Sarasota is in the midst of a great reimagining of our bayfront, and Plymouth Harbor resident Karl Newkirk has taken on an important role in the future of our community as a member of the Van Wezel Foundation’s strategy committee.

After moving to Sarasota upon retirement, a friend invited him to join the Van Wezel Foundation board of directors in 2007. “As I got to understand Sarasota, I realized that the Van Wezel is one of the city’s special things,” Karl said.

The Van Wezel is an iconic piece of Sarasota, but at 50 years old, the building’s infrastructure has started to show its age. Karl and the Van Wezel Foundation Board evaluated whether the purple performance hall would be able to meet the future needs of the Sarasota community, and sadly the answer was no. Icon or not, the Van Wezel would need to be replaced with a new performing arts hall for Sarasota to continue its role as the art and cultural center of the west coast. “For the good of Sarasota, it needed to be done,” Karl said.

Around the same time, a dialogue about the future of the bayfront was beginning among community leaders. Enter the Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 initiative.

Started by local restaurant owner Michael Klauber, Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 is a group of local community organizations who “support the creation of a long-term master plan for the Sarasota bayfront area that will establish a cultural and economic legacy for the region while ensuring open, public access to the bayfront.” According to the initiative’s website, “more than 55 arts, neighborhood, foundation, and business groups have had their boards unanimously vote to support a common vision statement.” Thanks to Karl, Plymouth Harbor was one of them.

With so much support from the community, Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 caught the attention of the City Commissioners, who agreed to creating the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO). Karl, as a member of the Van Wezel Foundation’s strategy committee, worked closely with SBPO as they studied the area and developed a plan to best utilize the 53 acres. Fortunately, these acres reside in a trust that prohibits large-scale commercial development.The plan, which the City Commission approved last September, places a new performing arts hall at the hub of the design, along with walking trails, boat docks, and shops and restaurants. The beloved current Van Wezel will remain open and operating during the years it will take to fundraise, design, and build the new performing arts hall. Then, the City will decide how to re-purpose the old building. The goal is to create an accessible, walkable facility that has something for everyone, no matter their age or status. With three large pedestrian ramps crossing U.S. Highway 41, people will be able to traverse the area by foot or by bike without worrying about motor vehicle traffic.

“I love being able to be a part of something that will solidify Sarasota’s premier status today as a cultural center,” Karl said. “It is important we continue educating our community and exposing our children to the arts.”

This is a massive project, one that has been met with its fair share of pushback, but “it is important that future generations have the ability to experience what we have gotten to,” Karl said. “I want to see it through.”

Cheryl Mooney has been an art teacher for thirty years. Time and time again, she has seen the positive, therapeutic impact art can have on people’s lives, no matter their age or stage. “Therapy has always been a part of art for me,” she said, but now that her husband Tim is a resident in the Starr Memory Care Residence, its importance has been heightened.

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that encourages self-expression through media such as painting, modeling, drawing, collage, and coloring. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, art can enrich the lives of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. When practiced in a supportive environment, art allows people to express themselves without fear of being judged. “There is no right or wrong way to make art,” Cheryl said. “The important thing is just making it a part of residents’ routines.”

Art allows residents to express their thoughts and feelings. It can trigger dormant memories and emotions and brings up the most important pieces of someone’s life, whether it’s their favorite childhood pet or a family trip. “Art becomes a form of communication,” Cheryl said. “From someone’s art, you can see what they’re thinking about and what is important to them, creating an opportunity for caregivers to start a meaningful conversation.”

When therapists and caregivers encourage those with dementia to explore their feelings by engaging in the creative process, it enhances the quality of life for not only the resident but also the caregiver. It can aid in managing behavior, processing feelings, and reducing stress for all parties involved. Art therapy provides a way for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s to preserve their sense of self and validates them, regardless of how far their disease has progressed. It shows the person that their story matters to others (www.alzheimers.net).

