In the doorway of each of the 30 resident rooms in the Starr Memory Care Residences is a large, glass box, commonly called shadow boxes. Within these boxes are all sorts of memorabilia, from newspaper clippings and photos to small glass sculptures and artwork. Each box gives a peak into the life and interests of the resident it belongs to, and is an important way to help those in memory care retain their identity.

Each memory box tells a story, highlighting the things most important to each resident. Bob Johnson’s box contains a few toy model cars, a newspaper clipping, and some other memorabilia from his time as a successful car dealership owner. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Bob joined the U.S. Air Force at age 17. He served for four years before being honorably discharged. After earning a degree in business management and accounting, Bob went on to own three General Motors dealerships and one Ford dealership, all in western New York. During this time, his companies were listed among Black Enterprise Magazine’s “Top 100 Auto Dealers.” After retiring and moving to Sarasota, Bob established a Robert Johnson scholarship fund at Ringling College and Empire State College and has also donated to the Sarasota City Parks Foundation.

It is common practice to have shadow boxes in Memory Care residences as markers for an individual’s room. Often, it is the staff that put these boxes together for the residents, but we invite our residents and their family members to fill them. When the Northwest Garden Building was being designed, “we wanted to expand the concept of these shadow boxes,” said Brandi Burgess, Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care. While front “porches” would not have been a practical use of space or materials, these boxes serve as a way for each resident to have an individualized entry to their abode. The boxes were made bigger and deeper and were illuminated from within to make the contents easier to see.

“They became beacons for each resident room, and are amazing conversation starters between residents, staff, and family members,” Brandi said. Next time you visit a loved one in the Starr Memory Care Residence, take some time to look inside these boxes and learn a little more about the people that live there.

Plymouth Harbor prides itself in offering a safe and supportive environment for its employees that aids them in reaching their dreams and goals. Through its annual scholarship programs, Plymouth Harbor has helped many employees go back to school and continue their education.

Tara Mitchell came to Plymouth Harbor in 2006 as a CNA and is now the Smith Care Center’s Assistant Director of Nursing (ADON). “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this happening, but the scholarships helped with a lot,” Tara said.

Tara earned her LPN in 2010 from Manatee Technical, went back to school in 2013 to fulfill her pre-requisite courses for her RN degree, and earned her RN license in January 2018. Even as a full-time student, Tara continued to work at Plymouth Harbor as a flex nurse. She received her first scholarship in 2013, and then received the Doyle scholarship in 2015. “It paid for my nursing and bachelors degrees, and also helped me support my three children,” Tara said.

Tara grew up wanting to be a cosmetologist, but when she became pregnant for the first time she realized nursing was her true calling. “My nurse, Barbara, was the most awesome nurse ever,” Tara said. It was after this interaction that Tara decided to become a nurse, and she hopes to one day work with mothers and babies.

Now that she is the ADON, Tara’s responsibilities are more administrative, but that doesn’t stop her from making sure she spends time bedside helping residents. “Whenever I have time, I ask our nurses if there is anything I can help them with,” Tara said. “I choose to still be hands-on and keep up my skills. I’m just that way.” She also makes sure she keeps her bedside skills sharp by working at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Claudia Cavero is also a nurse in our Smith Care Center. For the past 16 months, Claudia has been enrolled at Rasmussen College in Tampa pursuing her RN degree. She received the Gaylord Scholarship in 2018 and used it to help pay for her tuition and books. This scholarship is specifically for those pursuing a career in the nursing field.

During her RN program, Claudia was commuting to Tampa three to four days a week for classes and clinicals, all while working full time and raising her 13-year-old son. “Plymouth Harbor was so flexible with my schedule,” Claudia said. “I worked as a private duty and night shift nurse, which allowed me to come to work and take care of my residents while also going to school.” During her down time while on night shift, Claudia would study and do her homework.

Claudia completed her courses in April 2019, took and passed the NCLEX (nursing boards) in May, and is proud to say she is officially a Registered Nurse. She is “so grateful to Plymouth Harbor” and the Gaylord Scholarship for helping her achieve this goal and is “planning to grow here and see how far I can go.”

Both Tara and Claudia are examples of how far people can go with just a little extra support, and they both echoed the same sentiment: a great big thank you. To those who have donated to the Foundation Scholarships program or plan to, your kindness and generosity is forever appreciated.

