Tag Archives: Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates

A legacy that keeps giving

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Juanita Schmeeckle’s big heart and keen intellect live on in annual grants provided for Martin County nonprofits. Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates is connected in more than one way to Juanita’s legacy. Juanita made Goldfinch Estates her home in 2009. Mary Larson remembers accompanying Goldfinch’s nurse to Juanita’s home at that time, to assess her care needs.

“She lived a very modest, low key and private life,” says Mary, who recently retired as the Goldfinch Estates Community Sales and Marketing Manager. “She was an amazingly intelligent lady. She was very well traveled and had a style of her own!”

Before she moved-in to Goldfinch Estates, Juanita and a group of trustees established the Schmeeckle Foundation. The organization ensured that Juanita’s estate would be used to enrich lives through “innovation and creative collaboration,” as the website says. The Foundation’s Martin County focus includes early childhood care and education, people who are disabled and elderly, and the arts.

A second connection came in 2020 as Goldfinch Estates was honored to receive one of the Foundation’s grants. “The grant assisted us with career development, convenience services and support programs,” said Executive Director Kacey Kasel. “As a result, staff retention has increased and our need to bring in staff from outside agencies was drastically reduced, allowing our residents to be cared for by local staff who know their needs best.”

Goldfinch Estates is proud to be part of Juanita Schmeeckle’s legacy and her foresight. “Thank you, Kacey, and the rest of your staff for the care you give to the residents of Goldfinch,” said Shirley Maschoff, one of the Foundation’s trustees. “Juanita was very well cared for during the time she spent in your memory care unit, and we appreciate it.”

Specifically, the foundation grant funded a generous tuition assistance program that provided support for seven Resident Assistants to become Certified Nursing Assistants through the Minnesota Department of Health. Front-line staff also got recognition through programs like Employee of the Month. Finally, meals were made available to front-line staff by Goldfinch’s culinary staff to assist with the challenges of long duty shifts.

The community offers 92 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence. We also offer 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Memories

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Bob is sitting in a chair that brings back loving memories. It’s the first chair he and Hazel bought, early in their 73-year marriage. Bob crossed the 100-year-old threshold last year. With Hazel’s passing two years ago, the chair provides comfort in their apartment at Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN.

Bob’s service in the Pacific during World War II earned him his accounting degree on the GI-Bill, from the University of Minnesota. Hazel and Bob met in St. Paul while both worked for the Internal Revenue Service, he as an auditor and she in administration.

Following some IRS transfers, they eventually established an accounting practice in Fairmont. He and Hazel worked side-by-side for 47 years, helping hundreds of area farmers, businesses and individuals with their taxes and other accounting needs. The domestic and business partnership worked. “When Hazel and I had a disagreement, I went for a long walk,” Bob says. “That took care of it.”

Bob remembers vivid details about a boyhood that contributed to his work-ethic and values, as the eldest child in a family of six, “As I grew older, I assumed more of the work around the house,” he recalls. “I scrubbed the kitchen floors, the bathroom, did the laundry.”

Bob remains in the same Goldfinch Estates apartment that he and Hazel moved to 12 years ago. “Hazel liked the apartment,” Bob noted. “We were very comfortable there. It worked out very well.”

Goldfinch offers 92 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence. We also offer 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Kindness

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Patrick Feely’s enduring kindness is why he was so beloved as the bus driver for Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Pat retired on Feb. 11 after 12 years in that position. His wife Gayle was with him in St. Paul earlier that week, as LeadingAge MN recognized him as the Caregiver of the Year from Southwest Minnesota.

“I never thought of myself as a caregiver, I’m just the bus driver,” Pat commented to Martin County’s PhotoPress Newspaper. “But it’s a job I enjoy. I don’t want to quit, but I’m getting tired and it’s time to hang it up.”

Brian Brio, one of the speakers at the LeadingAge MN Institute where Pat received his award, offered his theories on the notion of kindness. He suggested creating a new title — CKO, Chief Kindness Officer. “The key job of the CKO is to help every person you touch to know they are important,” Brio said. He maintains that everybody can be a CKO since it requires, “no tenure, no political savvy and no advanced degree.”

Pat Feely was clearly a CKO at Goldfinch Estates. He was recognized by Leading Age because he “brought so much happiness and has exhibited nothing but kindness every day for the last 12 years,” said Mary Larson, the Goldfinch Community Sales and Marketing Manager.