“Art helps remind them that they can still add beauty to the world for others to enjoy,” Cheryl said. “It does not matter what it looks like because the important part is that they were able to make something themselves.”

Brandi Burgess, Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care, echoed Cheryl’s statement and encourages the use of art therapy. “The value of art with dementia is immeasurable,” Brandi said. “Art allows those who are often without a voice to speak and share about their experiences with the world around them,” said Brandi.

Providing opportunities for those with dementia to engage in art is a simple, but incredibly important, way to help. Taking the time to create something with a resident can make all the difference in their lives and shows that it truly is better to give than to receive.

A new Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care has been chosen, and she is no stranger to Plymouth Harbor. Congratulations, Brandi Burgess!

With a degree in Sociology and Psychology from the College of William and Mary, Brandi started working at Plymouth Harbor in 1999 as an activities coordinator. She also helped manage the social services in the Smith Care Center. When the SCC was opened up to the community, Brandi moved into the role of Admissions and Marketing Coordinator and helped Plymouth Harbor earn a reputation for being not only a great retirement community, but also an excellent skilled nursing and rehab center. She worked as Plymouth Harbor’s social worker and the Positive Approach® to Care educator before being asked to step into the role of Interim Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care.

“Over the last five months, Brandi has lead by example and worked effectively with residents, family members, staff, and contractors to help our Seaside Assisted Living and Starr Memory Care Residence complete a successful first full year of operation,” said Joe Devore, Senior Vice President of Health Services.

Now, after completing her Assisted Living Facility regulatory training and earning her license, she officially takes on her role of Administrator of Assisted Living, the Seaside and the Starr Memory Care Residences.

“As we began our search for an Administrator for Assisted Living and Memory Care, we profiled a professional who had all of the credentials required, coupled with the strong organizational, leadership, and interpersonal skills necessary to administer our Positive Approach® to Care philosophy,” said Harry Hobson, CEO. “We identified Brandi early on as THAT person and so much more. We know Brandi’s heart aligns with our Plymouth Harbor mission, and we are so pleased to see Brandi move into this important leadership position.”

“I am grateful for the support of my husband, Warren, who takes such good care of our family while I have taken on more responsibilities here,” Brandi said. “I am proud and blessed to be a part of what I believe will be the premier Assisted Living and Memory Care home in the Southeast.”

On January 30, Plymouth Harbor will be seeing snow for the first time since 2015, but not the cold, white kind that falls from the sky. Teepa Snow, a leading educator on dementia, will be on campus to teach residents, staff, board members, and community partners about dementia and her Positive Approach™ to Care.

As an occupational therapist with more than 30 years of clinical experience in the field of dementia, Teepa has become an advocate for those with dementia. She has made it her mission to help people better understand what it is like to live with the challenges that accompany the condition and to change the way people think about it.

In 2005, she founded her own company, the Positive Approach™ to Care, to teach people how to effectively and compassionately work with those living with neurocognitive degeneration. The Positive Approach™ to Care (PAC) uses the GEMS® States model for brain change, Teepa’s own creation that focuses on retained abilities instead of those that are lost. “Rewiring our own perceptions, attitudes, communication strategies, actions, and responses provides the shift that promotes change for others around us,” says Teepa on her website. Through the PAC and using the GEMS® States model, she now educates family and professional care providers across the world, but mainly in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

“Snow Day,” as we like to call her visit, will span from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., allowing Teepa time with all members of our Plymouth Harbor community so that we can all learn how to better care for those with dementia. Teepa will have specific sessions dedicated to each of our constituents, beginning with staff, caregivers, and area partners, then residents and Harbor Club members, and finally our board members.

This year, we have combined “Snow Day” with our annual Doyle Trust Lecture, and she will serve as the annual event’s keynote speaker. “We are very proud to bring Teepa here for the inaugural Doyle Trust Lecture,” says Becky Pazkowski, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy. “The Doyles were residents here and I’d imagine would be very pleased to know that care for all kinds of conditions, including dementia, has expanded over the years. With their legacy, we are able to offer an even broader educational opportunity.”

