Tag Archives: Vista Prairie at Brentwood

Going the distance

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Eight years after Maya Kamrath joined the staff of Vista Prairie at Brentwood in Rice Lake Wisconsin, she’s still going the distance, for residents and now for her Ukrainian family 5,000 miles away. The Vista Prairie organization recently got behind Maya to send financial support from its employee fund donations to her birth mother Sveta, stepfather Sergii and brother Anton, none of whom she’s met in person. They live in Kyiv and so far, they’re safe, with the Russian invasion focused on other parts of the country.

Her Ukrainian family reacted last week to Vista Prairie’s support, “Thank you for helping us out at such a difficult time. We are also grateful to our daughter, Maya for organizing help.” And Maya added, “A special thank you for all the Vista Prairie Communities joining in together to make this possible for my family.”

Maya has literally come a long way – from a diet of oatmeal and potato soup in Kyiv to a secure adoptive home in Rice Lake. From a six-year-old’s insecurities in two orphanages, to a Certified Nursing Assistant and Brentwood’s most senior caregiver.

When her Wisconsin mom, Kathy, decided she wanted to adopt a child, Maya relates that her favorite sport influenced the country where she wanted to adopt, “She loved figure skating and two of the top ice skaters in the world at that time were from Ukraine.” Thanks to Kathy’s more recent initiative, and social media, Maya located her birth mother two years ago and established regular contact.

When she first arrived in the U.S. at six-and-a-half, Maya acknowledges how vulnerable she was as she encountered her new language and surroundings. “For instance, a hug or a comfort touch, I didn’t allow it at first. I had to understand what a hug was and what it meant to be comforted.” Finally, she came to understand the power of receiving affection through giving care herself as a baby-sitter.

Maya also went the distance through running. As a Rice Lake 5th grader, she ran more than 170 miles, equal the distance to the Minnesota boarder and back home. That started a competitive running career that went through the state high-school cross-country meet. Reporter Dave Greschner captured that part of the story for the Rice Lake Chronotype.

Maya’s heart for caregiving grew in high school. After she finished her daily workouts, she often visited Kathy’s mother, her adoptive grandmother. She lived in a nearby senior community and eventually needed dementia care. Maya’s knack for meaningful connection led to the Brentwood staff position while Maya was still in high school.

Maya reflects on her challenging life experiences, “The empathy I learned lets me understand and adapt to the differences in our residents. That’s what stands out the most. My relationships with our residents are the best part of working at Brentwood.”

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.

Transitions

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Carole and Jerry have been residents of Vista Prairie at Brentwood in Rice Lake, Wisconsin for 10 weeks. It’s the biggest transition in their life together, except perhaps when they got married 20 years ago, at the age of 68. They blended their families from previous marriages. She has four children, and he has three.

Their decision to move to Brentwood came when Jerry was in the hospital in Eau Claire recovering from an unexplained issue with his legs, which resulted in exchanging his riding lawnmower for a walker. It all started when he was mowing his two-acre lawn at their house in Campia, northeast of Rice Lake.

“I came to a stop, and I couldn’t get off the lawnmower,” Jerry recalls. “So I fell, and my neighbor and my son got me up and walked me into the house.”

That incident was enough for Carole and Jerry to seek a more secure place to live, at the urging of Jerry’s daughter, JoEllen, who lives in the Twin Cities. She and her siblings grew up on Jerry’s dairy and beef-cattle farm where he had long supported their 4-H and FFA activities. Now it was JoEllen’s turn to guide their next steps.

“I like this place,” Jerry reflects. “I love the meals and I love the care they give you. They come in every morning and take my temperature and weigh me.”

The couple brought their car with them to Brentwood, where they rent a garage. Carole will do the driving when the weather gets a little better. Her family lives in Tennessee and California. She’s looking forward to a reunion with them this spring.

Like most new residents, Carole and Jerry are going through all the stages that William Bridges described in his classic book, Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes. They have experienced an ending for their time living together in Campia. They are now in what Bridges calls, “the Neutral Zone,” where they are adapting to their new surroundings and patterns. And they’ve already embraced their “New Beginning” at Brentwood, with the help of a loving staff, their new friends, and 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.

Rita is moving to a new menu

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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.

Together for 75 years

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Red and Pauline have made Vista Prairie at Brentwood their home for seven years. They were well known Rice Lake citizens and wanted a place to live their later years together. Both now 94, they will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary on August 3.  They have known each other since they were both in the third grade in nearby Mikana.

Three of the couple’s children still live around the area. Red and Pauline were able to have their first inside visit with them recently for Easter, after the COVID restrictions were lifted.

Red is best known around the community as the 40-year manager of Birchwood Manufacturing. When he was involved, the plant provided employment to more than 230 people.

“Our main product was the laminated golf club head,” Red explained. “We made about five million heads a year.” That was back when golf drivers were still made from wood. Now most of them are metal. Red didn’t take up golf until after he’d retired from Birchwood. 

Birchwood has evolved more recently to making faces for sheet paneling, since the plant was purchased by Besse Forest Products Group, a Michigan based producer of hardwood veneer, lumber and specialty plywood.

Before they moved to Brentwood, Pauline had spent eight weeks in a nursing home following some operations on her hips. That’s when they shopped around.  

“We just thought this was kinda homey,” Red recalls, about their selection of Brentwood.  “And it’s worked out that way.” The couple will be among the long-time residents who help welcome Mark Hayman this month, as Mark assumes the Executive Director’s role at Brentwood.    

The 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.

A pioneer in our midst

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Foster Dunwiddie doesn’t need an elevator as a resident of Vista Prairie at Brentwood, our new community in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Brentwood is built on one level. Foster knows a lot about elevators though, as a pioneering architect with a rich history in iconic public buildings, including the old Met Stadium in Bloomington, MN. It was the original home of the Minnesota Twins after they moved from Washington, DC. Foster recalled a big design challenge caused by a budget shortfall early on.

“The initial design had a shaft for an elevator, but we couldn’t afford the elevator,” Foster recalled in a 2018 video about his career. “Once we got a commitment from the Washington Senators that they were coming, funds loosened up a great deal.”

Now 95, Foster was educated at the University of Wisconsin as a civil engineer but an interest in sketching eventually drew him to the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota. He later helped establish the firm of Miller Dunwiddie where he remained for most of his 50+ year career. He became best known for his groundbreaking work in accessibility as a member of the Architectural Barriers Committee of the Minnesota Society of Architects.

“I had broken both my heels in a construction accident,” Foster remembers. “I suddenly found myself confined to a wheelchair and facing the problems of those in a wheelchair.” He pointed out at that time, there wasn’t legislation requiring the accommodations we have today. “I was lobbying the State Legislature to revise the Minnesota Building Code to require handicapped parking spaces, accessible door entry-ways and restroom modifications for people in wheelchairs.”

Foster’s other key contribution was in historic preservation. He pioneered what he described as a “detective project” to ensure that the restoration of Ft. Snelling was historically accurate. He also designed restorations for the Minnesota State Capitol building in the mid 1980’s.

“We had to make sure the public spaces were accessible so that witnesses for hearings could get into the building,” Foster said. “I also restored the House and the Senate chambers to make them accessible to people with disabilities.”

Foster and his wife Shirley moved to Brentwood in 2011. Shirley passed away a year ago, a short time after she and Foster had moved into memory care. “They’ve been very responsible meeting my needs here,” Foster concludes. And about the food? “I belong to the clean-plate club, and I’ve been working overtime.”

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.