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.

Sandra Franca, a Laundry Aide in the Smith Care Center, is one of our 2019 scholarship recipients. She was awarded the Bea Davis memorial Scholarship and will be using the scholarship to obtain a Master Herbalist and Aromatherapist Certification.

While researching herbal remedies to complement her health care plan, Sandra became curious about how she could use natural products in conjunction with modern medicine to support a balanced, healthy life. “Eastern and Western styles of medicine are opposites, but they can work together,” she said.

Sandra is currently enrolled in a one-year online program based in North Carolina with Demetria Clark, CH AT. Demetria founded the school in 1998 and has since served over 25,000 students worldwide. “I love the program because I am able to talk with the head instructor one-on-one,” Sandra said.

In 2016, Sandra was diagnosed with breast cancer and began receiving chemotherapy. During her therapy treatments, she discovered how eating natural oils like flaxseed helped re-energize her body. “It feels amazing to give your body the nutrients it needs and wants, and my body responded well to the natural products,” Sandra said. Incorporating oils, herbs, and other natural products into her own care plan has helped Sandra and her body fight her cancer, and now her numbers are starting to drop back down to normal levels. “This is why I believe so much in nature’s remedies,” she said. For Sandra and her husband Marco, an E-Tech here at Plymouth Harbor, nothing is more sacred than the environment and Mother Earth, which is part of the reason why Sandra was so intrigued by herbalism and aromatherapy.

Upon completion of her program, Sandra will either practice as a medicinal herbalist or as a more relaxation-based aromatherapist. She isn’t sure yet which way she will go, but either way she knows she just wants to help others feel better. “I feel so blessed to have received this scholarship,” Sandra said. “Once I earn my certification, I want to share with others the benefits of doing things the natural way.”

Barbara Kerr is a big-time animal lover. “I have always done charitable work through humane societies when I lived in Virginia, but when I moved to Plymouth Harbor I thought it was time to get away from dogs and cats and work with something I didn’t know anything about,” Barbara said. She spent nine years on the board of the Gloucester Mathews Humane Society, and now she spends her Tuesdays and Thursdays working to rehabilitate birds at Save Our Seabirds on Longboat Key.

Save our Seabirds Wild Bird Learning Center (SOS) is a non-profit wildlife conservation and education organization located on the former site of The Pelican Man’s Bird Sanctuary. Their mission is “to rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured birds, and to educate the public about nature and environmental sustainability,” according to www.saveourseabirds.org. Birds that have been rescued but are unable to be returned to the wild are given permanent homes in their Wild Bird Learning Center.

As an SOS volunteer, Barbara regularly checks in on a wide range of birds, from gulls and pelicans to crows and owls. “We don’t just take shore birds,” she said. “We take anything with feathers.” Over her two years of volunteering with SOS, Barbara estimates she has helped care for 50-60 birds.

Barbara’s volunteer station is in the baby bird hospital. She helps rescue, rehabilitate, and release young homeless and injured birds. When a young or injured bird is brought into the facility, it is first examined and treated by medical staff. Then the constant feeding begins. “To see how much they grow, even just from a Thursday to a Tuesday, is just amazing,” she said. When they are big enough, they graduate into the aviary until they can be released.

As a volunteer, Barbara also goes out on rescue missions and is the designated contact for Plymouth Harbor. “I like the hands-on stuff I get to do that gets you dirty,” she said. She once was called out to rescue a bird who was stuck in a water hazard on a golf course. When she arrived at the site, she found a Great Blue Heron who had exhausted himself trying to get out of the muck. Using a towel, she was able to calm the bird down, pull him out, and get him into the carrier case to bring him back to SOS. “Staff got some fluids in him and he was on his way,” she said. “I like when we are able to resolve the problem.” However, some birds are never able to be released. There are about 80 birds who live permanently in the Wild Bird Learning Center aviary, and visitors can walk through and learn about our native birds.

When it is time to release a bird back into the wild, volunteers will bring it back to where it was found, but some birds stay close by even after their release. Fred the crow is one of the birds who has stuck around. “He brings berries and food to the younger crows in one of our outside cages,” Barbara said. “It’s so touching to know that they are looking out for each other.”

Working with these birds as they move through the stages of rehabilitation reminds Barbara of the value of our elders. “I was on the younger side when I moved into Plymouth Harbor, and I was pleasantly surprised at the inspiration I get from those that are older than me,” Barbara said. “They challenge me to age with zest, and I get that same feeling watching these little birds. The young ones look at the older cohort of birds that have come before them, and I am so encouraged by this cycle of life.”