Today Cheryl is sharing some of the more “serious” ways that she and the residents put the eight dimensions of wellness into practice. One of those is volunteering, which hits on the vocational aspect of wellness, but also fosters intellectual, spiritual, social and emotional well-being.
“We’re very, very big into volunteering,” Cheryl stresses. “That’s huge to our residents. The giving back piece. They didn’t just come here to hang out. They came here to expand their education — to help where they didn’t have as many opportunities to help before.”
Residents Give Back in The Schools
“Since we opened 13 years ago, we have been involved with mentoring in Lauer’s Park Elementary School in Reading, PA,” Cheryl explains. “There is 50% turnover among students in that school every year. These kids need to be loved, read to and helped with basic skills, tasks that residents are eager to help with.”
Along with giving their time, talents and hearts, residents also give financially. “We donate books to Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown,” says Cheryl. “For all the books we donate, they give us money. And those funds, in turn, we give to the school district to buy books for the kids. This year the community bought 67 new books for their library, according to Cheryl. They also held a fundraising event in honor of Dr. Cedric Jimerson, a resident who was instrumental in setting up the program with the school. That fundraiser collected funds to pay for school supplies for the kids.
Reaching Out During COVID-19
“Our residents are helping everybody all the time,” Cheryl stressed. “During the beginning of COVID, the residents sewed thousands of masks for the community, for the preschool across the street, for their kids, their kids’ businesses, and for employees’ children. They just made thousands of them. We were always bagging up masks and sending them somewhere.”
Acts of Kindness to Warm Hearts and Bodies
The Quilting Group at The Heritage is another generous group of volunteers. “Two years ago I added it up, and they had made over 6,000 quilts that had been donated to veterans, to the homeless and to nursing homes,” says Cheryl. “In addition, every one of our residents that gets hospitalized gets a quilt delivered to them.”
“We also volunteer at the Animal Rescue League, and the Learn to Read program in the Governor Mifflin School District,” she continues. “Residents tutor kids that are behind in reading, so they don’t have to stay back. We volunteer wherever we’re needed,” Cheryl says. “We’re always out in the community doing something.”
The Health Services part of the wellness program is all about keeping residents as healthy and independent as possible, according to Cheryl.
Studies have shown that people heal faster and better if they stay in their own home rather than in the hospital. That’s why the focus at The Heritage is on services provided in the home. “We have a nurse and aides on staff,” says Cheryl. “If residents need help, it’s right here. They never have to leave their home. They can have medication management in the morning. If they need a knee replacement, they can have therapy in their room. When they are better, they can go to rehab right on campus. If you need somebody to bathe or shower you twice a week, there’s somebody who can help you in 15-minute increments,” she continues. The Heritage of Green Hills even offers services to help residents care for their pets. “We’ll go in and feed your animal, and we can walk your dog if you’re not able to,” Cheryl says.
In addition to services, prayer groups and Bible studies, The Heritage incorporates other kinds of spiritual activities into the mix. “I know if I go to the labyrinth over at Penn State Berks, that’s a spiritual adventure,” says Cheryl. “If I go for a walk in the woods, that can be a spiritual experience as well.” Especially during COVID-19 when people couldn’t go to church, the community encouraged them to explore their spirituality in a variety of settings.
Emotional wellness is nurtured through many activities that bring people together. In addition, The Heritage offers specific support groups, like a caregiver support group and a grief group. “Whatever support you need, you can put that out on the table,” says Cheryl, “whether it’s a loved one that has died, a beloved pet that’s passed away, an illness, or any other life challenge.”
Now that we’ve covered some of the more serious elements of the Well by Design SM program, we’ll talk about some of its more lighthearted, fun qualities in our third and final installment of the series. Stay tuned for part 3 of our series on wellness.