While Wellness is a priority at Plymouth Harbor 365 days and 52 weeks of every year, our annual Resident Wellness Week is a time set aside each year to emphasize the different ways to live a well life. Resident Wellness Week is carefully orchestrated by Summer Rentsch, our Director of Wellness, to present residents with a variety of activities that encourage a healthy mind, body and spirit. “During this week, we celebrate our minds, bodies and spirits that carry us through each day,” Summer said.

This year there was an emphasis on holistic wellbeing and what well-rounded wellness looks like. “This week always serves as a way to showcase fun activities and events that might entice someone who has not spent much time in the wellness center to join us and see what it’s all about,” Summer said.

This year’s schedule of activities offered a wide variety of events to choose from, so whether you enjoy indoor classes or would prefer to explore the city, there was something for everyone. On Monday, Amy Raspillar, certified Hoola-Fit instructor, taught a hoola-hooping class that allowed residents the chance to learn a new skill and play like they did when they were kids. For one hour, Amy helped residents find their groove and get their heart rates up through the act of hoola-hooping. A “Healing Music” concert was held on Tuesday in Pilgrim Hall. Musical duo Adam Desorgo and Cheeko Matsusaka of “Back to the Beat” brought their musical talents (on piano and cello respectively) to our stage. “There is so much to say about music’s role in our overall health and wellness and an endless stream of music to share,” Back to the Beat said of their experience in a Facebook post. “Unlike a traditional performance, I let my audience close their eyes and let the music take them to a space of rest and relaxation.”

An excursion to Selby Gardens followed on Wednesday, where residents and Wellness staff enjoyed the healing powers of nature. Thursday’s event was a stand-up comedy act by Sherry Derrenberger, otherwise known as the Sit Down Comic, who believes that laughter is the best medicine. A final celebratory luncheon was held on Friday to thank those who participated and close out the week of events.

“These activities provided our residents with the chance to explore new ways to stimulate their mind, body and spirit and to remind everyone that taking care of yourself is the best investment you will ever make,” Summer said. Throughout life, we are all aging. No matter if we like it or not, aging is a constant, and the key to aging well is taking care of ourselves, mentally, physically and spiritually. Thank you to all of the residents who participated in this week’s events and for making the Wellness Center such a big part of their lives. “Without their enthusiastic participation, we couldn’t accomplish what we do each day,” Summer said. “Their friendship, suggestions, kindness, and generosity mean so much and we look forward to serving you all for years to
come!”

On October 10th, the Plymouth Harbor Foundation gathered its major donors and supporters of the Scholarship Program at the Sarasota Yacht Club to celebrate their philanthropic commitments and goodwill. “Over $115,000 was awarded this year to 22 Plymouth Harbor employees and their children” announced Jay Price, Chair of the Plymouth Harbor Foundation, “which includes all the students who renewed their Doyle Scholarships this year, an amazing feat of accomplishment.”

Beth Watson thanked all the donors for their thoughtfulness in wanting to help our truly deserving employees fulfill their dream of an education. The guests had the opportunity to meet some of this year’s scholarship recipients who eloquently shared how the donor’s investment in them has impacted their lives.

Plymouth Harbor’s Human Resources Recruiter Stephen Moros, a recipient of the Doyle Scholarship, explained how he was teaching tennis lessons part-time to pay for his Master’s Degree, taking even more precious time away from his wife and 8-month-old daughter Sophia. “Not only was this a gift of education, but also the gift of time with my family,” Stephen said. “Now I won’t have to miss those precious first milestones and bonding experiences. This scholarship was life-changing for me.”

Many others echoed the same sentiments as Stephen, emphasizing how much the scholarships means to them, their family, and their lives. Closing remarks included comments from Ky Thompson, Plymouth Harbor resident since 2016, who said “The Bible tells us that it is more blessed to give than receive….the very act of giving brings a tremendous sense of satisfaction and the elation of knowing that, through your beneficence, you have enabled another human being to attain their full potential.”

He went on to say “Harry provides Plymouth Harbor with clarion leadership. As our CEO, he finds himself thanking others for all they do for Plymouth Harbor. Perhaps not enough thanks are given to Harry, so before I sit down, I’d like to say thanks to Harry for all you do for us!”