Sarah and George Pappas met through an art class as Penn State University. At the time, George was an art professor and Sarah was one of his students. “After I took the first class with him, I made sure I took every other class he offered,” Sarah said.

After she graduated, Sarah wrote George a letter thanking him for his enjoyable classes and inviting him to look her up if he was ever in New York City. “I didn’t remember her at first, but I took out my grade book, saw I had noted “tall girl” next to her name, and remembered, “said George. When he was in the city for a conference, he called her up, and they then dated for six years before marrying. He taught at Penn State for 10 years before moving to Tampa where he taught at USF for another 27 years before retiring in 1993.

George’s family is of Greek heritage – his father was a Greek Orthodox Priest- and his work is largely influenced by icons and mythology, but with a modern, abstract twist.

George dropped out of Norwich College after two years, or rather was asked to leave due to an excess of demerits, and transferred to MASS College of Art to pursue a formal art education. “Once I entered art school, I had straight As,” George said. “He was finally studying his passion,” Sarah added in. He then went off to Harvard to earn a master’s in teaching and a doctorate from Penn state after that.

Sarah’s youth was also colorful, although by cultures not paints. Her father worked for U.S. Steel and his work took them to Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico. Growing up in these countries shaped Sarah’s world view and is where she developed her love of bright colors. When she and her family moved back to the U.S., Sarah envisioned herself finishing school, marrying her high-school boyfriend, and having kids. “I was a typical girl growing up in the ‘50s, when women weren’t supposed to have aspirations,” Sarah said. “Even while I was attending Penn State, my dream job was working at Revlon as a secretary because they wore red jackets.”

Instead, her first job was at an insurance company. Although not quite the job she had been dreaming of, it turned out to be the beginning of her path towards a career in education, something she hadn’t even begun to dream up. Her company, Mutual of New York, offered tuition reimbursement to employees who pursued and passed graduate courses. “I got my master’s in social science education for free,” Sarah said.

Sarah had never imagined herself being an educator, rejecting the notion because she didn’t want to do the same thing as her mother. She also never thought of herself as smart until one of her master’s program professors gave her a glowing review. After that, she slowly became more ambitious in her plans for her life, eventually becoming a University President a few decades down the road. “It’s amazing how you can change when you have mentors,” she said.

George still paints every day in his home studio, often times with a Red Sox, Patriots, or Celtics game on in the background. Their home is full of his large, colorful pieces, and the influence of Greek icons can be seen in each work. Sarah, the more social of the two, maintains her heavy community involvement. She is on the Ringling Board of Trustees and Tiger Bay Board, volunteers at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, and is a member of a few women’s groups around town. They both stay active using the Plymouth Harbor’s Wellness Center, and Sarah attends Zumba every week at the YMCA.

So, where do they find their continued zest for life? In the activities they have always loved. “Look at me, I’m 90 years old and never thought I would be this old,” George said. “Just keep up your creativity.”

Plymouth Harbor has a tradition of honoring our nurses and nursing assistants during Nursing Home Week, and this year was no exception! Nurses and Nursing home appreciation week falls in May, and we like to take this time every year to thank our nurses for all that they do, for they have changed many of our lives for the better. Nursing is not for everyone, and it takes a special kind of person to dedicate their life to this profession. The driving force for many is the simple desire to help others.

Cindy Taylor has worked as a nurse at Plymouth Harbor for over 20 years, always with independent residents through the Home Care department. Her drive to become a nurse stemmed from seeing her grandmother struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. When Cindy saw how much the home health workers brightened her grandmother’s day, she decided that she would become a caregiver. “I knew that this is what I came here to do,” Cindy said. As a nurse, Cindy is challenged daily and finds satisfaction knowing that she is making a positive difference in someone’s life. Throughout her 20 years at Plymouth Harbor, Cindy has gotten to know residents well. “I have known them as independents, and I get to be with them as they need more care,” she said. “I cherish the relationships I have made here.”

Liz Clark has always felt that nursing was for her. Her mother had polio from the age of 10, and has been in a wheelchair ever since. When Liz was 13, she became a candy striper and worked on the cancer floor of the hospital. She loved being able to help others and from that point on, she “did nothing but nursing.” In high school, she continued to work at the hospital, and in 1978 she took on another position working 3-9 p.m. in the infirmary at Plymouth Harbor. Liz has worked at Plymouth Harbor on and off ever since, becoming an LPN and raising kids during the time in-between.

