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Awards and Innovations

UMH communities are among the most award-winning around! Why is this important to you? We win awards for two reasons; the first is that we have extraordinary staff who truly understand the importance of building relationships which enable them to provide the best care, and the second is that we are never happy resting on our laurels. We strive to create innovative programs to meet our resident’s needs. Any community could have a great idea but if it is not designed and implemented to meet a particular need, it will not be a success.


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UMH Wins 3 CALA Awards at 19th Annual Awards Program


UMH is once again the proud recipient of 3 Connecticut Assisted Living Association (CALA) Awards for 2014. The awards were presented at CALA’s 19th Annual Meeting and Awards Program held at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington on Wednesday, December 3rd.

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 Congratulations to our 2014 Values in Action Award winners


Each year United Methodist Homes provides a “Values in Action” award in recognition of employees who have demonstrated extraordinary behavior that exemplifies the organization’s core values of Respect, Spirituality, Excellence, Collaboration, and Stewardship.

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Middlewoods of Farmington, Middlewoods of Newington, and Crosby Commons Win Connecticut Assisted Living Association Awards for 2014


Recently Middlewoods of Farmington, Middlewoods of Newington, and Crosby Commons won 4 Connecticut Assisted Living Association awards for outstanding resident services.

Bishop Wicke Health and Rehabilitation Center Wins Best Nursing Homes Ranking


Bishop Wicke Health and Rehabilitation Center was recently selected by U.S. News and World Report to receive a Best Nursing Homes Ranking for 2014, a title they had also won in 2013. U.S. News rated nearly 16,000 nursing homes across the country in an effort to help caregivers and families find the best nursing home for their loved one.

Middlewoods of Newington: Zofia Kempna & Marissa Salvesen
Middlewoods of Farmington:  Marie Rimmelin
Crosby Commons:  Carolyn Monachelli

(Photo from left to right: Zofia Kempna, Marissa Salvesen, Carolyn Monachelli, Marie Rimmelin)

Bishop Wicke Health and Rehabilitation Center


Best Nursing Homes Ranking for 2014

Bishop Wicke Health and Rehabilitation Center was recently selected by U.S. News and World Report to receive a Best Nursing Homes Ranking for 2014, a title they had also won in 2013. U.S. News rated nearly 16,000 nursing homes across the country in an effort to help caregivers and families find the best nursing home for their loved one.

At the top of the Connecticut nursing homes list are those with a rating of five stars from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for their overall performance in health inspections, nurse staffing and quality of medical care. About 32 percent of all nursing homes in Connecticut earned an overall five-star rating, including Bishop Wicke Health and Rehabilitation Center. To view the rankings by location, visit


Silver Hammer Award

The Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce presented Bishop Wicke Health and Rehabilitation Center with the Silver Hammer Award on Friday, December 13, 2013, in recognition of their outstanding renovation of their skilled nursing and rehab center at Wesley Villag. The award was given at the Chamber’s Annual Holiday Breakfast Club and Awards Celebration and is presented to organizations in the Valley region who have made a significant investment in the local community through the contribution of a beautification or construction project.

Bishop Wicke recently completed the renovation of their 120-bed skilled nursing and rehab facility in October, an innovative project that transformed traditional nursing stations into “interdisciplinary work centers” that encourage greater interaction between staff, residents, families, and guests. The project also included updated sitting and dining areas, therapy rooms, new furniture, lighting, flooring, technology, and artwork throughout the building.

The event was held at Molto Bene Italian American Kitchen in Ansonia and on behalf of the Chamber, Rob Lesko, Vice President at the DiMatteo Group, presented the award to David Lawlor, President and CEO of United Methodist Homes, and Debra Samorajczyk, Administrator of Bishop Wicke Health and Rehabilitation Center. Lesko, a member of the Board of Directors for the Greater Valley Chamber, shared a heartwarming story about his (soon-to-be) 100 year-old aunt and the compassionate care she has received as a resident at Wesley Village.


Leading Age Connecticut Humanitarian of the Year 2012 - Awarded to Jack O’Donnell

Jack O’Donnell epitomizes distinguished service. He started at United Methodist Homes 45 years ago as a Chef at Bishop Wicke Health Center. After just three weeks, he was promoted to Executive Chef. His continued excellent service allowed him to advance in the company.

Twenty four years ago he became the Director of Food Service for the entire Wesley Village Campus and fifteen years ago, Jack also took on the responsibilities as Vice President of Dining Services for The Long Hill Company, a consulting division of United Methodist Homes, as well as advising our Middlewoods of Farmington and Newington assisted living communities.

Under Jack’s leadership, there have been countless quality culinary initiatives and special events that have taken our community to the highest level to satisfy residents in what is usually their top priority: the food. He provides ongoing cooking classes for the residents, family picnics for residents and staff and many catered affairs. At Wesley Village, a Journey of Dreams program was developed where residents’ wishes are granted, Jack arranged for one of our residents to cook with a professional Chef. He listens to their needs and always tries to accommodate each and every resident.

While his years of service and growth of responsibility is admirable, the service that he has provided to help others are exceptional. He is on the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley. He is on the Advisory Board of the Lincoln Culinary Institute where interns rotate through our kitchens to gain experience. Food and monetary donations are supplied to approximately thirteen needy organizations in the local area. Examples include; Spooner House, a local homeless shelter, where employees donate their time and cook food on the premises, food equipment is donated and at the holidays, not only does Jack personally donate money; he also coordinates collections from the entire community, providing much needed gift cards. At the American Legion, Jack and his staff volunteers cook at their annual picnic and on Veterans Day. At the Boys and Girls Club, food is provided to four of their events per year, and monetary support is provided to sponsor a child to go to summer camp each year.

Jack is highly respected by staff, residents, families and the community. His generosity and willingness to help anyone in need is truly amazing. United Methodist Homes is blessed to have Jack’s ongoing leadership and outstanding distinguished service for the last 45 years.

Values in Action Award - presented to Kevin Demauro


Florence Nightingale Nursing Excellence Award presented to Evelyn Rupsis, RN


Florence Nightingale Award presented to Faith Wajdowicz, RN


Connecticut Association of Not-for-Profit Providers for the Aging (CANPFA) Best Practices Award in Recruiting & Retention Innovations for the Fishing for Fun at Wesley Village program Connecticut Association of Not-for-Profit Providers for the Aging (CANPFA)

Best Practices Award in Program Innovations for the Successful Dining program

Crosby Commons Awards


Best Practices Award, Managed Residential Services

The Best Practices Award is presented to an assisted living provider who creates innovative programs or unique approaches in the area of managed residential services which exemplify excellence and are worthy of sharing with others.

Crosby Commons was recognized for its program entitled, “The Crosby Commons Express,” which featured an unforgettable New York City experience for Crosby residents, with opportunities for shopping, education, fine dining, arts, entertainment and more, in the comfort of their home. The program was organized by Activities Director, Mary Ann Milano and the entire Crosby team.

Crosby Commons Wins Two Connecticut Assisted Living Association Awards for Resident Service

Crosby Commons Assisted Living Community at Wesley Village is the proud recipient of two Connecticut Assisted Living Association Awards (CALA) for outstanding resident service. Crosby Dining Room Supervisor, Cathy Brelsford, and Wellness Center Director, Dianne Terrace, were honored at CALA’s Annual Resident Service Awards held at The Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Westbrook on Friday, June 20th.

Cathy, a member of the Crosby team for the past 6 years, was nominated for her pleasant nature, willingness to help in any department, and her deep level of caring and respect for the residents. Dianne, a member of the Crosby team for the past 7 year, was nominated for the many ways she goes above and beyond to make personal wellness and fitness fun and engaging for all. Both ladies were nominated for the award by Crosby staff and residents. In addition to Crosby Commons’ two awards, United Methodist Homes also received two awards for their Middlewoods of Farmington and Middlewoods of Newington communities. Congratulations to all of our award winners!


