Begun in 1966 as a dream of Rev. Dr. John Whitney MacNeil, former senior minister of the First Congregational United Church of Christ of Sarasota, who envisioned a progressive, interfaith, residential community for retired clergy and teachers, Plymouth Harbor today attracts vibrant residents, both nationally and internationally.  Most of these residents, over the years, have made significant contributions to the arts, culture, and education, helping to establish Sarasota as a vibrant and coveted community in which to live and retire.

Today, Plymouth Harbor, a non-profit organization, has become one of the premier continuing care retirement communities in the United States, offering services from independent to assisted living, skilled nursing, long-term care, and short-term rehabilitation, all on one campus.  Essential to its success and outstanding reputation are the nearly 200 employees who deliver care and compassionate services to more than 265 residents daily.

That spirit of caring is also the driving force behind philanthropy at Plymouth Harbor. Over the decades, members of the resident population, their families, employees, and philanthropists in the broader community have voluntarily donated more than $12,000,000 to perpetuate its mission.  Contributions of time, talent, and financial resources are made, believing that service to and support of other people is a worthy lifelong value.

Formalizing the Foundation

In an effort to further ensure appropriate stewardship, develop and implement fundraising strategies that support the most positive aging experience possible, and to provide funding for innovative programs and services for seniors in the region, the Plymouth Harbor Foundation was formalized in 2012.  Their culture of philanthropy is built on three pillars of value – benevolence, fellowship, and a zest for life – and three funds were established for these purposes.

Resident Assistance

True to their founding value of benevolence, resident assistance supports those who have outlived their financial resources, due to unforeseen circumstances, and require support for basic living expenses and medical care.

Employee Assistance

Creating an outstanding living environment depends, in no small part, upon successfully recruiting, retaining, and developing the highest quality work force possible.  This fund supports employees who are experiencing financial hardships or who wish to advance their education.

Zest For Life

This programmatic and capital fund supports innovations and enhancements that improve and preserve the vibrant quality of life for current and future residents.

Making a Difference

We hope you will consider making a gift to advance a positive aging experience at Plymouth Harbor.  Your future is worth supporting.

Members of Girl Scout Troop #121 & Boy Scout Troop #895 copy

Boy Scout Troop #895 and Girl Scouts from Troop #121 in Sarasota recently provided community service at Plymouth Harbor as part of a project that was partially funded by the Bay Partners Grant Program to restore a natural ecosystem on a portion of the campus.  The scouts spent a full day spreading mulch and watering plants that had recently been replaced.

“Community projects like this are an excellent example of what Dr. MacNeil had in mind when he envisioned Plymouth Harbor,” said Harry Hobson, President and CEO of Plymouth Harbor.  “Individuals of all ages coming together to support a positive living environment.  Isn’t that what “community” is all about?”


Please join us in congratulating Armando Cortez, our Employee of the Month for October 2013.

Armando came to Plymouth Harbor as a part-time Steward in February of 2010 and was promoted to full-time status two months later.  Prior to working at Plymouth Harbor, Armando was employed by the Manatee Fruit Company for almost 20 years as a laborer.

Throughout his time here at Plymouth Harbor Armando has received several Exceeds Standard remarks on his appraisals from Chef René, in the categories of job knowledge, quality of work, responsiveness to supervision, attendance, attitude, relationship with people, and personal conduct.

Comments from his supervisor are very complimentary:  Armando is a very good worker who follows all the rules, keeps a positive attitude, and is liked by the staff. His demeanor and work ethic are to be admired.  He is a team player.

Armando, originally from Jalisco, Mexico, has resided in the local area for over 20 years.  He and his wife Dionisia will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary next April.  They have a son Juan Armando and three grandchildren who live in Bradenton.

We are very pleased to bestow this well-deserved recognition upon Armando.  Thank you for choosing Plymouth Harbor as your employer!

By Becky Pazkowski

Last month I wrote about Rath and Hartner’s book Well Being: The Five Essential Elements.  The authors  studied 23,000 people and found that there are five broad categories of well being that are essential to a thriving life: career, social, financial, physical and community wellbeing.  What  they found to be the single biggest threat to our own wellbeing is ourselves.  They go on to discuss items in each of the five categories that tend to be essential to a thriving wellbeing, and within our control.

In the chapter on Community Wellbeing (the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live) they suggest that thriving community wellbeing is about what we do to give back to our community.  They go on to explain that giving back is what may distinguish an exceptional life from a good one.