Teepa has visited Plymouth Harbor once before in March of 2015, before the Northwest Garden Building was built, for our first “Snow Day.” This time around, in addition to speaking to our residents and staff, Teepa will tour the Starr Memory Care Residence. We are excited to show her the supportive, state-of-the-art environment created for our residents thanks to the careful thought and ingenuity of the Plymouth Harbor team and THW, the architectural and design firm. We are so proud of our residence, and this will serve as a rare occasion for us to show Teepa how the design of the space and the program has been influenced by her own positive approach.

Brandi Burgess, Interim Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care, is a certified PAC trainer and has worked hard to incorporate Teepa’s approach into the way Plymouth Harbor cares for its residents. “The tenets of her program are that if caregivers understand what is happening physically and cognitively to those with dementia, we can identify the levels of progression and remaining strengths in the moment,” Brandi said.

More information about Teepa and the Positive Approach™ to Care and the GEMS® States model for brain change can be found online at TeepaSnow.com.

In 2014, our Board of Trustees and Leadership Council committed the time and financial resources to ensure that every single Plymouth Harbor staff member is given premier education on dementia care.

Our goal is to have staff who are knowledgeable about dementia, aware of the unique manifestations of dementia, who understand the impact of dementia on family and environmental dynamics, and who are adept at interacting with those with dementia. Using Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach™ to Care (PAC) philosophy, we ensure that this happens.

Teepa Snow is a leading educator on dementia. As an occupational therapist with more than 30 years of clinical experience in the field, Teepa has become an advocate for those with dementia. She has made it her mission to help people better understand what it is like to live with the challenges that accompany the condition and to change the way people think about it. In 2005, she founded her own company, the Positive Approach™ to Care, to teach people how to effectively and compassionately work with those living with neurocognitive degeneration. The Positive Approach™ to Care (PAC) uses the GEMS® States model for brain change, Teepa’s own creation that focuses on retained abilities instead of those that are lost. Through the PAC and using the GEMS® States model, she now educates family and professional care providers across the world, but mainly in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K

Four years ago, Brandi Burgess, Interim Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care, became a nationally certified trainer in PAC and developed an education plan for all levels of our staff with responsibilities in any of our licensed facilities.

“I really love when staff members from all departments share an interaction they had with a resident and say ‘I felt myself getting defensive and upset, and then I realized I was talking to a diamond,’ or an emerald, or a ruby,” Brandi said. “When they can take a step back, use what they learned in their PAC training, and approach the situation with a different mindset, they can better understand and care for our residents.”

Health Services staff receive annual training, which consists of education on normal aging, dementia, current research, and the progression of dementia through the GEMS® model. They also learn positive physical approaches and skills to use during care. Many different techniques are used to teach our staff these skills: video clips of Teepa demonstrating how to sort out what GEM someone is for visual learners; lectures and Q&A sessions for verbal learners; role playing and hands-on care practice for existential learners.

Our Care Partners in the Starr Memory Care Residence receive a three-week training, the most intensive of all our employees. Their PAC training is heavily interactive and hands-on, allowing them to practice the skills they will need and also put themselves in the shoes of someone with dementia. Even those who work outside of Health Services receive an introduction to PAC in their new employee orientations.

“If we can teach our staff how to purposefully change the environment and approach to our residents, then we can ensure they have the proper setting to shine at their best,” Brandi said.

It is with deep respect that we bid farewell to three Foundation board members who have served two terms each on the Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board of Trustees. The Foundation Board is comprised of at least three resident trustees, three non-resident corporate board trustees, and three at-large trustees, plus the CEO and CFO.

Tom Towler (Resident Trustee)
Tom began on the Foundation board in 2013, serving two consecutive terms. We are grateful for his knowledge of Plymouth Harbor, the Sarasota Community, and of philanthropy.