Bill Johnston recognized Bruce Crawford, Tom Towler and Harry Hobson for their vision to begin the Foundation in 2013 and congratulated them on the many successes it has achieved. Harry Hobson also recognized the Fund Shop Ladies who continuously donate very generously to PH Foundation’s Scholarship Program and thanked all for partnering with the Foundation in helping support our Plymouth Harbor family.

Sande Esparza, Trisha Roman, and Alena Scandura are bringing our Housekeeping department up to the next level by becoming certified members of the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA).

Each Housekeeping Supervisor attended an intensive two-day “bootcamp” course where they worked one-on-one with Michael Patterson, the association’s Executive Director, to learn 2,000 pages worth of material. The bootcamp was then followed by an exam that tested their knowledge of advanced housekeeping concepts such as chemistry, techniques, policies, and procedures.

Passing the exam earned them entrance into the association and is a mandatory step for those who wish to be a part of IEHA. “Now that we are certified members we have access to a wellspring of information,“ Trisha Roman said. “Anything we need to know from floor care to accounting practices to infection control, IEHA has the resources we would need to find those answers.”

IEHA places significant value on education. As certified members, Trisha, Sande, and Alena each must earn 30 Continuing Education Units ever two years in order to maintain their status. “I’ve realized how much there is still to learn and now have a better understanding of how we can make our operation run more efficiently,” Sande Esparza said.

Before earning their certifications, Trisha, Sande, and Elena did not have a formal background in upper level housekeeping management. “We all came into the Housekeeping department from different sectors,” Alena said. “We realized there was a gap of knowledge that was missing, so we looked into how we could educate ourselves.”
Now that the Housekeeping Department has three formally trained Supervisors, the base of knowledge that the department has to work off of is larger than ever.

With so many members all over the world, IEHA has expanded the department’s resource circle exponentially. “We now have access to 1,300 others who are doing the same thing as us and can compare experiences and share solutions,” Alena said. “We also have access to IEHA’s database, which we will use to reevaluate our practices and find more effective ways of doing things to benefit the company and our residents,” Sande said.

IEHA, formerly known as the National Executive Housekeepers Association (NEHA), was founded in 1930 by Margaret Barnes, a hospital nurse who saw the need for a more efficient way to keep places clean. On November 1, 1930, Barnes held the first meeting of executive housekeepers in New York City. Over the next few years, NEHA expanded and began having annual conferences and galas. In 1974, NEHA’s 320-hour education program was established.

NEHA went international in 2000 with the creation of the Aruba Chapter and officially changed its name to the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA), what it is known as today. In 2016 the Boot Camp Road Show that our Supervisors took part in was launched, bringing in-person education to Executive Housekeepers all across the nation.

“We are so proud to be part of this organization, but we couldn’t have done it without the support of Plymouth Harbor,” Trisha said. Each of the Supervisors were awarded a $2,000 Foundation Scholarship to use towards the course fees, transportation, and lodging. “We are so grateful to the Foundation and its donors for this opportunity,” Trisha said.

“Trisha, Alena and Sande’s commitment to the Housekeeping department, the staff, and to Plymouth Harbor is evident by their efforts to increase their skills,” said Tena Wilson, Vice President of Resident and Employee Relations. “Certification of all Housekeeping supervisors through the IEHA is an important achievement – a first in Plymouth Harbor’s history. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with this awesome team!”

On Monday, September 16th, The Plymouth Harbor Foundation celebrated it’s MacNeil Society members with a private service in the MacNeil chapel and reception. Roughly 60 guests attended, including members of the Foundation’s board of trustees.

President and CEO Harry Hobson gave welcoming remarks followed by Rev. Dick Sparrow, Plymouth Harbor’s resident chaplain, who gave a moving sermon about John MacNeil’s vision through the lens of Field of Dreams and the hope that “If you build it, they will come”. Resident Dr. Fred Moffat was then called upon to present his paper entitled “Reflections on The Happy Warrior, The Rev. Dr. John Whitney MacNeil”. This included a historical timeline of events on the visions and works of John MacNeil, Jack Smith and architect Lou Schneider, to the delight of their wives, Judy, Peg and Fran respectively, who were all in attendance. It was The Rev. Dr. Jack Smith, a skilled poet, who once wrote a tribute to John MacNeil for his loving and inspirational leadership, referring to him as the Happy Warrior named after William Wordsworth’s epic poem. “Dr. Moffat’s talk was quite the homage to these men who each made indelible marks on Plymouth Harbor” stated Beth Watson, Vice President of the Plymouth Harbor Foundation.