Philanthropy takes many forms . . . time, talent, treasure.  Time is perhaps the most valuable gift one can give.  Volunteerism, for many of us, was our first experience with giving.  We may have gotten started through our church group, scouts, school, or with our family.  Giving of one’s time is fulfilling, especially when you know that the time you have volunteered has served as a special purpose and helped someone.

Volunteering at Plymouth Harbor

For several young adults in Sarasota, the gift of time has played a valuable role in life at Plymouth Harbor.  Students from local high schools have been volunteering on Saturday mornings since June of this year to staff eTEAM clinics, where residents receive assistance using electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, computers, etc.

Jeannette and Charles Gehrie, who have received assistance with their cell phones, commented that they have felt the students are patient and knowledgeable.  “They are delightful young adults and they have helped us immensely in using our cell phones more fully and with more ease.”

Marty Buenneke, who has been working mostly with Marinna Okawa from Pine View High School, says, “Marinna has been helping me with email on my computer.  She is very well qualified and has a lovely personality.”

Jim Underwood, who has received assistance from several of the students, comments, “These students are very interesting and dedicated to helping us.  I thought they would be more shy, but they are very outgoing.”

Florence and George Heitler comment:  “The eTEAM was a great idea and truly is a wonderful help to those of us born before the electronic revolution.  Whoever thought of it deserves credit, but members of the eTEAM deserve our sincere thanks.  They are truly life savers for our problems (which seem so simple to them!).  They are kind, non-judgmental, and seem happy to help.  Please tell the e-TEAM how much we appreciate them.”

Sixty-four residents have received instruction from our eTEAM members, who have volunteered over 90 hours since June.  Students receive credit for community service through their high schools, where a minimum of 75 hours are required for graduation in Sarasota County.

Other members of the eTEAM, current and past, include Tamera Miller, Lexi Hart, Angelo Buenano, Grace Seymore, and Evan Pazkowski.  In addition, thank you to the adult volunteers who have helped me facilitate the clinics each week.

We are very grateful to these bright, energetic, and knowledgeable students who have chosen Plymouth Harbor for their volunteerism.  They have certainly answered a need here, thus contributing to something bigger than themselves.  If you wonder if they find enjoyment from volunteering, David Yaegers commented, “I enjoy my visits at Plymouth Harbor because the residents are such interesting people.  I’ve met an inventor, a world-renowned photographer, and a woman who told me all about the times when she lived in New York City.  I’m teaching them how to use technology, but they’re teaching me so much, too!”

Regardless of whether you need help from the eTEAM or not, please feel free to stop by to the Resident Business Office some Saturday morning to meet the team and thank them for their valuable gifts of time.

Extraordinary Talents and Long-time Loves

There is a special quality in the welcome one receives when stepping through the threshold of Gene Heide and Celia Catlett’s home in the West Garden. Gene and Celia offer kind greetings, but there is a warmth emanating from the polished natural wood surfaces and lovingly tended plants found throughout their home that captures the imagination.  Here lives an exceptionally grounded couple and I looked forward to our chat.

Truth be told, I had been told Gene did some wood working before I met him, but I was not expecting the museum quality of wood carving that he and Celia shared with me that rainy afternoon.  I soon learned that this rare talent emerged very early in his life and it’s a charming story.

It started with his father’s cigars.  In those days, during the Depression, the paper rings on cigars could be collected and returned for premium gift, like trading stamps, remember those? Gene and his older brother were eyeing the pearl-handled pocket knife, so their father set up the challenge.  The pocket knife would go to the boy with the best grades.

Gene, who earned a PhD and spent his life in academia, was the better student with all A’s. He claims it was because he didn’t get into trouble like his brother who got only one B.  Armed with the tiny knife, which was still sizable for a 6-year old boy, he carved toys like swords for roughhousing with his friends.

Most children try things, play for a while and move on to the next, but working the wood with his knife was a long-lasting love for Gene.  When Celia handed me two small busts carved from dark wood, one clearly of Abraham Lincoln, the other of Jesus, I was stunned when she said Gene carved them when he was only 12.   His little hands brought out stunning detail and symmetry in the faces.  This was not child’s work!

Of course he didn’t stop there and went on to make at least two housefuls of furniture.  The coffee table at my feet with the striking grain and smoothly polished finish was his artwork, as was the desk by the window with the artfully “rough hewn” edge.  In their foyer, a handsome cherry grandfather clock stands sentinel, reminding Gene of the cherry tree which was cut down to make way for a university construction project under his watch.  He’s happy he was able to cure the wood and put it to good use.