Crosby Commons

Distinguished Resident Accomplishment Award

Nomination: Jeannette Dermody

Jeannette Dermody inspires the entire community of Crosby Commons with her commitment to making a difference in the lives of others. At 97 years old, Jeannette strongly believes in the importance of socialization, staying active, and strengthening relationships between all generations. When she is not knitting prayers shawls for Hospice patients, delivering cards to veterans, leading a rosary group, or assembling gift bags for the children’s hospital, Jeannette serves as a registered volunteer in our community. Through her service on our Welcoming Committee, she makes every resident feel truly at home and assists them through the move-in process with warmth and grace.  Happily advocating for all of our resident activities, Jeannette encourages learning and growing by teaching pinochle and Rummikub to residents looking for a new hobby. Never considering herself “too old to party,” Jeannette delights us with her charm at our special events, dressing as the Easter Bunny for our annual egg hunt and as Santa Claus for a holiday children’s visit.

Every year Jeannette attends our annual 5K Road Race…dressed as a clown! She is our number one cheerleader, distributing medals and ribbons to participants and sharing her joy for life and infectious enthusiasm with children and adults alike. After 37 years working as a school crossing guard, Jeannette enjoys any opportunity to serve others and connect with younger generations. She takes advantage of  these opportunities at Crosby Commons and finds fulfillment all along the way. Her humility, gratitude, and passion for life tell the story of one who has aged well, reminding us that growing old doesn’t have to mean giving up or giving in, but rather for Jeannette, it can mean giving back. For these reasons and more, we proudly nominate her for the Distinguished Resident Accomplishment Award.

Crosby Commons

CALA Humanitarian Award

Nomination: Lois Poutney

As the Executive Director of Crosby Commons, Lois has a multi-faceted position which incorporates administrative, sales & marketing, and managerial responsibilities.  Lois has a deep belief in the relationship-centered mission of United Methodist Homes, and brings a high level of professionalism, integrity, experience, and creativity to the many facets of her job.   

Lois’ day starts breakfast time when she goes around the Dining Room checking in with residents.  She is the first one to join in the dancing, tell a joke and give a hug.  She often doesn’t go home until the residents are through with dinner.  Most of her staff have been with her for most of the last decade and are inspired by her kindness and openness to new ideas and collaborative leadership style.  Under her leadership her community and staff have won numerous awards.

Lois’s spirit, high degree of energy, and upbeat personality make it a pleasure to work for and with her.  She is an inspiring leader and maintains high standards of performance for her staff.  No job is too small for Lois to handle – she has been seen sitting on the floor of the Café washing down the front of the steam table!  She shampoos spots on the carpeting, and is not above plunging toilets or doing whatever is needed if no one else is available.

Lois always makes a point of being very communicative with staff & residents.  She initiated the “Monday Morning Town Meeting” with residents to bring them up to date on happenings in our community.  She is diligent in informing staff of pertinent information by placing notices on the community bulletin board, and hold a brief weekly meeting with all the department heads to keep them updated.

Lois demonstrates graciousness, humor, fairness, and patience with staff, residents, & visitors.  She has an open door policy – people feel free to come to her with their problems or suggestions.  She is very responsive to and supportive of everyone’s needs and interacts with everyone with tact and kindness.  She functions as a job coach to help employees perform their jobs successfully.  She handles difficult situations with grace and ease and always manages to defuse any tensions that are present.

Lois’s dedication is visible in the long hours that she works and diligence in getting to work even in bad weather.  She has slept over several times during snowstorms and has been known to pitch in with snow shoveling.  She helped an employee who was unable to get out in the snow by picking her up and driving her home.

The Sales & Marketing piece of Lois’s job is very demanding.  She manages to keep Crosby Commons full all the time in spite of turnover in the resident population.  She is very persuasive, charming, and welcoming to prospective residents & their families.  She devised and implemented a New Resident Orientation program involving representatives from every department who visit with new residents and help them with information and guidance about life at Crosby Commons.

She is a very strong advocate for the staff & residents and does not hesitate to approach management with her ideas and suggestions regarding the community or administrative policies which she feels need improvement.  

Lois’s outstanding skills, versatility, superior performance, and warm personality make her a perfect choice for the CALA Humanitarian Award.

Nominated by Carolyn Monachelli, Receptionist

CALA Distinguished Service Award 2013

United Methodist Homes

Nomination: Beth Schave-Bemis

Since the beginning of her career as an activities director nearly 2 decades ago, Beth Schave-Bemis has dedicated herself to making a difference in the lives of seniors and those who care for them. Recently celebrating 15 years with the same organization, Beth currently works as the Vice President of Marketing, Promotions, and Assisted Living Operations for United Methodist Homes and serves as a board member for CALA. Throughout her years in senior living, she has served as one of the industry’s youngest executive directors and has juggled multiple management responsibilities while working with United Methodist Homes. Holding a Masters degree in Gerontology, Beth has committed herself to enhancing the educational opportunities for others serving seniors, working closely with the gerontology program at University of St. Joseph, as well as The Consortium for Gerontological Education.

A global thinker with the ability to set goals and envision and embrace change, Beth has worked to create a climate for culture-change across the industry and has travelled internationally to empower leaders to adopt a relationship-centered approach to care. Beth has been instrumental in coordinating both staff and resident retreats and focus groups that have enabled United Methodist Homes to improve quality and outcomes of service, while encouraging innovation by seeking, listening, and responding to new ideas. She is truly a visionary leader and while juggling family and career, continues to recognize the importance of respect, spirituality, excellence, collaboration, and stewardship, believing strongly in the mission, vision, and values of United Methodist Homes.

Always keeping her eye on the future, Beth carefully and intentionally plants her “garden” and spends time and energy mentoring and nurturing people of passion and purpose to “grow” both personally and professionally within the organization. Encouraging the “flowers” in her garden to move forward beyond their own expectations, making a difference for seniors and leaving their stamp of creativity on the industry, Beth has influenced many staff who now work in their own leadership roles. Her influence and dedication to the industry has undeniably helped to further the goals of CALA and greatly enhance the quality of life for the elderly we serve. For those reasons and more, we proudly nominate her for the Distinguished Service Award.


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award Honorable Mention – Artarene Thompson, Certified Nursing Assistant Values in Action Awardpresented to Nellie Nicholas


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award Honorable Mention - Terry Moffet, Housekeeper

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Resident Care

Assisted Living Federation Of America (ALFA) Best Practices Award-Resident Care “Friends Fighting Falls" 

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award - Resident Care “Friends Fighting Falls”

At a Crosby Commons community meeting a resident asked, “Is there anything we can do about all these falls?” The management team had been thinking the same thing. Together we determined we would try and “Friends Fighting Falls” was born.

Friends Fighting Falls is a three-prong approach to fall prevention consisting of education, evaluation and exercise. We encouraged residents to come with a neighbor or friend to our monthly fall prevention lectures. Volunteer guest speakers shared information on everything from proper footwear, assistive devices, knowing the side effects of medications to maintaining a safe environment. Residents received many helpful hints on staying safe and fall proofing their apartments. Housekeepers and nurses’ aides, who visit apartments daily, contributed by pointing out dangers in the apartment, such as clutter and then assisted the resident with improving the situation.

Residents were also given checklists for safety that they could post in their apartments as a reminder. Free posters from the Centers for Disease Control on fall prevention were displayed throughout the community. We even dedicated a section in our library for fall prevention literature.

When a staff member noticed that many residents had eyeglasses with smudged lenses, several eyeglass-cleaning stations were set up throughout the community. Residents with a clearer view are less likely to fall.

