The Eli Ripple Effect: An Unassuming yet Powerhouse of a Woman at Juniper Village at Chatham

by Anne Gross

Things were different when Jean White, born in 1918, grew up in a family along with three other sisters. At the turn of the century, options for women  were usually limited to being a teacher or nurse, getting married, and raising children.   But for Jean, she never let the lack of choices hold her back.

Jean was the first resident to move into Juniper Village at Chatham when it opened its doors thirteen years ago.   At 95 she is still quick-witted, not afraid to speak her mind, and as interesting as ever.  Although unassuming and reluctant at first to share her illustrious history, she is anything but usual, both in the paths she has taken and her commitment to others to play it forward.

Jean attended Duke University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1940 with a degree in English.  She went on to pursue a graduate degree in library science.  She subsequently cut her studies short  after the United States entered World War 2  when her father encouraged her and her three sisters to sign up for WAVES, or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. Initiated in 1942, WAVES grew out of the need for additional military personnel during the war.

Jean first underwent training with other WAVES’ enrollees at Smith College, where she graduated first in her cohort.  She then relocated to Manhattan, where she held a top secret job in the U.S. Naval Office of Cable Censorship, censoring any suspicious communications.    It was through her service in the military that, in 1943, she met and soon thereafter married Lupton White.  Together they raised three sons

Jean credits the navy with teaching her that she could do anything she set her mind to, and she took that lesson to heart.   While her kids were growing up, Jean worked as a librarian, surrounded by the books she loved so much.  Not content with the usual duties of a librarian, she augmented her responsibilities by teaching children at the library how to read and write.  Her love of helping children extended to her church, where she spent years volunteering in Sunday school, teaching religious classes and bible study. And during her many years at Juniper Village at Chatham, she has served as a new resident ambassador, started a drive to collect soda can tops to support the Ronald McDonald House, participated in the communities annual  food drive, and is Chatham’s only resident bird feeder!

Jean is a shining example of all that we value here at Juniper Communities, a woman with a generous heart who is always there to give others a helping hand.

The Eli Ripple Effect: Here for our Residents Until the Very End

by Anne Gross

All of us are apprehensive about the inevitability of dying and the uncertainty that lies ahead.  But what must it be like if you face dying alone, without family or friends to comfort you?

Eleanor Copeland was a “young” 95 year old resident at Juniper Village at Williamstown.  She had lived there for almost two years before her death this January.  She could often be found tapping her walker to the sounds of live music, sitting outside soaking up the sun and cuddling up to Gunner, Williamstown’s resident dog, or deeply engrossed in a conversation with her close friend Linda, another resident at Williamstown.  Eleanor, who was married to her husband Stanley until his death 16 years ago, had no children.

Eleanor believed strongly that if she could not remain independent in her daily activities, that it was time for her to say goodbye.  Throughout her stay with us, she remained adamant that if she became ill, she wanted no heroics or procedures to prolong her life.

In January, Eleanor suffered a heart attack.  True to her convictions, she declined any treatment, including a catheter or surgery.  After a short hospitalization, she returned to her home at Williamstown, but soon started to fail, requiring a return visit to the hospital.

This time she was placed in CHP, and doctors informed her if she wanted to live, she needed a pacer to treat her low heart rate.  Again Eleanor said no.  True to her wishes, we arranged for Eleanor to be followed by hospice and once again she returned to Williamstown, where she could only maintain comfort in her recliner.

During the day, Linda spent hours by her side, reading the newspaper to her and holding her hand.  One evening, after Linda left her bedside to retire for the night, she alerted the nursing staff that Eleanor expressed fears of dying, and of dying alone.

Eleanor lived a little over twenty four hours, but during that period she was never alone. One of our caring staff members was always with her, from the housekeeping staff to the nursing staff to the CNAs.  The following evening when shift change occurred at 11:00 PM, three of our staff, Elise Morris, Katie Price and Janet Price clocked out, and then, along with staff from the next shift, stayed by Eleanor’s bedside until she died at 2:00 AM. During that time, they removed her chipped nail polish, which they knew she would have preferred, reminded her of the full life she led by reading from her, “My Life Story,” and talked lovingly to her about her beloved husband, Stanley.

For all of us, death is the ultimate separation from those we know and love, making dying alone intolerable.  Thanks to the caring staff at Juniper Village at Williamstown, Eleanor left this earth feeling loved and connected to those who truly cared for her.

The Eli Ripple Effect: Spotlight on a Shining Light at Juniper Village at Chatham

by Anne Gross

In a previous post, I introduced one of the signature features of Juniper communities, “The Eli Ripple Effect,”   where doing good deeds ripple throughout each of our facilities and out into the larger communities in which we live.  In today’s post, I want to highlight a very special resident, Freddy from Juniper Village at Chatham, who is the perfect example of how doing for others is endemic to the Juniper experience.

