Founded in 1981 and recognized across the globe, International Housekeeping Week (IHW) is traditionally celebrated during the second week of September. This year, due to Hurricane Irma, Plymouth Harbor held our IHW event during the first week of October.

IHW is typically a week-long event that is celebrated uniquely by each organization that participates. At Plymouth Harbor, we are dedicated to recognizing the efforts of our hard-working housekeeping staff, who play a vital role in keeping our campus clean, healthy, and safe.

“International Housekeeping Week is an important event for us to celebrate each year because it provides the perfect opportunity for us to recognize and thank our staff for what they do,” says
Director of Housekeeping, Jim Myers.

Plymouth Harbor has now celebrated IHW for 29 years. This year, our appreciation was shown through daily recognition and a great deal of food — catered breakfast, lunch in the Private Dining Room, a pizza party, and an ice cream day. We truly thank our staff for what they do each day, and look forward to celebrating this important event in the years to come.


“In the short time that I’ve been here at Plymouth Harbor, I have experienced a camaraderie with staff and residents that you don’t get to see in other campuses. I am excited to be part of the team and I look forward to using my experience in the field to help establish in-house construction here at Plymouth Harbor.” – Brian Bly

Plymouth Harbor is proud to announce Brian Bly as our new Construction Superintendent. Brian joined the Plymouth Harbor team in August 2017.

In his new role as Construction Superintendent, Brian is responsible for organizing and directing the work of field personnel and trade contractors to meet Plymouth Harbor’s construction objectives, including cost, quality, schedule, equipment conservation, and safety for all assigned projects. Brian is part of our new Facilities Department, working closely with Vice President of Facilities, George McGonagill.

Before coming to Plymouth Harbor, Brian served as construction superintendent for Questar Construction Inc. from 1998 until 2013. He was responsible for overseeing the organization’s subcontractors, ensuring their work was performed correctly and ahead of schedule, in addition to daily work reports and working in partnership with project managers to identify and address any issues that arose, including delays, cost, time requirements, and the like. From June 2014 to August 2017, Brian worked with Kellogg and Kimsey, a commercial building and construction company, serving on projects including Hampton Inn Tampa, Aloft Sarasota/One Palm residences, Mallard Law Firm, and more.

Additionally, Brian attended Barclay Career Institute and served in the United States Marine Corp from 1987 to 1990. With more than 20 years of construction experience, Plymouth Harbor is thrilled to have Brian as a our new Construction Superintendent.


Two years ago, the State of Jobs Conference, hosted by the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and aimed at high school sophomores, did not recognize the senior services industry as a known career track. This year, for the second time, Plymouth Harbor participated in the day-long conference by sponsoring the Healthcare track, staffing an exhibit booth filled with employment and volunteering opportunities, and representing the field of nursing to students interested in healthcare as a career.

On October 10th, more than 850 students from Sarasota and Manatee counties attended the State of Jobs Conference, now hosted by CareerSource Suncoast. Held at Robarts Arena, students arrived at the arena at 8:00 a.m. and were free to visit exhibits for colleges and sponsors (yes, Plymouth Harbor had a booth!). The keynote address was by Blair Bloomston, vice president of Game On Nation, a respected consulting group that works with high-profile corporations, teams, and other organizations to build leadership, teambuilding, and communication. Following the keynote, students were ushered to their respective tracks, where three sessions were held for each track, led by experts in the field, such as business/entrepreneurship, arts and culture, manufacturing/engineering, information technology, healthcare, and hospitality/tourism. Lunch was provided by Jason’s Deli, and career track sessions were followed by two final panel presentations addressing College Preparation and Career Preparation. Students returned to school at 2:00 p.m.

The healthcare track is the conference’s largest track, with more than 250 students in attendance. During Plymouth Harbor’s session, Stephanie Leathers, April Gillespie, and Danny Bushman, all nurses at Plymouth Harbor, led an interactive scenario. In this scenario, a gentleman (played by a student in the audience) fell and experienced a head wound and brain trauma. Each of the three nurses represented a different level of care for the gentleman, and an aspiring nurse in the audience helped to dress the patient’s wound. The students learned how residents move through our system, receiving the appropriate and compassionate care they deserve as their needs change.

This year, for the first time, the evening offered a Parent’s Night, where 140 parents were invited to have dinner and listen to presentations from each of the six careers tracks. Healthcare was again represented by Plymouth Harbor, with Senior Vice President of Philanthropy Becky Pazkowski discussing the variety of careers available in the healthcare field.

