After a year of quarantining and following a dizzying array of COVID protocols, at Vashon Community Care we believe we are beginning to see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel. We are fortunate to have received the vaccine early, and now 92% of residents and staff are fully inoculated, well above the national average. We are ready to move forward.
Per guidelines from county public health officials, long-term care facilities can move into their Safe Start Plan if they have not had a positive COVID case for 28 days. Our milestone for this transition is March 3, and we are eagerly awaiting that date.
The plan, approved by the governor, will roll out in phases and includes limited communal dining, group activities, salon services, outings, and, of course, our ongoing outdoor visits. Residents are thrilled, after the challenges of the last year, to be able to be with one another in community again. The steps may be small initially, but they are steps in the direction we have been longing to go for some time.
I speak for every staff person at VCC when I say that we are pent up with creative ideas. First and foremost, our mission is to tend to the physical, nutritional and intellectual health of our residents. Later this spring, we will launch Mind Over Aging, a full suite of services designed to support each resident in living a life of wellness with a focus on movement, nutrition, continual learning and dementia programs.
We are also mindful of the wider community around us and are eager to share resources — and fun — with many of you. In that vein, we are launching two new speaker series this year. Words & Wine will explore several aspects of aging, and Lives Well Lived, in partnership with the Vashon Heritage Museum and Voice of Vashon, will feature local speakers exploring topics that are relevant to Vashon and the larger world.
We are thrilled to host bestselling author Elizabeth Berg as the first guest in the Words & Wine lineup. She will read (via Zoom) from “I’ll Be Seeing You: A Memoir,” at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 20. The book, which she published to acclaim last October, tells the story of caring for her parents at the end of their lives.
To the best of their ability, she and her siblings provided practical advice, emotional support and direction to her parents, who were married for nearly 70 years. Her father had Alzheimer’s disease, and the couple — at their children’s urging — left their home to move to an assisted living facility to receive additional support. It is a beautifully written book, and we hope you will join us for the evening. Registration is open on our website, vashoncommunitycare.org, under “Upcoming Events.”
As spring approaches, our eye is also on beautifying our residents’ surroundings. In May, our almost 20-year-old building will receive a fresh coat of paint. Plans to paint the building have been in the works for over a year, and it will lift our spirits to see it finally happen. We hope to follow the paint with a new roof — once we’ve reached our $200,000 fundraising goal — later this year or in early 2022.
In the meantime, we are fortunate to be working with well-known artist, landscaping guru and volunteer extraordinaire, Darsie Beck, to revitalize our garden spaces. Last year, he designed Maeve’s Memory Garden, a secure, fenced-in garden connected to Beardsley Memory Support. Residents will be doing some planting there this spring, and we are dreaming, in time, of inviting musicians to perform there among the flowers and colorful patio umbrellas.
We will continue our master landscaping plan with another garden on the other side of Beardsley. In addition, we are reconfiguring the front of the building to create visiting spots outside of each first-floor apartment. We expect those to be inviting gathering areas while we contend with COVID and beyond.
We miss our island friends and volunteers who have long enriched our days with music, art, brain-teasers, history and travel. But it feels like the time is soon approaching when happy hour and meals can be shared as the VCC family once more.
Since my first days at Vashon Community Care more than a year ago, I have been mindful of the deep roots this building has in the Vashon community. And I have been moved by the large numbers of islanders who have supported our work, especially during this last long year. We hope you will join us in looking to the future — and we eagerly await seeing more of you in person.
— Wendy Kleppe is the executive director of Vashon Community Care.