Lee Byron (Non-Resident Trustee)
Lee served on the Foundation board beginning in 2013 and was appointed as a corporate board trustee at that time. Her long tenure as trustee at Plymouth Harbor has been extremely generous and valuable to our leadership. Now a Harbor Club member, we know we will continue to benefit from Lee’s involvement.

Cade Sibley (At-Large Trustee)
Cade began as an At-Large trustee in 2013 and became Chair of the Board in 2017. Completing her sixth year on the board and second as chair, we are extremely grateful for her leadership. She will begin her first term as a corporate board trustee in January.

We are excited to welcome the following three new members to our Foundation Board:

John D. (Jack) Kidd (Resident Trustee)
Jack and Jane Kidd became Plymouth Harbor residents in December of 2017. They moved to Longboat Key in 2004, having spent most of their family life in Jackson, Ohio. Jack and a partner bought Oak Hill Banks in 1970, which after much success was merged with WesBanco of Wheeling, West Virginia in 2007. He served on that board until 2011. Jack has most recently served two years as President of the Board of The Glasser Schoenbaum Human Services Center in Sarasota (2014-2018). He also served the Bird Key Yacht Club Board of Governors, the Sanctuary Condo Board of Trustees, and the Waterclub Condo Board of Trustees, as well as countless boards in Ohio. He and Jane have three children and five beautiful grandchildren.

Robert (Bobby) Overall (At-Large Trustee)
Bobby Overall has become very familiar with Plymouth Harbor, as his parents, Bob and Mathilda Overall, lived here from 2001 until their recent deaths (2018 and 2016, respectively). Bobby was president and majority owner of Coastal Bridge Company, a 250-employee highway, bridge, and marine construction company in Louisiana, which he sold and retired from in 2013. He holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Louisiana State University. He is currently a director of Associated General Contractors of America and a past board member and past president of Louisiana Associated General Contractors. He has been involved on several volunteer boards including Junior Chamber of Commerce of Baton Rouge, Jefferson United Methodist of Baton Rouge, and Sarasota Yacht Club. He and his wife Cindy reside in Baton Rouge and have a second home docked at Sarasota Yacht Club.

Kathryn Angell Carr (Non-Resident Trustee)
Kathryn Angell Carr is a member of our corporate board, and is a partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP where she is Board Certified in Real Estate Law. She has been involved in the representation of both purchasers and sellers in residential and commercial real estate, including several shopping centers, hotels, apartment complexes, restaurants, and office buildings. Kathryn also has experience in the leasing and financing of both residential and commercial projects, including securitized financing and bond financing. Kathryn received a BS degree in Political Science from Iowa State University and earned her law degree from the University of Florida. In addition to Plymouth Harbor’s, Kathryn previously served on several community Boards, including, but not limited to, The Argus Foundation and the Animal Rescue Coalition. She has three stepchildren and six grandchildren, ranging in age from three to 27.

We have all heard the phrase, “charity begins at home.” Never having known the origin of that phrase, I did what all educated people do nowadays – I googled it.

The phrase is a proverb meaning one’s first responsibility is for the needs of one’s own family and friends.

I have visited personally with over 250 of our residents here at Plymouth Harbor, and a very common description of the feeling here is “like family.” That typically includes neighbors and employees. It should come as no surprise that one of the most popular needs that residents support through the Foundation is Employee Assistance.

Employee Assistance includes support in several different areas: education, hardship, wellness, and training. Over the years, this fund has contributed to our ability to recruit and retain employees, keep skills sharp and current, identify and train emerging leaders, and improve the health and well-being of employees.

In the same spirit of “charity begins at home” is our newest established employee scholarship, the Veronica Holak Barton Scholarship. The donor (a resident who prefers to remain anonymous) shared her story about her single mother raising her, working sometimes several jobs to hold the family together. When it came time for this donor to go to college, her mother told her that she just couldn’t swing the tuition and that she would not be able to attend college. She was disappointed, but knew that learning a skill was important. So, she attended vocational school, learned an employable skill, and later went back to expand her education when she could afford it.