As we continue to be challenged by workforce issues — such as the shortage of workers in our community — it is important that Plymouth Harbor stands out as an employer of choice. We will continue to keep our industry at the forefront, and you can bet that this inspiring and respected field of services for older adults is now recognized as a viable career track, and, indeed, Plymouth Harbor is leading the pack!


“Whatever talents we have ought to be used to make the world better…and to make the human family happier.”

That is what Martha Jane Phillips Starr’s father told her as a child. Many of us might make a note of this and carry on, but she took this notion to heart, remaining devoted to it throughout her life.

There is no doubt that this spirit of philanthropy, which was ingrained in her at such a young age, is what led to the Martha Jane Phillips Starr Field of Interest Fund pledging a generous gift of $1 million to the A Commitment to Memory campaign, naming The Martha Jane Phillips Starr Memory Care Residence.

Many of you may recognize the name “Starr” – yes, Martha Jane was the mother of resident Phil Starr and mother-in-law to Barry Starr. But before this, Martha Jane was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in 1906 – 11 years before the U.S. entered World War I and 14 years before Women’s Right to Vote. She was the daughter of L.E. Phillips, co-founder of Phillips Petroleum Company (Phillips 66), and can be described as an extremely determined and dedicated woman.

Martha Jane was not given the opportunity to go to college like her brothers, and instead attended finishing school. In 1929, she married John Wilbur Starr, otherwise known as “Twink,” a University of Kansas-educated geologist, who happened to be a classmate of her brothers.

Originally, Twink worked at Phillips 66, but after they married, he decided to explore other careers. In 1931, they moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and had two sons. During World War II, Twink volunteered for the Navy and was called away for duty in the Pacific. At this same time, Martha Jane enrolled their sons in Pembroke Country Day School. It was here that she got her true start in philanthropic work, helping with fundraising efforts and eventually becoming a trustee.

Martha Jane went on to volunteer in her local community with Junior League, the Red Cross, and Planned Parenthood, eventually serving as president for each. In the 1950s, she became involved with research at the University of Kansas Medical Center that focused on human reproduction. She believed this same attention could be applied to healthy marriages – preparing men and women for marriage as they prepared for careers. This became a major goal of hers, and in 1959, Martha Jane worked with the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) to create the Research Center for Family Development.

In 1963, she became one of the first women trustees at UMKC, where she was later awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. She also established the Family Studies Center and its Endowment Fund. In 1967, she created the UMKC Women’s Council, its Graduate Assistance Fund, and later, the Starr Education Committee.

When asked of his mother, Phil says, “She was a good mother and a committed volunteer.” Barry adds, “She was an incredible mother-in-law. She was so passionate about women’s issues and education.”

In 2011, Martha Jane passed away, and left her money to the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, where she established the Field of Interest Fund. She named her son, Phil, and friends Mary Kay McPhee and JR Majors as trustees.

Her Will stipulated that her Fund be used to support causes that were close to her heart, and that they support the development of educational programs that assist youth and adults, and promote stable marriages and healthy family life. In May 2016, the trustees heard our case for why the new Memory Care Residence programming aligns with her life work.

We shared that our residence will be dedicated to promoting healthy family life by removing the daily burdens of hands-on care by loved ones of those affected by dementia, restoring spousal and family relationships that suffer during the caregiving phase of life. Because of our program, relationships between wives and husbands, daughters and sons, and grandchildren and friends can again be restored. The trustees unanimously agreed to authorize this major gift.

Most notably, this gift marked only the second time the Fund made a donation outside of Kansas City. The Starr family also has a special tie to the Sarasota community. After the war, Twink began working for RB Jones Insurance when none other than the Ringling Bros. Circus became a potential client. Twink was asked to visit with the circus, and later, after he won them over, he purchased a vacation home on Longboat Key, where their family visited for more than 40 years.

By example, Martha Jane taught her sons the importance of giving. Today, Phil sits on the Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board, and he and Barry are leading the A Commitment to Memory campaign.

Phil says, “I saw both of my parents live a long life, longer than expected – dad to 95 and mother to 105. Barry and I want to have the most caring experience possible when the time comes. We want to know that we, and our family, will be taken care of.”

Plymouth Harbor is most grateful to Martha Jane and the generous gift by her Field of Interest Fund. There is no doubt that the Martha Jane Phillips Starr Memory Care Residence will be dedicated to fulfilling her legacy.


“I am extremely happy to be part of the Plymouth Harbor family, and I am excited for the opportunity to serve as Director of Nursing for Home Care as well as the new Assisted Living and Memory Care residence. I look forward to working with the residents and bringing my 25 years of nursing experience to this position.” – April Gillespie

Plymouth Harbor is proud to announce April Gillespie as our new Director of Nursing for Assisted Living, Memory Care, and Home Care. April joined the Plymouth Harbor team in August 2017.

In her new role as Director of Nursing, April is responsible for overseeing the professional nursing care and delivery of services for the Assisted Living and Memory Care departments in the new Northwest Garden Building as well as Home Care. In addition to establishing departmental policies and procedures, April is tasked with managing all personnel who provide direct patient care and ensuring that professional standards of community nursing practice are maintained.

Prior to joining Plymouth Harbor, April worked at the Sarasota Health & Rehabilitation Center for six years, most recently serving as Assistant Director of Nursing. In this position, April oversaw nursing personnel, recommended the establishment of policies and procedures, and set objectives and goals for the 143-bed facility. Before that, April worked as Assistant Director of Nursing at Harmony Healthcare & Rehab Center and as Staff Development Coordinator for Magnolia Health & Rehabilitation.

A Registered Nurse, April has more than 25 years of experience in clinical settings, primarily focused in long-term care. She graduated from Sarasota Vocational Institute’s Practical Nursing Program in 1992, went on to earn her Associate of Science degree in Nursing from Manatee Community College (now State College of Florida) in 1996, and attended Hodges University in Fort Myers, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 2004.

April is also the stepdaughter of Bert Adams, a concierge in our Smith Care Center who has been with Plymouth Harbor for more than 26 years.

Plymouth Harbor is thrilled to have April as a part of our team and truly values her expertise as our new Director of Nursing for Assisted Living, Memory Care, and Home Care.


On Wednesday, August 30, 2017, Irma developed near the Cape Verde Islands from a tropical wave that moved off the West African coast three days prior. As we know all too well, Irma rapidly intensified, growing to a Category 5 Hurricane by Tuesday, September 5th. During Irma’s journey through the Atlantic, Plymouth Harbor’s Storm Team closely monitored its movement. Staff meetings took place at least twice daily during the week of September 4th to determine appropriate plans and preparations.

In addition to our Storm Team, Plymouth Harbor consulted with our “CCRC Consortium” — a group of retirement communities that we helped form more than 10 years ago, ranging in location from Sarasota to Naples. This group works together in times of need, serving as a sounding board and sharing resources and information. Throughout the development of Irma, we held regular meetings with this group, along with Ed McCrane, Chief, Sarasota County Emergency Management, to discuss plans and potential needs.

By Friday, September 8th, Irma’s track had shifted significantly further west, predicting landfall on Florida’s western coast and heading directly toward Sarasota. After again speaking with Ed McCrane and our CCRC Consortium, Plymouth Harbor announced a mandatory evacuation, which would commence on Saturday, September 9th. In the midst of all this planning, our staff was hard at work making sure that residents had a safe, secure, and comfortable shelter in the event of an evacuation. While our agreement with local hotels did not come to fruition due to overbooking and a plethora of unforeseen guests fleeing from South Florida, staff worked tirelessly to determine an alternative shelter: First Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC).

First Congregational UCC is Plymouth Harbor’s founding church, and was used as our independent living shelter some years ago. After viewing the church’s newly renovated, hurricane-rated facility, staff set to work preparing the space ahead of the evacuation decision. By the end of the workday on September 8th, cots, supplies, and an emergency generator were delivered and ready for use.

After evacuation was announced, staff teams and evacuation plans were finalized and put into place. Our CCRC Consortium stepped up, graciously offering supplemental buses in order to safely and swiftly evacuate our residents. Those communities included: Sarasota Bay Club, The Fountains at Lake Pointe Woods, The Pines of Sarasota, Lakehouse West, Sunnyside Village, The Glenridge on Palmer Ranch, Aviva Senior Life, and Village on the Isle. Additionally, Aviva Senior Life and The Glenridge on Palmer Ranch agreed to host our Smith Care Center residents and staff during the storm, while Sunnyside Village hosted staff and residents of our Assisted Living. By nightfall on Saturday, all parties were in place at their respective shelters.