Jay Price, Chair of the Foundation, called for a moment of silence in announcing those MacNeil Society members who passed on since the year prior, and then presented lapel pins to the new members of the society. The Rev. Dr. Wes Bixby brought the service to a conclusion with a benediction while Greg Chestnut served as organist. Guests were then treated to food and refreshments, courtesy of Chef René and his staff, including make-your-own strawberry shortcake – a tribute to John MacNeil’s favorite dessert. “We are continually grateful to have donors who believe in the mission and commitment to the vision that Dr. MacNeil started some six decades ago” stated Harry Hobson.

Members of the MacNeil Society are those individuals who have thoughtfully included a gift to the Plymouth Harbor Foundation through their estate. Their gift has been named through a will, gift annuity agreement, trust agreement, life insurance policy, or retirement plan. For more information or to become a member of the society, please contact Beth Watson in The Plymouth Harbor Foundation office at extension 398 or bethw@plymouthharbor.org

At a recent Residents Meeting, our CEO Harry Hobson presented some perspective related to the physical improvements that are going on at Plymouth Harbor. He emphasized while this has been somewhat disruptive to our daily lives at times, it is an investment that will continue to pay dividends now and for generations to come. In a sit-down discussion following the meeting, Mr. Hobson explained how these projects are intended to positively impact resident lives.

Over the past 12 years, we have…

Created spaces that are modern, inviting, and appealing
An enjoyable environment is a key factor in loving where you live. Thanks to Plymouth Harbor’s Facilities and Design team our interior spaces are a beautiful mix of form and function. With a renovated lobby, entryway, performance hall, dining room, private dining room, cafe and restrooms; a restored East Garden lawn, pool and pool deck; and over 260 renovated apartments, every turn greets you with an appealing space to call home.

Increased our services and the quality of life of our residents
In 2014, the reimagination of the Wellness Center increased our fitness class offerings and upgraded our gym with state-of-the-art equipment that makes working out simple and accessible. In 2018, the Northwest Garden opened its doors, giving Plymouth Harbor the ability to care for those needing memory care in the thoughtfully designed Starr Residences. The addition of the Seaside Assisted Living Residences increased the number of assisted living accommodations from 10 to 60. We also have expanded our Rehab Department and created more on-campus parking.

Heightened the safety of our residents
With state-of-the-art fire alarm systems, upgraded Life Safety services, an enhanced nurse call system, and the replacement of our emergency generator, our residents can take a deep breath knowing that emergency safety measures are in place.

Ensured our building is maintained, secure and safe
The Plymouth Harbor Tower has been a Sarasota icon for over 50 years, due in part to the proper care we take of our structure. We have replaced our emergency generator, HVAC pumping system, chilled water system, main dining air handling, floor tiles, and ceilings. We have also updated our electrical system, repaired the seawall, re-roofed the Tower and East Garden, restored the building exterior, and performed capital maintenance in the Smith Care Center. The result? Plymouth Harbor’s building has aged with grace. In fact, although it may be 55 years old on paper, in practice it is only 8.5 years old according to the Generally Accepted Accounting Practices.

Improved work spaces to help staff stay happy and healthy
We could not do what we do without our incredible staff, and we strive to create environments that allow them to excel. We have renovated the main kitchen, expanded the Smith Care Center laundry, replaced the main kitchen air conditioner, and renovated the Ground Floor laundry, ensuring that our valued employees have clean, safe, and comfortable spaces to work in.

Helped our establishment and our residents stay better connected
As the world went digital, so did we. To make sure that our residents, staff, and stakeholders are always dialed in, we installed wireless internet and a new telephone system throughout our buildings. No matter where you go on campus, rest assured that you are never more than a call away from your friends and family.

Learned that conservation and safety can go hand-in-hand
As we move into 2020 you will experience a safer and more energy-efficient environment with the installation of brand-new hurricane windows throughout the campus. The installation of new elevators in the Tower will improve the experience of being transported from one floor to another.

We have spent the past 12 years investing in our campus, our services, and our future. Thank you for your patience as we make these improvements. We look forward to continuing to provide you with a community that cares about your present and future wellbeing.