Simultaneously with fall prevention education, we started the evaluation and exercise portion of the program. After sharing with our residents some very frightening statistics regarding seniors and falls, most residents were very interested in participating in a short, simple fall risk assessment. Using a free testing module sanctioned by the National Institute of Health and administered by students studying physical therapy at a local university, each resident received their fall risk number. Then they were given a schedule of numerous balance and strength classes they could attend. They were encouraged to pick at least three classes a week to attend with a friend. If they did not have a friend to come with, we attempted to find them a buddy. Our hope was that friends would encourage and remind each other to attend class. Staff assisted with reminding residents as well. When delivering meals, waitresses would ask, “Have you been to a Friends Fighting Falls class today?” Also, it was not unusual for the receptionist to call residents’ apartments and remind them to attend class. The entire community was committed to making this program a success.

Within weeks, residents who attended class regularly were reporting how much easier it was to get out of their chairs and how they experienced an increased confidence in their mobility. Residents were even asking if there were exercises they could safely perform in their apartments. The “Kitchen Sink” series seemed to fit the bill. They could hold on to their kitchen sinks and do a series of simple balance exercises in their own kitchenette.

After six months of balance and strength classes, we were ready to re-test residents. We reminded them that this is a program that never ends. This is only the first step in a lifelong commitment to fall prevention. In many cases residents were pleased to see improvement and not a single resident lost ground. 89% remained fall free.

Though falls cannot be entirely eliminated we are proud to say that through on-going education, evaluation and exercise we are giving our residents a good fighting chance against that enemy “the fall”.


CONNECTICUT ASSISTED LIVING ASSOCIATION - Outstanding Resident Service Award - Chris Sonsini and Carolyn Monachelli, and an Honorable Mention - Kristen Ayer  

ASSISTED LIVING FEDERATION OF AMERICA (ALFA) Best Practices Award-Resident Care- “Transitions of Care”

Most of us have experienced the frustration of giving all our pertinent health information to a professional in a hospital setting, only to be asked the same questions over again when we are transferred to another floor.   When something like this happens to one of our residents, it is particularly difficult.  It is so important that a resident’s health information follow them, no matter what health care setting they are in.

This year the Crosby nursing team set ourselves a goal of enhancing communication and cooperation between in-house departments as well as hospitals, home care agencies, rehabilitation facilities, and primary care providers to assure residents’ care needs are met to the best of our abilities. We realized that in order to improve the quality of care for our residents, it was imperative for health care providers from various care settings to work together to share information.

We decided to form a focus group consisting of representatives from our own assisted living community, skilled nursing, and local hospitals.  We met and all agreed that comprehensive care planning and availability of practitioners to have current information about a resident’s clinical status, goals and preferences is essential. After several meetings, a game plan emerged.  The following “transitions of care” initiatives were put in place: 

  • When residents on ALSA services have doctor appointments, they are given a written update on their healthcare status, as well as a list of our nurses’ concerns, to bring with them to their appointment.
  • We created a letter that goes out with all residents when they go to a hospital.  In addition to including information about the resident’s health status, the letter outlines the healthcare services that are and are not available in our assisted living community.  This helps to prevent a resident being sent back who needs more help than we can provide.
  • ALSA nurses are attending care conferences at rehabilitation facilities to help determine if returning to our assisted living community is in the best interest of the resident.
  • When a resident moves to a new level of care, a transitions letter is sent to the new facility explaining the environment the resident came from, along with their current status and preferences.  If we discovered a certain care technique that worked for the resident, we share that information.
  • New forms were created for distributing information between in-house departments.  Everything from the dietary department being made aware that an ill resident should receive tray service to the housekeeping team being notified that an apartment needs freshening up for a returning rehab resident, is important information and affects resident care.
  • The ALSA team created a “Transitions of Care” Resource Manuel for residents and families highlighting community resources for all level of needs.

We truly feel we have improved the continuity of healthcare for our Crosby residents with our Transitions of Care initiatives and encourage other communities to do the same.


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Staff Recruitment & Retention – “Thank You Challenge”

To effectively care for our residents, it is imperative that we care for and show appreciation to our staff.  When staff members feel appreciated, they are more likely to go above and beyond for residents, as well as their fellow employees.  Staff members who feel truly appreciated are much more likely to remain on the job.

While writing a thank you note to an employee acknowledging her never ending patience, I realized it had been quite a while since I made an effort to show my gratitude, in writing, for a staff member’s good deed. I realized I had gotten a bit lazy.  At first I made excuses to myself.  “ I am just so busy” and “ I do not always have a thank you note at hand” seemed like flimsy excuses.  The thought crossed my mind, that with our busy schedules, perhaps our entire team had gotten a bit lazy.

I invited staff and residents to join me for a focus group meeting to discuss employee appreciation.  We talked about how good it feels to get a thank you note. Well it was not long before we realized, it also feels great to write one.  We decided it would be a good idea to encourage our entire community to take the time for thank you notes. Thus, the Thank You Challenge was born.  Here are the guidelines:

  • Thank you notes will always be available at the reception desk.  As part of our crafts program, Residents will periodically make thank you notes to assure an adequate supply is always available.
  • Staff is encouraged to acknowledge their fellow employees’ random acts of kindness by taking the time to write a thank you note.  Residents are invited to join in the challenge as well.
  • For each thank you note written and for each thank you note received, employees receive a raffle ticket.  Raffle tickets are entered into our Thank You Challenge box that is prominently on display at our reception desk.
  • Quarterly, there is a raffle drawing and the lucky winners receive a gift card to Outback Restaurant.

Flyers promoting the challenge were posted throughout the community and department managers encouraged their teams to participate.  Before long, it was evident that the challenge was working.  Staff would come to the reception desk with their recently received thank you note in their hand to ask for their raffle ticket.  The smiles on their faces said it all.  You did not have to win the raffle to benefit from our new program.  The appreciation everyone felt when they received a note, as well as the good feeling experienced while writing a note, made everyone a winner.



Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Resident Care - “Transitions in Care”

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Managed Residential Services – “New Resident Orientation”

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award- Honorable Mention - David Schiller


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices and Annual Awards Best Practices Award-Resident Care

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award to Debbie Holcomb, RN, and an honorable mention to Mary Ann Milano, Activities Director


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Resident Care “Healthy Habits”

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Residential Services “Journey of Dreams”

Crosby Commons recognizes that, even at an advanced age, residents still have wishes and dreams. With the goal of supporting each resident’s aspirations, the Journey of Dreams program invites residents to write down their personal wishes, goals or desires and place them in a wishing well in the lobby. Staff then enlists the assistance of family, friends and volunteers to make each resident’s dream become a reality.

The very first wish came from a 98 year old resident, Lee who expressed the desire to visit the ocean again. Lee was no longer walking and thought a trip to the beach for someone in a wheelchair was just not going to happen. The staff was thrilled to assist in making Lee’s dream a reality. A day at the beach was arranged for Lee and a number of her friends. Staff members gave Lee a conch shell explaining that if she put the shell to her ear, she could continue to hear the ocean. The shell is now a treasured remembrance of Lee’s day at the beach.

Some wishes entered into our Journey of Dreams Wishing Well have been practical ones. For example, a volunteer spent two days helping a resident completely re-organize her closets. Having organized closets was actually a lifelong dream of this resident who at 90 years of age had her dream come true.

Other dreams are have been more complex and required some imagination and teamwork. For a NASCAR racing fan, staff transformed the lobby of the community into “Alice’s Raceway” complete with checkered flags and a giant track for car races.

Alice’s favorite race car driver, Jeff Gordon, could not be there but he did send a letter and we were able to get a six foot tall cardboard cut out of Jeff that Alice was just thrilled with.

Another resident, who is a huge fan of Disney World, knew she would not visit there again. She was delighted when we were able to bring the Disney experience to her. Dressed up as the various Disney Characters, local high school students paraded through the community. Mickey Mouse was available to have his picture taken with residents. A local dance and talent school put on a Disney themed show for the residents. Residents even donned 3-D glasses to watch a roller coaster video.

When we first stared the Journey of Dreams program our hope was that it would enrich our residents’ lives. We know we have succeeded with that goal and are thrilled that along the way we have enriched the lives of our staff members and all the volunteers who assist us in making dreams come true.