While the experience was far from ideal, what came out of it was something special — a unique bond between staff and fellow residents, and an undeniable spirit of kindness and community. Residents never skipped a beat in rallying behind administration. They contributed in any way possible, helping one another and continually putting a positive spin on the situation. Some even joked that they had never experienced a “catered evacuation,” referring to Chef René’s impeccable spread, which included specialty salads, carved New York strip, salmon salad, and more. Residents at the church, including Peggy Wallace, Winnie Downes, Carl Denney, Ted Rehl, and John Goodman, shared their musical and show talents to help pass the time. At Sunnyside Village and Aviva Senior Life, residents and staff came together through song, puzzles, and conversation.

Resident Bobi Sanderson said the following of her time at the church: “I felt that the staff and assistance we received was absolutely unbelievable. We were given the ultimate help, both physically and mentally. It was well planned and well carried out to the nth degree.”

Charles Gehrie, who was also at the church, said, “The experience was very supportive. What most impressed me was the level of staff commitment. For instance, I knew our CEO was supporting us through plans and preparations; but what I didn’t expect was that when I had to get up in the middle of the night, he would be the one helping me out of my cot. That kind of commitment is extraordinary.”

Thankfully, Hurricane Irma slowed to a Category 2 storm as it neared Sarasota on Sunday evening, and we were blessed once again that our area was spared a direct hit. Overall, the Plymouth Harbor campus sustained minimal damage, and all residents were home by Tuesday, September 12th. We wish to thank our residents for your patience and understanding throughout this journey. We also extend our deepest gratitude to both our staff and community partners for your cooperation and generosity.

Please know that we are taking this opportunity to review and improve upon our preparations should the need for evacuation arise in the future. While Irma certainly presented an unfortunate situation, we know Plymouth Harbor is stronger from this experience.


Plymouth Harbor is proud to announce Marty Martel as our new Director of Maintenance. Marty joined the Plymouth Harbor team in July 2017.

In his role as Director of Maintenance, Marty is responsible for overseeing the maintenance of Plymouth Harbor’s infrastructure, including the repair of all building functions, grounds, equipment and appliances; implementing an ongoing facility preventive maintenance program; supporting the remodeling/upgrade program; and supporting capital projects.

Prior to joining Plymouth Harbor, Marty served as Director of Engineering for Brookdale Senior Living in Sarasota. There, he was responsible for overseeing maintenance of the entire community; managing its team of technicians; maintaining building-maintenance budgets; and establishing maintenance contracts, policies, safety programs, and training.

Before that, Marty spent nearly 14 years at Post Properties, a developer and operator of multifamily communities. He served as Area Lead Engineer in their Tampa office before moving to Washington, D.C. in 2005 to serve as their Director of Property Services Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Region, where he managed 10 residential communities in Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and New York. Marty also served as Maintenance Supervisor and Maintenance Technician at two additional companies in Tampa, and attended Northern Virginia Community College in Manassas, Virginia.

In addition to his maintenance expertise, Marty served in the U.S. Army from 1987 until 1996. He spent seven years in Germany, five of which were spent patrolling the borders between East and West Germany. He experienced first-hand the end of the Cold War and the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Marty was also deployed during Desert Storm, and was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for Valor during this conflict.

Plymouth Harbor is excited to have Marty on board, and we look forward to the continued enhancement of our maintenance program.


Plymouth Harbor is proud to announce Stephanie Leathers as our new Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care. Stephanie joined the Plymouth Harbor team in July 2017.

In her new role as Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care, Stephanie is charged with helping to open our new Assisted Living and Memory Care residences in the Northwest Garden Building as well as planning, organizing, developing, and coordinating overall operations. Stephanie will also help to establish policies and procedures, but most importantly, she will be instrumental in the development and implementation of our premier programming in the new residences.

Prior to joining Plymouth Harbor, Stephanie served as Administrator at Mount View Assisted Living in Lockport, New York, where she was responsible for the daily operations of the 150-bed facility with an internal certified Home Health Care Agency. In her time at Mount View Assisted Living, she was instrumental in the establishment and opening of a 118-bed sister facility in a nearby county, and managed a staff of over 80 employees. Before that, Stephanie served in several different capacities at Elderwood Senior Care in Williamsville, New York. Her positions there included Administrator, Resident Care Manager, Assistant Director of Nursing, and Unit Manager.

A Registered Nurse, Stephanie attended Niagara County Community College in Sanborn, New York, where she received her Associate in Applied Science degree with a major in nursing. While there, Stephanie received the Elena T. Perone Award for Excellence in Leadership.