Katie Sowers is one of our newest nurses on campus, and she echoes a similar sentiment. Katie knew she wanted to help people, so she earned her degree in family and marriage counseling. Soon after, she realized she wanted to help in a more hands-on way, and went back to school to become a CNA. She has now been a nurse for almost a year. To her, nursing is a universal way to connect with and help others. “Everyone knows someone who needs help, or has grandparents who are aging,” she said. “As a nurse at Plymouth Harbor, I am able to help people at this stage of life and hear their stories.”

Plymouth Harbor is blessed to have dedicated, kind nurses on our staff. Please take a moment to thank them for all that they do!

Plymouth Harbor staffs over 300 employees, of which 113 have origins outside of the United States. Our employees come to us from all corners of the world, bringing with them their own unique knowledge, skills, ideas, and talents. With such a broad background, our staff comes together to create an inclusive, diverse Plymouth Harbor atmosphere that makes employees feel part of a true family. Each person has their own story of how they came to work at Plymouth Harbor, and learning
their stories helps us better understand how to work together.

Marcos, an E-Tech in the Housekeeping department, was born and raised in Brazil. He earned a degree in architecture and worked for the government for two years before moving to the U.S. As a federal architect, Marcos helped design and develop affordable housing out of recycled materials for those in need. He and his team were able to build a one-bedroom, one-bathroom home in as little as 15 days, all using recycled materials and resources from the rain forest, such as resin to seal the homes from water and humidity. He and his wife Sandra, who also works at Plymouth Harbor have one daughter, who is earning a degree in criminology at USF with the help of a Plymouth Harbor Foundation scholarship.

Billy, a cook in our main kitchen, moved here from the Dominican Republic in 2011 in search of security. He became a citizen one year ago, and is now working towards his dream of becoming a police officer.

Roberto is also a cook in our main kitchen. He and his family moved from Lima, Peru to the U.S. in 2003 with the hopes of providing a better life for their two children. In Peru, Roberto was a business owner who ran his own store selling electrical appliances and tools. He hopes to become a citizen this year. “We are like the United Nations in the kitchen,” said Executive Chef Rene Weder, a Switzerland native.

Inga, one of our housekeepers, is originally from Ukraine. Ever since she was five years old, Inga had dreamed about living in the U.S. It took many years to get the proper immigration documentation, but Inga says it was worth it. Moving to Chicago was a dramatic change, but she loved being able to live in such a friendly, beautiful city. The people of Chicago made her feel so welcome every day, that she “cried many times walking down the street because of how nice people were,” Inga shared. Inga moved to Sarasota after seven years in Chicago, but her daughter still lives there with her husband and Inga’s granddaughter.

Before moving to the U.S. and becoming a citizen, Inga was a jack of all trades. She began her professional career as a civil engineer, first helping create submarines and then creating information bases for telephone companies. Next, she was a business owner, owning both a travel agency and a restaurant in Kiev, the
Ukrainian capital. Her final job before moving the U.S. was as an interior designer, with the president of Ukraine being one of her clients. “I have always liked to create and manage things, and I am crazy about design,” Inga said. Now, she is taking English classes at Suncoast College and plans to take business classes in the future.

In 2006, Nela, another member of our Housekeeping department, immigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua to help her family. Before moving, she had spent five years earning a pharmacy degree and two years working in the field. Nela began saving for school when she was 17 years old, and she worked throughout her entire education to pay for school herself. When her aunt offered to help her come to the U.S., Nela made the decision to move so that she could better provide for her parents. “It has been hard work, but I am happy,” Nela said.

For many, moving to the U.S. has provided them with better opportunities and the chance of an improved life for their families. They have all made sacrifices to be here, but the experiences and stories they bring to Plymouth Harbor are what set us apart, and helps us do our job as best as possible. “Plymouth Harbor is a beautiful tapestry of people from many different countries, cultures, and races,” said Tena Wilson, Vice President of Resident and Employee Relations. “Our differences make us unique, but the love and support that we show each other and the residents every day is what makes us family.”

Beth Watson is a native Rhode Islander who comes to us with more than two decades of fundraising experience. Beth graduated from Rhode Island College with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and has continued her education at various other institutions including Merrimack College, Emerson College, and Harvard University. Upon graduation, she secured a position at USA Today. She spent six years there bettering her writing, presenting, advertising, and sales skills. It was at this job that she was inspired to pursue career opportunities in the non-profit sector.