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Humanitarian of the Year Award - Heidi Gil, Wesley Heights

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award, honorable mention presented to Artarene Thompson, Certified Nurses Aide, Amy Broadbent, RN and Mary Ann Griffiths, Cook Supervisor, Food Services Florence Nightingale Award presented to Amy Broadbent, RN


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Awards presented to Mary Ellen Reilly, Chef Manager and Nellie Nicholas, Certified Nursing Assistant


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Residential Services “Friendly Cleaning”

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award - Karen Marganski, Certified Nursing Assistant, and the Crosby Commons Assisted Living Nursing Team made up of RNs, LPNs, and CNAs


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Staff Recruitment and Retention “Hug A Housekeeper Day”


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Staff Recruitment and Retention “Fishing for Fun”


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Staff Recruitment and Retention “Crosby Spirit Award”

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Residential Services “International Day Program”


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Excellence in Food Service “Host and Hostess Program



Values in Action Award - presented to Rosa Houston

Middlewoods of Farmington


Humanitarian Award, Ginny Brown (Activities Director)

The Humanitarian Award is presented to an individual whose personal integrity, decency, and contributions to the elderly best exemplify the ideals of CALA’s member organizations and their missions and who serves as an inspiration to all.

Ginny Brown has worked for Middlewoods of Farmington for over 8 years. It is through her charm and persuasive powers that she has engaged the entire community in service to others with a calendar of events which benefit local homeless residents, the American Cancer Society, Operation Christmas Child, the Salvation Army, and scores of other worthy causes.

Ginny, in her humanitarian efforts, has been able to tap into the kindness and generosity that lives in people’s hearts, reminding us that it does not matter that one is old, or uses a walker or a wheelchair, or can’t get out into the greater community. Ginny has found a way to bring outreach efforts directly to our residents; helping them feel vital, connected, and find a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Middlewoods of Farmington Wins Connecticut Assisted Living Association Award for Resident Service

Middlewoods of Farmington is the proud recipient of a Connecticut Assisted Living Association Award (CALA) for outstanding resident service. Certified Nursing Assistant and Housekeeper, Rosemarie Christie, was honored at CALA’s Annual Resident Service Awards held at The Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Westbrook on Friday, June 20th.

Rosemarie was nominated by fellow staff members for her joyful personality, reliability, and willingness to help in any situation. She is known to regularly go above and beyond her job description and her daily actions consistently exemplify our values of Respect, Spirituality, Excellence, Collaboration, and Stewardship. She is truly an asset to the community and helps to make Middlewoods of Farmington a special home for our residents. In addition to Middlewoods of Farmington’s award, United Methodist Homes also received three awards for their Middlewoods of Newington and Crosby Commons communities. Congratulations to all of our award winners!


ALFA – Champion for Seniors Award – Lucy Gordon

Lucy Gordon is an employee of exceptional grace. She is kind, caring, and devoted to the care of our Residents. She is a quiet presence who embodies our values of excellence, respect and collaboration. Lucy is one of our unsung heroes here at Middlewoods of Farmington. She has a very quiet and unassuming presence, yet she is a rock of strength and a shining example of a hard working person. She is totally devoted to our Residents. Lucy’s greatest skill perhaps is her listening ability. One look at her expressive and kind eyes and our Residents are pouring out their hearts to her. She listens and is non-judgmental but yet is positive and so encouraging to all.

For so many of our Residents, it is their moments with Lucy each day that they look forward to the most. Watching Lucy interact one-on-one with Residents is specifically where you can see her unique talents. As she escorts a Resident to lunch, the Resident may walk very slowly and unsteadily, but Lucy treats that person like she is the Queen of England, with a gentle touch and always a respectful manner that lets our Residents hold on to their dignity and their sense of self-worth. When Lucy goes into the Sunroom and sits quietly by a Residents side, it is not uncommon to see her lay a soft hand on a shoulder as she listens to their story. Lucy is an advocate for our Residents. It is because she listens so well that she truly knows who they are and what they may need. It is the collective hope of all of our staff, that if ever we need care, Lucy will be there to provide it. Lucy also is an advocate for herself and has proven to be a lifelong learner.

This past Fall she was a student at the Connecticut Assisted Living Association certified nurse’s aide course held at St. Joseph’s College. When asked why she was pursuing further education she clearly stated that she felt it in her heart to do so. We all feel great pride in our hearts that Lucy is here at Middlewoods working with us!

CONNECTICUT ASSISTED LIVING ASSOCIATION Outstanding Resident Service Award Honorable Mention – Lucy Gordon, Certified Nursing Assistant

Values in Action Award presented to Amin Algahmie


ALFA – Champion for Seniors Award– Linda Midwinter, RN


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Awards - Debra Stenhouse, and Anne Muzyk, Security/Certified Nursing Assistant Assisted Living Federation of America – Champion for Seniors

Debra Stenhouse As Middlewoods of Farmington’s Dining Room Supervisor, Debra Stenhouse excels at a job that requires patience, care and having constant concern for others. She ably juggles staffing schedules, supervises wait staff, over-sees all dining room operations as well as welcoming residents into the dining room for three meals per day. Each day brings different challenges, and Debra handles everything with ease, compassion and humor! What makes Debra outstanding is not only her job performance; it is her desire to connect with each resident to make this chapter as meaningful as possible. When it was time last summer for Debra to take a week off for a well-deserved vacation, she thought of George, a delightful 89-year-old man, who loves the state of Maine. He spent much time there as a young man and throughout his adult life. He longed to smell the salty air, he dreamed of eating lobster again and he hoped to see life long friends one more time. Unfortunately, George has no family, no one that could make that trip possible for him. Debra realized that she could make an incredible difference in George’s life. Debra and George traveled to Maine! During their week in Maine, Debra lovingly watched over George as he visited with old friends, ate seafood, and even went on a boat out into the ocean. Debra experienced great joy as she watched George thoroughly enjoy each and every moment. They made quite the pair-Debra with her sundress and big sunglasses, and George with a jaunty cap on his head, holding tightly to his walker.

When George arrived home he could not say enough about his trip, he was so very grateful to Debra for making it all possible. Six months later we still hear George in the hallways talking about his beloved state of Maine and his dear friend Debra. Isn’t this story what this life is all about? Making a difference for others is the magic that holds us all together. Our Residents at Middlewoods and our staff consider Debra Morton our hero! Our world is better because she is in it! (We also all dream of her taking us someplace wonderful!)

Assisted Living Federation of America – “Best of the Best” Award for Wellness

All of the research links physical vitality with cognitive vitality and a healthier, happier life. At Middlewoods of Farmington, an assisted living community in Farmington, CT, regular exercise classes, involving balance, stretching, sitter size and work with small weights have been a part of the activity schedule for years. The question became what else could we offer to keep residents interested in staying fit?

Regularly conducted focus groups with residents, staff and families indicated that even though we had such a variety of classes, we were still not meeting the needs of all residents. It required looking at the problems with an out-of-the-box solution. Our building is small, with no room for exercise equipment. How could we meet the needs of a growing segment of our population that wanted to ride recumbent bicycles, walk on a treadmill or even swim? There were no plans for renovations or an addition to the building. To meet the needs we had to be creative. Our Executive Director approached the local YMCA about a group membership. The community pays a minimal monthly fee so that any number of residents can participate. A growing number of residents now take our bus to the YMCA two to three times each week to utilize all that the facility has to offer. It also provides these residents an opportunity to meet and socialize with people outside of our assisted living community.

In response to focus group data asking for more variety in types of physical activities, Ginny Brown, Activity Director began to line up different classes and instructors, tapping into Western and Eastern ideologies. “I’ve had people ask for Tai Chi, Reiki and more! I was surprised that so many of our residents wanted to try something new!” The residents at Middlewoods of Farmington now have Reiki, Qi-Gong and even Belly Dancing classes offered throughout each month. “The ladies really let loose during belly dancing classes, moving so freely with the scarves to the music”, says Ginny.

The program has also tapped into staff that wants to stay healthy and become more involved with life in the community. A Walking group is held throughout the week led by the receptionist. They walk inside during the winter months and find new and different things to talk about as they walk. Ginny Brown leads a group of residents who want to exercise by walking up and down stairs! Not to mention the exercise our Wii bowlers get! The Middlewoods Strikers stay fit with numerous practices each week and regular competition with the Wii bowling team from our sister community. They even participated in the Wii bowling tournament for senior citizens from across the state of Connecticut. We’ve seen the number of Residents participating in one form of exercise or another continue to grow by 25%. The majority of our residents have found some sort of meaningful fitness activity through all of our offerings and remain active and vital participants in life.

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Humanitarian of the Year Award – Linda Midwinter, RN It is with great joy and love that we nominate Linda Midwinter for the CONNECTICUT ASSISTED LIVING ASSOCIATION Humanitarian Award. Linda is an RN who has served the Middlewoods community with a quiet compassion for many years. Each and every Resident and their families feel nurtured and cared for by Linda. Her gentle manner coupled with a strong medical background help make Linda a trusted and respected member of our team. It is difficult to cite just one example of humanitarian service, because Linda goes above and beyond on a daily basis. Linda often goes out of her way to stop at a rehab center to visit Residents who may be there. She came in on the weekend when we were under quarantine just to make sure all was well. Her spiritual leadership during our memorial services is unsurpassed. Linda also leads a weekly prayer group with Residents, staff and family. This is one of our highest attended weekly activities.

Linda’s compassion and sense of mission spread beyond the walls of our community. Linda has traveled to the Dominican Republic as part of a medical mission team, dedicated to bringing health care to third world countries. Linda is able to weave her outreach work into our community as well, recently helping our Residents contribute to Operation Christmas Angel, which provided small gifts to children in need.

Linda not only cares for our bodies, but most certainly also our minds by always promoting wellness and explaining the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. It is the spirit component of her being that truly shines! There is an inner radiance of faith and a belief in the power of the human spirit that makes Linda stand out. An added bonus is that Linda’s 102-year-old Grandmother also calls Middlewoods home. It is a gift to all of us to watch Linda and her Grandmother live and thrive together each day. We are indeed blessed to count her as our beloved friend and co-worker!


Spirit of Planetree Continuing Care Program Award – “Resident Retreats” Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident

Service Award - Ginny Brown, Activities Director CONNECTICUT ASSISTED LIVING ASSOCIATION Best Practices Award for Managed Residential Services – “Resident Retreats”

Middlewoods of Farmington has been involved in the implementation of the Planetree philosophy of resident-centered care over the past year. Our Residents, their families and our staff have warmly received this culture changing care. Planetree nurtures our minds, our bodies and our spirits. Middlewoods of Farmington found that our off-site staff retreats were essential in teaching our staff about these important connections in our lives and in our work. A retreat provided the opportunity for reflection and for fun, as well as providing the gift of time to work on individual relationships. As our staff members returned from their retreats, we soon realized that our Residents could benefit from the same experience. Using the Planetree Continuing Care Model as our guideline, we developed a retreat format that focuses on relationships, and the many changes our Residents face within themselves and our community. Activities such as guided imagery, a partnering experience, hands on elderly simulation, and discussions on how to celebrate life and continue to fulfill our dreams comprised our retreat agenda. An important part of the Retreat was taking our Residents to an off-site Retreat center for the day!

Results were fabulous!! Not only did our Residents have a better understanding of the Planetree philosophy, they had a better understanding of each other. One Resident noted, “I feel very privileged to have attended this retreat. It lifted my spirits to a higher level; I want to go again.” One of our retreat facilitators adds, “To see two 99 year old woman sitting at the retreat wanting to new learn new things about themselves and those around them really speaks to what we are trying to accomplish by bringing Planetree to Middlewoods.”


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award presented to Jim Grey, Driver and Carol Reed, Certified Nursing Assistant


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Excellence in Marketing - "Welcome Committee"


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Managed Residential Services - "Residential Council"


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Special Recognition - "September 11"

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 have had a profound impact on all of us. A great focus was placed on how children would deal with viewing such horror and the emotions that follow. Little attention was paid to how the elderly would handle their feelings. Our Residents had the potential to get lost in the shuffle. This was not acceptable to our staff. Managers and employees from all departments pulled together to implement discussion and support groups, understanding how important it was for the Residents to have a forum in which to discuss their feelings and fears. A prayer was said each day after exercise class during the recovery effort. A large prayer service was planned with our campus minister. Ninety percent of our Residents attended to show their support for the victims and each other. A Patriotic Day was planned. All Residents and staff were encouraged to wear red, white and blue. The craft group made red, white and blue safety pin flags to wear and sell at an upcoming craft fair.

Centerpieces were made with small American flags to display throughout the community. Several patriotic sing-along programs were planned and still continue. The Resident Council took on the challenge of raising money to contribute to the September 11 Victims Fund. The Resident Council, Residents, employees, and the company donated. All those involved felt such satisfaction to be able to do something at a time when we all felt helpless to do anything.

As some time has passed, the fear of the unknown is still within our hearts. People everywhere continue to stay glued to the TV and radio for news. This is not necessarily a healthy way to live. Our staff has made a concerted effort to be aware of those Residents who continue to have difficulty coping with the effects and aftershocks of September 11. A weekly current events group meets and offers the Residents an opportunity to discuss recent happenings and touch base about the after effects. Residents are encouraged to bring a bit of good news to each group. It is important to stay aware of the goodness in our world. Our staff is to be commended for addressing the issues and feelings that our Residents were facing. We feel that such immediate action helped the Residents to deal with their emotions and start the healing process. We hope to never have to replicate this kind of programming again, as it would mean we were facing another event of catastrophic proportions.


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Excellence in Activities - "Based on the Life of"

One hundred eighth grade students from King Philip Middle School participated in an intergenerational project with residents of Middlewoods of Farmington. The purpose of this intergenerational program was to expose the students to members of another generation that they may not have an opportunity to speak with otherwise. It was reciprocally beneficial for the residents to talk with the younger generation as well.

On two separate occasions, in November and December, students came over to the community to interview residents about their lives. Twenty senior citizens from Middlewoods agreed to be interviewed. Each resident met with a group of four to six students. Many of the residents participated on both occasions. The student’s instructions were to interview the resident and create a fictional account of the resident’s responses. The assignment for English class was to create poems, short stories or plays based on the life of the resident interviewed.

Some of the questions asked:

  • What world event most influenced your life?
  • Describe the most important holiday that you and your family celebrated.
  • Describe the relationship between you and your siblings.
  • Was there ever a time when you felt lonely?
  • Describe the difference between clothing today and of that when you were in school.
  • What event in today’s time has you most concerned?
The question and answer sessions led off into other directions and some unanticipated stories. At the conclusion of the interview session, the students were able to eat their lunch and enjoy a more “informal” conversation with the residents. One resident happens to be a retired teacher from King Philip Middle School. This was of interest to the students and teachers alike. One resident said “The students seemed seriously interested and attentive and appeared to get a lot out of the experience,” and “Kids today are not impressed by much in general today but seemed impressed by the community and the program”. The students have been hard at work on their English assignment. We will take the residents over to the school in the spring for a reception. The students will read aloud their poems and short stories and act out their plays. They will also prepare a buffet of desserts for the residents. This is just one phase of the intergenerational relationship with this school. A short story discussion group is being planned for March. A relationship of this type is of benefit for the student and older adult alike and we plan to nurture and develop it in the years to come.

Middlewoods of Newington


Middlewoods of Newington Wins Connecticut Assisted Living Association Award for Resident Service

Middlewoods of Newington is the proud recipient of a Connecticut Assisted Living Association Award (CALA) for outstanding resident service. Certified Nursing Assistant, Elizabeth Colon, was honored at CALA’s Annual Resident Service Awards held at The Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Westbrook on Friday, June 20th.

Elizabeth has been part of the Middlewoods team since August 2013. She was nominated by fellow staff members for her outstanding and exceptional resident service; for providing far more than just personal care to the residents of Middlewoods of Newington. Elizabeth was recognized for her initiative, reliability, observation and communication skills, and the great rapport she has built with residents, family members, and staff. She is truly an asset to the community and makes a true difference in the lives of the residents and staff. In addition to Middlewoods of Newington’s award, United Methodist Homes also received three awards for their Middlewoods of Farmington and Crosby Commons communities. Congratulations to all of our award winners!


CALA Young Leader of the Year 2013

Submitted by: Middlewoods of Newington

Nomination: Jeanie Banh, LPN, Wellness Department

Jeanie Banh has taught the community of Middlewoods of Newington that leadership begins with relationships. Stepping into a very busy Wellness Department, Jeanie has worked as an LPN for just over a year but manages the details of our daily routine with flexibility and competency. Always willing to learn and take on new projects, Jeanie is honest and teachable and never afraid to ask questions. Aspiring to become a registered nurse and having began her career as a CNA, Jeanie has great goals and relates well with our CNA staff, communicating openly and working together with them when an extra hand is needed. The staff, in turn, seek her out for answers and direction. Jeanie is the “go-to” nurse for any medication questions and has developed an excellent rapport with residents, families, pharmacies, and healthcare professionals who rely on her efficiency and consistent follow-through for answers.

In the midst of a recent resident crisis, Jeanie was the first staff member to arrive at the scene and handled herself and the emergency situation like a true leader, with maturity and skill. Still new to Assisted Living, Jeanie not only followed the appropriate procedures to care for the resident, but was also instrumental in calming down the residents who had witnessed the event. Her calm, empathetic manner reassures residents, families, and staff and they feel comfortable seeking her out when they are upset or are in need.

With her Chinese and Vietnamese heritage, Jeanie has brought a new sense of cultural diversity to the community. She regularly shares her customs and traditions with residents and staff, bringing in Vietnamese coffee and talking openly about her ethnic background. Staff of other ethnic backgrounds have followed her example in sharing their own traditions, inspiring the activities director to organize an international Pot Luck Dinner (with everything from pot stickers to pierogies!) during Assisted Living Week. No longer known as the “Asian Nurse,” amongst the residents, Jeanie has captured the hearts of residents, staff, and families alike! On behalf of Middlewoods of Newington, we are proud to nominate Jeanie Banh for the Young Leader of the Year Award.

Cala Annual Best Practices Award - 2013

Managed Residential Services – Activities

The “Little E” !!!!

The "Little E" is Middlewoods of Newington’s fabulous mini-version of the annual “Big E” Eastern States Exposition which takes place in Massachusetts each fall. When thinking about the joy people experience when attending the seasonal fairgrounds and carnivals, our Activities Director, Lynn Tracey, got to work re-creating the experience for our residents….in the comfort of their own home! 

She began with first things, first, considering that aside from arts and crafts booths, entertainment, musical shows or tractor pulls, most folks seem to intentionally congregate around the various food stations and animal barns at any fair. And so our vision of hosting a miniature version of the “Big E” began, centered around the hope of finding someone who could help with animal visits.  After speaking with many recreation specialists, the Sharon Family Farm from Tolland, CT was mentioned and within a few weeks they were happy to help us make our vision a reality! Much to their surprise, our residents were absolutely delighted by the company of a little piglet, two hens, two baby goats, a sheep, an alpaca, and a donkey….. who all travelled to Middlewoods for one full hour of pure cuddle time with our residents !!! While many people love animals, the ability to pet and/or hold one of these furry friends can offer endless amounts of joy.  Memories returned and stories were awakened as residents remembered growing up on a farm, working on a farm, or even living near a farm. And while we often have many opportunities to visit with dogs and cats, it is truly a rare occasion when a donkey or alpaca walks through our front door!

And of course any fair or carnival experience can never be complete without food! We got to work planning our food booths and one of our longtime volunteers excitedly committed to make her famous fried dough and homemade sauce. Our kitchen crew helped with the rest and prepared other favorite fair foods, such as onion rings, loaded potatoes skins, apple fritters and beverages.  With carnival music to serenade the event, our residents could imagine themselves on the ferris wheel as if it were only a few steps away. The stilt walkers, clowns, jugglers, and magicians are already in the works for next year!


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Managed Residential Services – “Mystery at 2125”

It was cold and snowy…icicles hanging from the gutters, so long that they were touching the piles of snow on the ground… As winter really set in during the early part of 2011 and snow piled up past the windowsills, we knew we needed something big to offset the cabin fever that was setting in. What better way to heat things up than to have a Hollywood Premiere? And to have a Hollywood Premiere, you need a movie. Thus began the shooting of “Mystery at 2125”. Our hilarious spoof on the comedy “Home Alone” featured the Residents at Middlewoods of Newington as they are left to fend for themselves when a bandit in search of roof rakes and Dove Bars is on the loose in the community!  "Mystery at 2125", written and directed by Marissa Salvesen, Activity & Marketing Associate and edited by her husband Don, was shot over a six week period and starred the Residents and Staff of Middlewoods of Newington. Then on March 11, 2011, Middlewoods of Newington was transformed - into a movie theater. Red velvet panels draping from floor to ceiling greeted the Residents and guests who were dressed to impress in furs, jewels and gowns as they made their way down the Paparazzi-filled red carpet entrance. Theater style seating was set up, champagne, hors d’oeuvres, popcorn, and a chocolate fountain kept the Residents satisfied as they mingled with the famous faces who came to celebrate the movie opening. Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, John Wayne and movie starlets served delicious treats while waited for the movie to begin. As the movie screen dropped from the ceiling, you heard a hush fall over the room. And then – the laughter! Mystery at 2125 was a smash hit!

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award Winner – Valentine Anthony, Certified Nursing Assistant

Values in Action Awardpresented to Floretta Tinsley


Newington Chamber of Commerce – Public Safety Award Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award - Tor Alston, Wait Staff

Assisted Living Federation of America – Champion for Seniors Award

Tor Alston At 16 years old, Tor Alston began working at Middlewoods of Newington as a member of the waitstaff. This was his very first job and over the last six years, he has learned more than just how to provide great customer service during meal times. Tor recognizes that each Resident is important and special in an individual way. He brightens their days with his ready smile and kind words. However, what makes Tor truly stand out is his overwhelming willingness to go above and beyond without question. Tor has changed his personal schedule around in order to provide coverage on overnight shifts – shifts that are not in the dietary department. He has been seen sifting through garbage cans searching for dentures when the Resident thought she threw them out – only to learn later that they were in her apartment the whole time. Most recently and most dramatically, Tor actually used his body as a shield while a Resident was in the middle of a major seizure. Tor protected this Resident from banging into the glass and iron table and then gently lowered him to the ground when he stopped seizing. Tor stayed next to the Resident keeping him calm while emergency medical personnel were on their way. Tor is a special part of the Middlewoods of Newington family – it has been a pleasure watching him grow from an inexperienced teen to a confident, caring, and exceptional young man!


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Managed Residential Services – “Passport to Planetree”

The importance of human interactions is at the core of Planetree, the culture change initiative of choice at Middlewoods of Newington. The staff has worked diligently with residents and with each other to promote positive relationships. As much as the staff worked with residents to promote positive relationships with each other, there was still an opportunity to improve. Residents at our sister community, Middlewoods of Farmington had created a one-day, off-site Resident Retreat. As much as we agreed that this was a wonderful thing, it would not work for the culture of our community. We loved the idea of it and started to think of creative ways to help our residents gain insight into themselves, their neighbors and the importance of relationships.

Residents at Middlewoods of Newington have always been motivated by a reward system. They are a competitive group of people that enjoy having something to show off for their efforts. With that in mind we created the “Passport to Planetree”; a series of discussion groups, experiential exercises and programs that took place over the course of two and a half weeks. All sessions were facilitated by staff; a Driver, a CNA, Chef, Maintenance Director, Activities Director and the Executive Director. In Planetree, we always say “the journey is the destination” and so we invited our residents to join us on this journey!

Each resident was given a passport, which granted them “access” to each activity and allowed them to keep track of which session they attended and a folder with all of the handouts and information they would need. A colorful display was set up in the Front Lobby, composed of destination guides, a suitcase, and other fun travel elements in order to encourage participation. When residents had to miss a session, they would seek out the facilitators to give them an update on what they missed and find out how they could learn about the program to earn their missing stamp!

Some of the sessions focused on the history of culture change and Planetree specifically. Others helped residents to reconnect with what is important to them and share these things with staff and each other. Residents had the opportunity to walk in the shoes of others (almost literally!) to gain greater understandings of the limitations and disabilities of others. Considerable time was spent learning how listening (especially challenging when many can’t hear) impacts the quality of the relationships we have with others and learning how to build new relationships. The importance of a positive attitude was another area we spent a significant amount of time learning about. In the end, a huge celebration was held; honoring each and every person who attended. Whether a resident attended only one session or all, they received a special recognition certificate and an inspirational stone to remind them of their experiences participating in the “Passport to Planetree” program.

As we were wrapping up the “Passport to Planetree” program numerous residents commented on how different they felt; how they never really knew the person they sat with all the time and did not necessarily understand each other. Residents that tended to be very vocal and dominant learned how important it was to allow everyone the opportunity to express themselves and those more apt to be shy and quiet learned that they do have a voice, they have all along, they just needed to reconnect with that part of themselves.

We knew that there was a palpable change in the community when the Executive Director received a call from a family member; fully expecting to hear a complaint and instead heard, “I don’t know what has been going on around there lately but something is different. My mother is started coming out of her shell. She’s been really getting to know some of the other people that live there and some of the little cliques there have disappeared. Thanks for whatever you are doing.” The daughter was then told all about the “Passport to Planetree” and agreed that that must be a big part of what has been going on.

We were very pleasantly surprised by a 50% turnout amongst the residents, who were both interested and engaged in each retreat activity.

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Young Leaders of the Year – Julia Fanning & Marissa Salvesen

Julia Fanning doesn’t just work here, she makes a difference here. Taking a chance and giving up a successful career in finance, Julia joined our team as Activities Director. Over this last year, Julia has taken charge of the department, enhancing the lives of Residents with new and exciting activities. She works with other departments to add new depth and breadth to daily activities and daily life. She teaches by example that there is no thing as “not my job”, demonstrating the ultimate goal is Resident Satisfaction, willing to do whatever necessary to ensure extraordinary customer service. Whatever the idea, whatever the request, Julia shows great knowledge, leadership, enthusiasm; she’s an asset to seniors and senior living!

When not busy multi-tasking at Middlewoods of Newington, Marissa Salvesen can be found singing on her Church’s Worship Team, face-painting at Vacation Bible Adventure, participating in musical/dramatic productions. As a teenager, instead of hanging out as teens do, she went to Jamaica on a mission trip. Marissa embraces the challenges of different roles within the community, always offering her best. She shares her passion for helping others and making a difference at every opportunity – tirelessly dedicating herself to enhancing the life’s journey of each member of the Middlewoods family while inspiring Residents to get involved. Marissa brightens the building with her caring and gracious spirit, sharing a special sparkle with all she meets. When you meet Marissa, you stand a little taller, smile a little brighter, and want to be better person.


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award - Loretta Ward, Chef Manager

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Humanitarian of the Year Award - Marjorie Walker

Since 2004, Marjorie’s tireless dedication to making Middlewoods shine daily coupled with her dedication to humanity is a true inspiration to us all. A member of the Salvation Army Church whose mission is to meet human needs without discrimination, she arouses both Residents and Staff to be more passionate about helping others. She leads by example, volunteering in a soup kitchen every Sunday; has inspired Staff and for the fourth year, a team from Middlewoods will join her there. She also spends nearly two months during the holidays ringing the Salvation Army bell 7 days per week to help raise money – she adds an additional 50 hours to her already full time work at Middlewoods.

Marjorie, fostering relationships with Middlewoods’ Residents and the Salvation Army, arranges to have their singing group come to Middlewoods. And at Easter, the group comes in to sing and hand out gift baskets to each Resident. Marjorie brightens the building with her ability to make every surface shine while bringing a special sparkle to all those she meets. Marjorie spends her work day singing songs of praise as she works, reminding us all that it is possible to love your job, love the people around you and do your very best in every way.


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Humanitarian of the Year Award - Nancy Bryant

Nancy has been working with the elderly for more than two decades and joined the Middlewoods of Newington team in 2006. Since her arrival she has introduced numerous new programs and initiatives. One of these programs was a bi-monthly interfaith Bible discussion group with Reverend Tom Vencuss from the United Methodist Church in Wethersfield. A new facet of this relationship began when Reverend Tom told Residents about the mission trips to Haiti that his church sponsors each year. He also discussed the primitive conditions in the Good Samaritan Senior Home in that impoverished region. According to Resident Council President Alice McKinstry, “Haiti is such a poor nation, and the problems in that forgotten country are on such a different level from ones we experience in the United States. We wanted to help.”

Middlewoods’ partnership with the Good Samaritan Home began with a significant donation to the church’s mission to Haiti. A mission group from the church traveled to the Good Samaritan Home and worked for three days to clean and renovate the building. Under Nancy’s guidance, the Residents next sponsored a tag sale where Residents, families, and staff donated items to sell, with the proceeds used to purchase thousands of dollars in medical supplies. Rev. Vencuss continues to update the Middlewoods community on how the Residents’ contributions impact the Haitian home. “The desire to give back in a way that makes a difference is so important,” he states, “perhaps even more important as we age. These Residents are able to see that people’s lives halfway across the hemisphere are dramatically changed by their efforts.”

Nancy has now had the opportunity to see first-hand the good that was accomplished because of her encouragement and efforts with the Middlewoods of Newington Residents. Nancy joined Rev. Tom and the rest of the Wethersfield United Methodist Church Mission Team to visit Haiti. At the time of this writing, Nancy is using her passion for helping others at the Good Samaritan Home in Haiti. Before she left she voiced a sentiment shared by the rest of the assisted living community: “I want to make a small difference, but I think that I will get more out of this work than I will be giving.”

This relationship that has grown - the bond between an assisted living community and a group of seniors in need thousands of miles away – was created, encouraged, fostered, and celebrated because of Nancy Bryant’s passion for life. She truly embodies the spirit that inspires us all to do everything we can for those around us and afar.


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Young Leader of the Year Award - Mike Lamere

Mike LaMere, Plant Operations Manager at Middlewoods of Newington, doesn’t just work here, he makes a difference here. In senior living for two years, a jack of all trades, teaching there is no thing as “not my job”. Leading by example, demonstrating the ultimate goal is Resident Satisfaction—willing to do whatever necessary to ensure extraordinary customer service. He built a gorgeous handicapped-accessible raised garden bed from scratch. He’s also been known to organize a quick game of noodle baseball! Whatever the weather, whatever the request, Mike shows great knowledge, leadership, enthusiasm; he’s an asset to seniors and senior living!


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award - Floretta Tinsley, Certified Nursing Assistant


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Managed Residential Services - "Cultural Diversity"

We employ quite a few individuals who speak Spanish and we received a number of complaints from non-Spanish speaking Residents stating that it made them uncomfortable to have individuals speaking another language around them. Because people often fear the unknown, we decided to provide activities to introduce our Residents to the many dynamic cultures present at Middlewoods of Newington.