Plymouth Harbor is thrilled to have Stephanie as a part of our team, and we look forward to seeing her personal touch on the opening of our new Assisted Living and Memory Care residences.


Throughout history, building design and construction has adapted to reflect design trends, technological advances, and most importantly, to address social needs. For example, take the evolution of the skyscraper in the early 1900s. As more and more Americans flocked to major cities, available real estate became harder to come by. With the addition of new steel framing technology, the concept of the skyscraper became possible — capturing exponential growth within a contained footprint.

Today, builders are focused on reducing a different kind of footprint: our environmental footprint. It may come as no surprise that the “green” movement is becoming more mainstream — however, in most cases, energy-reducing technologies have become a standard requirement in today’s building codes. This is due in part to continually emerging technologies that are not only lowering our impact on the environment, but are also minimizing overall operating costs.

At Plymouth Harbor, residents and employees alike have made conservation efforts a priority in recent years. The same rings true in the construction of our Northwest Garden building, which has incorporated many green elements. Some of these conservation items include:

Our overall building site uses recycled crushed concrete as the base material for pavement; a portion of the new asphalt also uses recycled materials; the landscaping that has been selected is indigenous to Florida (reducing water usage); and demolished concrete and asphalt are diverted to local landfills for recycling. Additionally, building materials, including all concrete, CMU block, and asphalt are produced locally, and any raw materials, are sourced from Florida. The new structural steel is made up of recycled material, and all paints, sealants, and adhesives are low odor and low VOC (volatile organic compounds) — limiting the release of toxic emissions into the air.

Energy conservation in the exterior of the Northwest Garden is mainly exemplified in the form of insulation. The exterior windows are insulated to minimize heat gain from the sun, keeping a cool temperature throughout the building. The same can be said for the roof and exterior wall insulation. You also may have noticed a white material incorporated into the building’s roofing system — this material helps to reflect rather than absorb heat from the sun.

Inside the building, you will find elements such as LED lightbulbs, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and occupancy sensors to control the lighting of appropriate common areas when not in use. In the building’s garage, electric car-charging stations are available. The exact number and locations are being determined.

Furthermore, non-residential HVAC units are controlled by a building automation system. This is connected to the campus energy system rather than adding remote equipment, which would require additional power. An Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) system is also being used, which exchanges the energy contained in normally exhausted building air and uses it to treat (or precondition) the incoming outdoor ventilation air in an HVAC system.

While this is certainly not a complete list of each and every green element used in the construction of our new Northwest Garden, we hope it provides a look into its sustainable design. We look forward to sharing many of these elements with you in person as we continue to approach our Grand Opening in November.


Plymouth Harbor recently participated in CareerSource Suncoast’s Career Academy program, running from June 12th through July 20th. In its third year, the Career Academy is a five-week program that provides high school students the opportunity to learn about careers in a variety of fields. These fields, or “career tracks,” include: Foundations, Healthcare, Information Technology, Manufacturing & Construction, and Business/Entrepreneurship.

The Career Academy grew out of a state grant to create annual programs targeted at low-income teens facing a barrier in one way or another. Forty students (juniors or seniors in high school) were admitted into this year’s program – 20 from Sarasota County and 20 from Manatee County. Each week, students visit various organizations in the community pertaining to that week’s career track to increase leadership skills, network with industry professionals, and learn a variety of skills.

In addition to receiving $1,000, each student earns college credit through State College of Florida for participating. Students are assigned a program mentor, with whom they meet each Monday and Wednesday; and on Tuesdays, they take a “field trip” to two different participating organizations. Additionally, throughout the program, they are invited to attend networking events at Manatee Technical College and Suncoast Technical College.

On Tuesday, June 20th, the Career Academy’s Sarasota County students visited Plymouth Harbor as part of the Healthcare career track. While introducing students to the healthcare field within a Life Plan Community was a top priority, our overall goal was to introduce students to the many different career paths available within an organization like Plymouth Harbor.

After receiving a general overview of Plymouth Harbor by President/CEO Harry Hobson, students were given a tour of the campus and introduced to the following career tracks and opportunities within our organization: Health Services, Wellness, Security/Concierge/Transportation, Sales/Marketing, Maintenance/Grounds, Communications, and more. The students ended their tour with a meal and presentation by Dining Services, Accounting, and Resident Programming.

We are proud to be part of this exciting partnership within the community, helping students to identify, at a young age, careers and opportunities that are available to them right here in their backyard. We hope to continue to partner with CareerSource on similar initiatives in the future.