Pat went to work for Goldfinch after he retired as a mail carrier. Joan was among the residents he served most recently after she moved in about two years ago. That gave Joan a unique view of Pat’s service career over many years. Her late husband Leonard Campe was Fairmont’s postmaster throughout Pat’s 38-year career with the U.S. Postal Service. “He was a wonderful employee, and my husband thought the world of him,” Joan said.

As the PhotoPress reported, Pat also encourages others to consider a career in a service-related industry. “My philosophy here is to just do good,” Pat said. “If you do good, everything will be okay with you and world will be a better place.”

Goldfinch Estates offers 92 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence. We also offer 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Passion, Purpose and Flexibility

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Shirley’s long-time passion was downhill skiing. She’s standing next to a framed collection of patches from all the mountains where she and Marvin skied during much of their 65- year marriage. Marv passed away a few months after they moved into Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Now 90, Shirley’s fellow Goldfinch residents became her family, along with two children, four grand-kinds and five great grand-children, one of whom she recently met for the first time.

While childrearing and skiing were among Shirley’s passions, her lifelong purpose was “helping.” Her career in nursing evolved to leadership and administration in Estherville, Iowa, where she started the School of Nursing at Iowa Lakes Community College.

“Then they moved the school to Emmetsburg,” Shirley recounts. “That made the driving too much for me so they asked if I would be director of nursing at Holy Family Hospital, which I did for a long time.”

Shirley’s career flexibility set up her third chapter in nursing after she and Marv moved to Fairmont. She directed services at a half-way house and an outpatient center treating people with chemical dependency. She served her final nursing role for people who were incarcerated in the Martin County jail, retiring when she was 77. 

As we enter the 21st month of this pandemic, Shirley still has the mind of a nurse. She laments that not as many people are vaccinated as should be. “I think the messages are mixed,” she says. “I think the science is good but then people begin to go out on their own. ‘The government isn’t going to tell me what to do.’ Well, they tell you; you have to wear a seatbelt. They tell you; you can’t drive more than so many miles an hour. What’s the big deal?”

Shirley skied until she was 77. “Skiing is my claim to fame,” she sums up. She and Marv skied together all over the world, much of it after Marv lost one of his legs to cancer. “They told him when they amputated that he only had a 20 percent chance of living,” Shirley remembers. “And he lived 30 years.”

The Goldfinch Estates community offers 92 one and two-bedroom apartments, like Shirley’s, for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence.  We also offer 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Build Trust

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Teaching business principles in a classroom of high-schoolers or helping to manage a large senior living community — the key to success is the same – build trust. That’s Mandy Farrow’s mantra as she assumes her new role as the Executive Director for Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Mandy should know. She brings experience on both sides of that career track. 

“You build trust with people, whether it’s the people you teach or the people you’re caring for, only if you prove to them that you’ll follow through with the things you have promised,” Mandy says. “Until you build that trust, you can’t make any real progress.”  

Mandy’s trust building experience also includes running a kitchen and bathroom remodeling business with her husband for 15 years before she decided to pursue teaching. To prepare for that, she obtained her Master’s in Education before teaching in two area high schools. Her undergraduate degree is in business management. 

About a year ago, based on her business management background, Mandy was hired as the business office manager at Goldfinch, during the height of the pandemic. 

“I was so impressed with the leadership team, the people I was working with,” Mandy recalls of that time. “It was difficult to explain to families when they couldn’t come in. That was the hardest thing, trying to be compassionate and strict at the same time, to keep everyone safe.” 

And Goldfinch did just that. While Martin County had suffered 2,376 COVID cases by the end of July, only a handful of Goldfinch residents or staff ever tested positive. Much of that credit goes to the nursing staff, and the leadership of Mandy’s predecessor, Pamela Rubis, who is retiring. 

“The separation from families was devastating for our residents,” Pamela recalls. “Our staff rose to the crisis to support the residents to the best of their abilities, adding joy to their days and nights. Fortunately, all our residents are vaccinated. After the initial crisis of the pandemic a few of the residents tested positive but were never symptomatic.” 

The Goldfinch culture that Pamela cultivated provided the positive energy that the staff brings to the community every day – the culture that attracted Mandy to be its next leader. “They really are living the mission and the values of Vista Prairie,” Pamela says. 

And that also helped build trust with the community, since the word was out that Goldfinch did not have a COVID outbreak during the height of the pandemic. 

“It’s been a very rewarding, a privilege and blessing to work with the amazing residents, families and team at Goldfinch Estates,” Pamela concludes.

The community offers 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. We also offer 92 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence.