thank you,” Diekmann said. “Or even if they are upset about something and we can fix it. It’s so amazing to see the happiness they have when the families got to come back in. To me, those are the big things.”

The community offers 69 one- and two-bedroom assisted living apartments for seniors who need access to personal care and supportive services. We also offer 12 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.