When the Wellness Center was renovated in 2014, one area was left untouched— the indoor therapy pool room. When Summer Rentsch, Director of Wellness, joined the Plymouth Harbor team, it was one of her goals to enhance the look and feel of the indoor therapy pool room and bring it up to the level of excellence which the rest of the Wellness Center enjoys. “The wall seemed to be staring back at me saying ‘make me beautiful,’” Summer said. “With the art displayed in the Wellness Corridor, the idea for a painted mural came to mind!”

When one visits the Wellness Center, they are greeted with scenic bay views through floor-to-ceiling windows, so it only seemed natural to bring those same views into the design of the mural. “I knew I wanted the mural to look as natural as possible, and after speaking with multiple artists it was clear that continuing the look of the horizon with a beach scene would blend best,” Summer said.

Once the concept was decided upon, the search for the artist began. After much research on local muralists and their work through the website Thumb Tack, Summer found Gregg LaBrecque and scheduled a consultation. “When Gregg presented Tena Wilson, VP of Resident and Employee Relations, and me with the hand-painted rendering, our jaws dropped and we instantly looked at each other and knew he was the one for the job,” Summer said.

The space was primed for Gregg to begin his work, and over the span of two weeks a beautiful, realistic and detailed scene appeared on the therapy pool wall. “I could not be happier with how it turned out,” Summer said. “It brings a smile to my face at the start of each day when I walk into work, and I feel that the space is now a much more conducive environment for healing.”

Upon the completion of the wall, Gregg left us with some touching parting words: “I was honored and thrilled to be selected by Plymouth Harbor to execute the mural in the therapy pool room. Every aspect of the job and the process exceeded my expectations. I am grateful to all who embraced the project and the outcome and for the positive feedback I received, but more so for the wonderful people I met during the project. All of the residents were so supportive and so engaging, and the staff and management always made me feel so welcome. This was and will always be more than just another job to me. Sincere thanks to all my new friends at Plymouth Harbor!”

The mural is the latest addition in the Carmichael Art Collection, begun when former resident and artist Ruth Carmichael left a permanently restricted fund at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County for Plymouth Harbor. We remain grateful for Ruth’s legacy gift, allowing residents and staff to be inspired each day with exquisite art here at Plymouth Harbor.

If you haven’t had a chance to see the new mural, take a walk down to the Wellness Center. Seeing the wall will make you feel as if you’re just steps away from the sea and sand. Although you can’t get there through the painted path, lucky for us we are just minutes away from the real thing!

Plymouth Harbor first got involved with the Bay Haven School about nine years ago when residents Marian Kessler and BJ Peters volunteered to help start a food bank program for children below the poverty line, which grew into the Snack Pack Program. Plymouth Harbor residents have been large supporters of the program and school ever since.

Rockin’ Reader is a nation-wide kindergarten read-aloud program for volunteers. It was brought to Sarasota in 2004 by Longboat Key resident Ruthie Maass and is sponsored by the Junior League of Sarasota and Team Up. This program was designed to shrink the vocabulary gap among children by exposing them to high quality literature and rich language. Through this program, volunteers and participating school children meet one-on-one for 30 minutes once a week to read aloud and discuss the meanings of various books.

When the Sarasota County School Board chose Bay Haven to participate in this early reading initiative, Plymouth Harbor residents were quick to offer help. “The teaching staff at Bay Haven is special and always open to innovative ideas, so it was an ideal match for the program,” Marian Kessler said. Twelve residents committed and reading training specialists were sent here to prepare our residents for the program.

A child’s vocabulary upon entering kindergarten is a prime predictor of that child’s school success, but there is a large difference between those who come from higher versus lower socioeconomic levels – as great as 32 million words. According to the National Reading Panel, reading aloud to children is “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.” The Rockin’ Reader program aims to help close this vocabulary gap by providing children with more opportunities to hear and use new language, therefore expanding their vocabulary. Each 30-minute session is designed to give children an opportunity to talk about the meaning of the book, both before and after. Volunteers ask children comprehension questions and choose words from the story to go into further detail about. They discuss the meaning of the word and give children an opportunity to talk about what the story means to them.

Through this program, our residents are helping to instill the love of reading in our future leaders.