Tag Archives: Vista Prairie at Copperleaf

Listening to lead

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As a leader and caregiver for Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar, MN, Amanda Toutges relies on her listening skills. She’s pictured here learning how memory care resident Barb is getting along. She also listens to caregivers who report to her, as she pursues a progressive staffing strategy.

Amanda supervises about 60 Copperleaf resident assistants (RAs), as they provide individual care for residents. “I sit down and listen to them,” she says. “I’ll go around and ask everybody on the floor because I think they should have just as much say in things they’re gonna do, as me just changing it. I give that respect back to them and make sure they know I’m including them in my decision.”

Her leadership through listening is a key reason that Copperleaf is fully staffed. With lots of RA input, Amanda’s staffing innovations have made a significant difference in a geographic area where senior care communities have had challenges maintaining their staffing levels.

Amanda’s education includes her Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) certification in 2011 at Ridgewater College in Willmar. There, she also completed all but the testing phase to be a Registered Nurse. For five years before the pandemic hit, she was an LPN for the local CentraCare Clinic. “Then I had to go home and be a Kindergarten teacher for our five-year-old son.”

When her son’s school reopened, she interviewed with nine different health care organizations before she chose Copperleaf. “There’s something about the staff here – incredible,” she says. “Coming to work here every day, I feel like yesterday was my first day… like what can I do better? What can I learn? It’s a fun place to work. I love our old people.”

In addition to Copperleaf’s 55 assisted living apartments, Amanda also is responsible for ensuring that the community’s 24 memory care suites are staffed around the clock. The community also offers seven care-suites. While she’d like to be in all those places at once, she realizes that’s not possible.

Copperleaf’s Executive Director, Jennie Marcus comments that, along with the life complexities of each staff member, Amanda’s leadership supports an inclusive Copperleaf culture, “Her values and courage to create an inclusive environment are the reasons that our staff feels accepted, supported, and are thriving as exceptional caregivers.”

Copperleaf is in the process of a $1.4 million renovation throughout its public spaces, in the kitchen, and updates in the community’s memory care suites.

Smiles for Copperleaf

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These four people are a sample of the smiles that will soon be seen throughout Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar, MN. A $1.4 million renovation is about to start, which will mean major innovations in dining, resident communication, and all-around enjoyment.

The four people pictured in Copperleaf’s movie room (yes there are four) are the key planners, from left: Ryan Erickson from Larson Building, Amy Bursey from Monogram Design Consultants (on the floor with carpet samples), Copperleaf Executive Director Jennie Marcus, and participating virtually on the video screen, Anna Petersmeyer, Vista Prairie’s Chief Operating Officer.

Following the recent green light from Vista Prairie’s Board of Directors, Jennie is ready to set the plans in motion with many local building suppliers in the mix. “Our residents will benefit from a transformed dining experience,” Jennie says, “thanks to a new kitchen and our renovated dining room, complete with more convenient restroom facilities.”

While Copperleaf has always been known for quality care, an innovative nurse-call system will take it up a notch. “The wearable units will put residents in two-way contact with our clinical staff,” Jennie noted. “These devices will help make sure we’re always there for the support residents need.” The units also will monitor vital signs to aid physicians and other healthcare professionals.

“We also want to create a beautiful outdoor dining area with views of the marsh behind our building and a pergola for shade,” Jennie said. “We’ll be coming to residents and members of the community for financial support to go beyond our renovation budget.”

Beyond the high-tech and convenience features, Copperleaf will get an extreme paint-up/fix up with new floor and wall treatments throughout the public spaces and updates in the community’s 24 memory care suites. The community offers 55 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and seven care suites in addition to memory care. Compassion and smiles all around.

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.

Loss, love and gingersnaps —

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The aroma of fresh-baked cookies often beckons visitors into Lea’s apartment at Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar, MN. Gingersnaps were among Al’s favorites. Lea’s husband of 65 years passed away eight months ago at the age of 94. While his death was not COVID-related, the loss still weighs on Lea, their daughters Darla and Deb, and the whole extended family.

“Without COVID, when we used to go to the dining room, he liked that because he liked to visit,” Lea remembers. “He was a great visitor.”

Visits in the dining room are coming back now that all residents are vaccinated. Al’s photo hung on Copperleaf’s wall of honor along with other veterans. He and Lea moved in two years ago, from their home in nearby Atwater where they had operated the Willow Cove Family Restaurant for more than 11 years. Lea maintains her Atwater connections through the love of her church family.

“The pastor was here on Saturday,” says Lea. “He comes quite often.” Besides church and family visits, now on the rise, Lea stays in touch with friends at Copperleaf — active with exercise, regular devotions, Bingo, excursions to the Dairy Queen and decorating for holidays.

Lea’s eldest daughter, Darla, registered with Copperleaf as an essential caregiver. In that capacity she was able to participate in the community’s vaccination program, administered by Thrifty White pharmacy.

“I do all the paperwork for mom,” explains Darla. “I feel like a huge burden has been lifted from me because I’m not at the 65-year-old mark where I would be eligible for it this soon.”

Lea recently agreed to be a Copperleaf spokesperson in a series of local radio spots; “We act like family,” Lea comments in one spot. “We always ask how everyone is.” It was the feeling of home that sold Al and Lea, Darla and Deb on Copperleaf. That and the full-size oven so she could keep baking cookies and other traditional recipes like Lutefisk and Lefse. And as Lea reports in yet other radio spot, “Oh, and the staff is wonderful, very accommodating.”

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.

Generosity and Imagination

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Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar, MN combined generosity and imagination recently to share an early holiday gift — as “hero bears” surprised special persons in Copperleaf staff members’ lives. Each staff member’s family got one, along with a personal note of gratitude for their loved one’s dedication during more than seven months of care and protection against COVID-19.

“As we protect our most vulnerable citizens against COVID, it can be emotionally draining,” said Copperleaf Executive Director Jennie Marcus. “We are not just caregivers for the residents we serve; we are family, we are a team of superheroes. These hero bears will help us remember this challenging time. We hope these special people: spouses, partners, parents and others will beam with pride that their loved one made a difference to so many seniors. How cool is that?”

The generosity came from The Manhattan Toy Company, which donated 100 stuffed teddy bears. Jennie’s husband is the North American Distribution Center Manager at Manhattan Toy. He worked with the company to orchestrate the donation.

The imagination came from Jennie and Business Office Manager Mackenzie Fragodt, who managed the project to dress each bear in a “hero” T-shirt and a face mask. Mackenzie also put together the letters to each recipient’s “special person.”

A Copperleaf family member reacted this way, “Thank you for giving my daughter Adrienne such a wonderful opportunity to be a part of Copperleaf Senior Living Community. She is certainly happy with her new employment experience and glad she decided to try a new pathway.”

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.