In 1988 Beth accepted the role of Director of Marketing and Public Relations at the Providence Public Library. Over the next 12 years, Beth advanced the library’s visibility and assisted in her first fundraising project. Together with the Director of Development and Board, Beth helped organize a $2 million capital campaign.

In 2001 Beth took a step back from full-time work to care for her father who had been diagnosed with ALS. During this time, she began working to help launch Rhode Island’s only children’s bereavement center called Friends Way. She considers this project “one of her most significant contributions.”

In 2005 she returned to work full-time as the Director of Development and Communications for Children’s Friend and Services, then as the Director of Institutional Advancement for Redwood Library, and most recently as Director of Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Mercy, a group of Roman Catholic women committed to serving and advocating for those in need.

Throughout her professional life, Beth has employed a four-tiered philosophy: communication, expectations, accessibility, and accountability. Both her professional and personal experience have shaped her into someone who is deeply committed to helping others, and she feels “honored to continue to articulate a faith-based vision and mission for Plymouth Harbor and its donors, bracing them for future, sustainable growth for generations to come.”

Beth has two children. Her son is a boat-builder, and her daughter recently graduated and is now a Physician’s Assistant with plans to specialize in Women’s health and surgery. One of her favorite quotes is from the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus “The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.” In her free time, Beth enjoys gardening, yoga, and paddle boarding. Please join us in welcoming Beth aboard our team!

Earth day originated on April 22, 1970 and is considered to be the birth of the modern environmental movement. Ideated by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was meant to serve as a “national teach-in on the environment” that would educate the masses about the effects our actions have on the health of our planet. While most of America remained largely unaware of growing environmental concerns prior to April 22, 1970, the first celebration of Earth Day brought these concerns to center stage.

Drawing from the energy of the anti-war protest movement, the first Earth Day saw 20 million Americans participate in rallies and demonstrations highlighting the need for greener practices. By the end of 1970, the United States Environmental Protection Agency had been created, and the Clear Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts had all been passed. In 1990, Earth Day became globally recognized, with 200 million people in over 140 nations participating, according to the Earth Day Network (EDN), a nonprofit organization that coordinates Earth Day activities. It has since grown into an internationally celebrated holiday that focuses on how to live a more eco-friendly life. The EDN estimates that more than 1 billion people are involved in Earth Day activities every year, making it “the largest secular civic event in the world.”

Thirteen years ago, a group of environmentally-minded residents came together to find ways to bring the movement to Plymouth Harbor. This was the beginning of the Conservation Committee, which then became a formal committee three years later. Now, members of the committee share a common mission: to promote conservation of resources within Plymouth Harbor, including recycling, water, and electricity usage, and other appropriate conservation measures. The committee also researches and makes recommendations on ways in which Plymouth Harbor may become more environmentally responsible.

“Our biggest job is to educate residents on simple ways to conserve resources,” said Isabel Pedersen. Tips and tricks can be found in the weekly flyer, and residents are encouraged to try to incorporate these small changes into their daily routines. “Although independently they don’t sound like much, lots of little things can add up and make a big change,” Isabel said.
If you want to learn more about the Conservation Committee, contact Isabel at ext. 561. There are also Conservation Committee liaisons in each colony. Although new committee members won’t be chosen until next year, you can still act as a role model for others by putting into place environmentally friendly practices.

While turning off lights and recycling are what you initially think of when you think about conserving resources, those aren’t the only ways. Conserving resources also means finding new uses or new homes for things you already have. Instead of throwing away old clothing, household items, and furniture, donate them to the Resident Fund Shop or the donation collection bins located on the Ground Floor of the Tower. These four organizations (All Faiths Food Bank, Resurrection House, Sarasota County Animal Services, and Meals on Wheels) and our Fund shop put our reusable items to good use and prevents the need for someone to buy something new that they can get used.

To celebrate Earth Day this year, the Conservation Committee will have a table set up in the lobby where you can get reusable cloth grocery bags, reusable water bottles, and information about what Plymouth Harbor is doing to reduce our footprint. Someone will be at the table throughout the day to answer questions, so make sure you stop by!

Sources: www.earthday.org, www.history.com