Knowing now that it must have broken her mother’s heart to have to tell her that she couldn’t afford tuition, she wishes to help others here at Plymouth Harbor, who may be in the same situation, in her mother’s name: Veronica Holak Barton.

The Veronica Holak Barton Scholarship is a $5,000 scholarship that will be awarded annually, beginning in 2019, to a student interested in a vocational program, not necessitating a 4-year college degree. She has also stated preference for this scholarship to be made to one-parent families. Eventually, this scholarship will be endowed so that it will go on for years and years into the future.

Charity certainly does begin at home, sometimes years ago, sometimes now. And, most times, something very good can result.

-Becky Pazkowski

The State of Jobs Conference (SOJC) is Florida’s largest conference focused on college and career development. The conference introduces high school students, mostly sophomores, to career tracks and industry leaders early on in their education. Several tracks are offered for students, including healthcare, engineering/manufacturing, information technology, hospitality, art/culture, and business.

Presented this year by CareerSource Suncoast, BIG (Bright Ideas on the Gulf Coast), and Gulf Coast CEO Forum, SOJC began in 2013 as an offering of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and the brainchild of Chris Laney. In 2016, Chris recognized the need to expand SOJC to make it a regional event. He took the idea to CareerSource Suncoast and subsequently expanded to the surrounding counties. SOJC now hosts 1,000 students from surrounding high schools and includes an evening event that focuses on college students nearing graduation and looking for jobs in our community.

Plymouth Harbor became involved with SOJC in 2016 after recognizing the workforce shortage would continue and that we needed to find a way to introduce young people to our industry as a viable and steady career choice. For the third year now, Plymouth Harbor is the healthcare track sponsor. In 2016 and 2017, our nurses participated in one of the three sessions in the healthcare track, engaging over 150 students in nursing as a career choice.

This year we were again the healthcare sponsor, which invites visibility with an exhibit booth and hosting of the healthcare track. We were able to connect with hundreds of high schoolers throughout the day and college students in the evening.

New this year was an offering for the high schoolers called Executive Roundtables. Each roundtable was hosted by an executive, defined as someone who had been in their business for at least 10 years. Plymouth Harbor was asked to supply host executives for some of the 45 different roundtables. Several employees and residents were willing to participate:

George McGonagill, Vice President of Facilities, hosted a table and led the conversation in careers related to the building trades. Alyson Harris, Director of Accounting, hosted a table that talked about the accounting field.
Paul Groen, resident and orthopedic surgeon, hosted a table and spoke about careers in the medical field.
Bill Johnston, resident and former president of the New York Stock Exchange, hosted a table focused on careers in the business and finance industry. Other staff involved in the SOJC this year included Becky Pazkowski, Tena Wilson, and Stephen Moros.

There seems to always be guests who recognize Plymouth Harbor as an icon in Sarasota. Last year, the son of a resident who teaches in Sarasota visited our booth. This year, one of the panelists in the healthcare track was Sarasota Memorial Hospital ER physician Reuben Holland. Dr. Holland spoke highly of Plymouth Harbor, saying ER patients presenting at SMH from Plymouth Harbor are always obviously well-cared for patients. Additionally, some people mention that their first jobs were at Plymouth Harbor.

“Two different people came up to me this year and said their first job was at Plymouth Harbor,” recalled Becky Pazkowski, who hosts the healthcare track sessions. “One was a teacher of 40 years who retired last year from Emma Booker Elementary. She was a nursing assistant here before she went into teaching. The other was a chef in USF’s hospitality program. He said his first job was in dining services here at Plymouth Harbor!”

Among our goals for being involved in SOJC is to show leadership in our industry, an industry often not mentioned as an option for those seeking career tracks. Plymouth Harbor has been around for over 50 years, and our industry is one of the largest in the state of Florida. It is our duty to remind people that we are here, we are not going anywhere, and we value good employees. We remind them that this could be their first job!