After hearing of the complaints, our Activities Director suggested that we implement a Spanish class, taught by a staff member, teaching the Residents the fundamentals of the Spanish language. We invited those Residents who were ill at ease with the use of another language and any others who felt that they were never too old to learn a second (or even third!) language.

The Activities Director worked with the staff member to create a lesson plan and integrated it into the weekly activities bulletin. However, once we started this program, we realized that we were being quite shortsighted in our offering. We decided we needed to not only provide Spanish lessons, but to teach about the various cultural dynamics that makes each individual unique. We acknowledged these unique cultures by creating a “Cultural Hour” in which different nationalities are spotlighted.

The structured Spanish Class meets weekly, and the Residents began their venture into the Spanish language with simple one-word translations for people, places and things that the Residents could easily identify: such as friend, bedroom and pen. Weekly quizzes are given to test their new language skills and now the classes include phrases and full sentences. These days, we will often hear the exchange of short Spanish phrases in the hallway between Residents and staff! Our “Cultural Hour” has also been a rousing success. We have been able to implement another activity to provide even more stimulating options for our Residents. Our evening Receptionist is from Kashmir and has brought traditional Kashmiri clothing, jewelry, books, and even food for the Residents to sample. These discussions have opened the cultural doors of our building to increase awareness and even decrease that fear of the unknown.

It would not be difficult for other communities to implement these wonderful “cultural awakenings”. Because we do live in such a diverse land, it is easy to find folks of various cultures within each community who would be willing to share their lifestyles, life experiences, and cultural specialties. Middlewoods of Newington utilized an Assisted Living Aide while the building was fully staffed and during a time of day which required less hands-on care for the Residents for Spanish Class and utilized our Front Desk Receptionist in the evening during a lull in visitor’s arrivals and departures.

Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award - Nancy Torres, Dining Room Supervisor


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Young Leader of the Year Award – Kathy Braga

Spirit of Planetree


Spirit of Planetree Awardpresented to Rex Lowe, Security – Crosby Commons Planetree Spirit of Caring Award presented to David Schiller, Transportation Department


Planetree Spirit of Caring Award presented to Debra Samorajczyk, RN, Director, Administrative Services – Bishop Wicke Health Center

Planetree Spirit of Caring Award presented to Mary Ann Milano, Activities Director – Crosby Commons Spirit of Planetree Award presented to Ginny Brown, Activities Director – Middlewoods of Farmington

Planetree Program Award for Continuing Care Resident Retreat program – Middlewoods of Farmington Planetree

Spirit of Caring Award presented to Ashley Hammil, Food Service Aide – Wesley Heights


Spirit of Planetree Award to Larry Johnson, Certified Nursing Assistant – Bishop Wicke Health Care

Spirit of Planetree Award presented to Mary Ann Griffiths, Chef Supervisor – Crosby Commons

Spirit of Planetree Award presented to Joan Kayser, Resident Services Coordinator – Wesley Heights


Spirit of Planetree Award presented to Aimee Swain, Dietary – Wesley Heights

Spirit of Planetree Award presented to Nellie Nicholas, Certified Nursing Assistant – Crosby Commons Spirit of Planetree Award presented to Jordan Cohen, Housekeeping – Bishop Wicke Health Center Planetree Pet Therapy Award presented to Brittany (dog owned by Donna Sasso)


Planetree Spirit of Caring Award awarded to United Methodist Homes' Wesley Village Continuing Care Model by the International Planetree Organization Spirit of Planetree Award to Irene Scheld, Social Worker – Bishop Wicke Health Center


Spirit of Planetree Awardpresented to Ron Linebarger, Housekeeping – Wesley Village

United Methodist Homes


Media Award, The ABC’s of Assisted Living

The Media award is presented for excellence in reporting events which affect the aging. UMH’s e-book resource, The ABC’s of Assisted Living, was a collaborative effort of twenty-six different staff members, residents, and family members representing our five UMH assisted living communities and provides an introduction to the world of assisted living from “A to Z”. The book discusses the importance of Communication, supporting Independence, building Relationships, Staff Longevity, Wellness, Balance, Friendship, and more, covering multiple aspects of assisted living through each letter of the alphabet.

The guide was created for caregivers exploring senior living options for their loved ones, as well as older adults looking into the possibility of making a move to an assisted living community themselves. It was also designed for professionals working in the medical field with clients or patients who may need a bit more assistance with their daily routine or are looking for a maintenance-free lifestyle. Intended to be used as a general guide to assisted living, it contains many points to consider and reflect on, regardless of where an individual may be in their search for senior living options. For more information on senior living options at UMH or to download the e-book, click the link below.

Learn more about The ABC's of Assisted Living


Values in Action

Each year United Methodist Homes provides a “Values in Action” award in recognition of employees who have demonstrated extraordinary behavior that exemplifies these core values. All employees are eligible to be nominated or to nominate any of their team members. Staff are encouraged to nominate their co-workers who demonstrate any or all of the UMH core values.

One individual from each of our communities is chosen to receive the award, which is presented at our annual Employee Recognition Celebration dinner in October. Award winners are recognized with a monetary award and a trophy and praised by their supervisors for their outstanding character and service.

Congratulations to our 2013 winners!
  • Clifford Holcomb, Jr. (Transportation) - Wesley Heights at Wesley Village (Shelton, CT)
  • Angel Randall (Nursing) - Bishop Wicke Health and Rehabilitation Center at Wesley Village (Shelton, CT)
  • Anna Wieglus (Dining Services) - Middlewoods of Farmington (Farmington, CT)
  • Joshua Andrews (Dining Services) - Middlewoods of Newington (Newington, CT)
  • Dorothy Anschau (Nursing) - Crosby Commons at Wesley Village (Shelton, CT)
  • Barbara Vinson (Wellness) - Foxbridge Assisted Living and Memory Care Community (Memphis, TN)

UMH National Mature Media Merit Award for The Journey of Aging


“Living Treasure Award” from the Volunteer Action Center sponsored by Valley United Way – Elizabeth Hoffman, Volunteer

“Volunteer of the Year Award” from the Volunteer Action Center sponsored by Valley United Way – Joyce Stobierski

Values in Action Award - presented to Mary Ann Bradshaw


The United Methodist Association (UMA) - Rev. James Stinson - “Chaplain of the Year” Connecticut Award Performance Excellence (CAPE Award) – Barbara Quinn, Director of Volunteer Services

The Connecticut Association of Directors of Volunteer Services in Healthcare (CADVSH) awarded Barbara Quinn, Wesley Village Director of Volunteers, its Connecticut Award for Professional Excellence


“Living Treasure Award” from the Volunteer Action Center sponsored by Valley United Way – William Daly, Volunteer

“Student Volunteer of the Year Award” from the Volunteer Action Center sponsored by Valley United Way – Christian Cairone


Received Company Partner of the Year from The Workplace, Inc.


Corporate Excellence Community Award - Living Treasure (65+) a

Awarded to Wesley Village volunteer, Betty Wallis, by the Valley United Way Lamplighter Award from the New England Society for Health Care Communications National Mature Media Award from Mature Market Resource Center “Living Treasure Award” from the Volunteer Action Center sponsored by Valley United Way – Betty Wallis, Volunteer


Dove Award from Association of Volunteer Administrators presented to Barbara Quinn, Director of Volunteer Services

Wesley Heights


Planetree Pet Therapy Award presented to Sandy (dog owned by Margie Miles) Values in Action Awardpresented to James Sherwood


Spirit of Planetree Award presented to Debra Melillo - Bishop Wicke Health Center Spirit of Planetree Award presented to Carolyn Monachelli – Crosby Commons


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Outstanding Resident Service Award presented to Joselma Cousens, Receptionist Spirit of Planetree Award presented to Jane Evans, LPN - Bishop Wicke Health Center


Connecticut Assisted Living Association Best Practices Award for Excellence in Resident Care “Sign Language Program”
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