Freddy is 71 years old and has lived at Chatham since 2002, when he moved in with his father. He has faced challenges throughout his entire life.  With his parent’s support, he has been able to work for 30 years as a mail handler at the post office.  For Freddy, the move into Juniper Village at Chatham was special, as this was where he wanted to spend his golden years.

From the day he moved here, Freddy has focused on helping others.  As a resident ambassador, he can be seen taking new residents around the facility, showing them where everything is located and accompanying them to their meals.   But he doesn’t stop there. Every evening, Freddy posts the next days schedule throughout the facility, and in the evenings he can be found at the bingo games, handing out bingo bucks to the residents.   Freddy is also a great artist who draws pictures of our monthly staff heroes as well as portraits of our nation’s presidents.    His compassion also extends outside the Juniper community.  An active member of   the Lions club, where he served as president from 2001-2003, he has helped raise money to fund scholarships to college-bound students as well as the Foundation for the Blind.

I asked Freddy what contributed to his commitment to others, and he didn’t hesitate to say it was his parents.  They never made him feel different as a result of his special needs.  To the contrary, they accepted him for who he was, always insuring that he had the help he needed.

Never has Freddy’s compassion for others, and especially for those less fortunate, been tempered by his family’s association with many well known people.  Freddy recalls with pride how he has met elected officials – former Presidents George HW Bush and Richard Nixon to Senator Frank Lautenberg and Governor Christine Whitman – as well as movie stars such as Cary Grant or well known golfers like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, to name just a few.

When not caring for others, Freddy can be found on the computer playing Wii bowling, watching sports, engaged in crossword puzzles, or playing bingo.  No matter what activity he does, Freddy is a shining light to other residents and staff at Chatham, paying forward the compassion he learned as a child and has lived his whole life.

The Eli Ripple Effect: Caring is What We at Juniper Village at the Spearly Center do Best!

by Anne Gross

The staff at the Spearly Center are a special bunch, and nowhere is that more evident than in our Environmental Services (ES) department.  No doubt the first image that comes to  mind when you think of  the Environmental Service staff of a nursing home is  men   laden down with tool belts filled with screwdrivers, hammers, flashlights and the like! But when I think about the ES staff at the Spearly Center, I think of three kindhearted individuals who view their jobs as more than just fixing a resident’s TV.  Rather, for them it means helping out each of our approximate 130 residents with compassion and care.

Our department is headed by Mike “Tiny” Ladner.  Standing 6’6’’ inches tall and sporting a long beard, Tiny is anything but imposing.  Rather, he has the look of a large teddy bear, the inside of which houses a big heart.  You’d never know from the way Tiny walks the halls of our building, always stopping to say hello to a resident or spending five minutes talking to them, that he is always in demand, going from room to room fixing everything from a broken faucet to a malfunctioning light switch.    The residents, in turn, get a big kick out of calling him “Tiny, ”  as they thank him for all that  he does.    Always making sure those residents needs have been taken care of before he leaves for the day, Tiny roams the halls at eight most nights  to check one last time that nothing else needs to be fixed before he heads home.   “Aren’t you going home, Tiny?”  chimes in Robert, one of our residents.  To which he  replies, “Just checking to make sure you’re happy before I head out.”   

Tiny is assisted by Anthony and Josias.  All of them have a heartbeat on the special population that we serve.  “What we think of as little things aren’t little to our residents,” Anthony told me, referring to a time when he saw a dust ball in the corner of a resident’s room.  “I knew this little piece of dust could spur some scary images for individuals with mental health issues,” prompting him to sweep the room as quickly as possible.   And for all of them, they treat the residents as family.  As Anthony told me:  “Every time I get a room ready for a new resident, I always ask myself if I would feel comfortable putting my parents or grandparents in this room, for only then do I know the room is ready.” 

All three of them spoke of the appreciation they feel from residents, reminding them everyday that they are helping those in need.  Whether it is a relieved face that comes from reassuring a resident not to worry that his wheelchair accidentally hit the wall, or the outpouring of appreciation they receive when a resident tells them they made his day by the simple act of fixing his chair, they know the impact they have on residents is tremendous.  And when it comes to the resident’s appreciation for these three “cool and nice” men, one resident summed up the feelings of many here at the Spearly Center when she said, “This place wouldn’t be very good without the Environmental Service staff.”   

Tiny shared with me that the intrinsic satisfaction and joy he receives from connecting and helping the residents transcends the daily stress of his job. “It’s very heartwarming working with these residents, and something you can’t get at another job.”  So the next time you come visit us and see Tiny and his staff scurrying  from one job to another, please be sure and look beyond the tool belt, as you will see three very special compassionate team members.