While Gene had been a wood-carving university administrator, Celia was an English professor with an interest in children’s literature.  Gene’s hand-made bookcases held her collection of great literature and fairy tales. And somewhere on those shelves was certainly a copy of her own book, Nonsense Literature for Children: Aesop to Seuss.

Gene and Celia met while both were working at Eastern Connecticut State University.  Gene’s wife, Betty, was the Assistant Vice President  of Student Affairs and worked closely with Celia who was the Director of Writing. Betty faced down Alzheimer’s and eventually passed away.   It was sometime after a reception honoring her career at the university that Gene and Celia got together as  couple.

They share this history and many interests with a peaceful ease.  They’ve had some adventures together, too, and both point to their trips to Jamaica as real highlights.  On two separate occasions, Celia’s work took her to a program training teachers in Jamaica. Living there in Lucea, near Montego Bay, their eyes were opened to reality of poverty on the island.  Teaching in rundown facilities at night despite rolling electricity outages, they came to admire the teachers themselves who faced these circumstances on a daily basis.

As they’ve settled into life at Plymouth Harbor, the moved in less than a year ago, they have kept living life as they always have. Celia volunteers as a tutor at Booker Elementary School and this year will be spending a whole day there and across the street at the North Sarasota Public Library.

They love the surroundings at Plymouth Harbor and take advantage of them by swimming and walking as often as possible.  Celia keeps her heirloom 1947 Grumman canoe on hand to ply the waters of Sarasota Bay with Gene or one of her daughters when they visit.  And Gene can be found down in the wood working shop, fixing furniture for his neighbors or doing what he does best, making something extraordinary.

According to a recent poll by The NPD Group, a leading global information company, 30% of adults want to cut down or eliminate gluten from their diets.  Some call this the latest fad or “health trend,” others find it absolutely necessary.

So what is gluten?  Gluten is present in many grains, primarily wheat.  It is a combination of two proteins, glutenin and gliadin  (McGee 2004).  Nutritionally, it is not essential that humans consume gluten, and the majority of people who do have no problem digesting and absorbing the proteins.  According to Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, and senior health strategist for the American Council on Exercise, “For most people, there is nothing ‘bad’ about gluten.  It doesn’t make us gain weight.  It doesn’t clog your arteries.  It doesn’t increase your blood pressure or cholesterol.  And for most people it doesn’t cause stomach pains, cramping, bloating, diarrhea or constipation.”  Muth claims that less than 1% of  the population has Celiac’s Disease, which is an auto-immune disease where elimination of gluten is essential.  Persons suffering from this disease cannot absorb the protein gliadin, which can lead to several health complications such as fatigue, malnutrition and some cancers  (Sapone et al 2012).

However, in a normal healthy digestive system where enzymes break down the proteins into amino acids and then absorb them through the small intestine, there is no need or advantage in going gluten-free (Smolin & Grosvenor 1997). The best assurance for good health through proper nutrition is to consume a diet high in the true health foods like fruits and vegetables and, yes, whole grains which are good for us.

Watch this video to learn more about gluten free grains.


References:  McGee, H. 2004.  On Food and Cooking (Revised ed.).  New York NY: Scribner.  Smolin, L., & Grosvenor, M.B. 1997.  Nutrition Science and Applications (2nd ed.).  Fort Worth, TX: Saunders College Pub.  Sapone, A., et al. 2012.  Spectrum of Gluten-Related Disorders: Consensus of New Nomenclature and Classification.  BMC Medicine, 10:13.

Did you know that most people are two different ages?  How can this be?  A person’s chronological age is often different than their biological age; but what  is the difference?

Chronological age is determined by the number of years that a person has existed.  Biological age is determined by the physiology of a person, which includes aspects such as physical structure of his or her body, sensory awareness, performance of motor skills, cognitive abilities, general mobility and functionality.

Chronological age has little to do with fitness capability.  When considering the intensity level at which you should exercise, or deciding whether or not you should even exercise at all, take into account your biological age instead of your chronological age. Analyze how you feel while performing daily activities instead of saying, “I’m 82,  I’m too old to exercise.” Think positively and ask yourself, “Do I really feel my age?”

An example of someone being two different ages is when an individual says, “I feel 10 years younger than I am.”  According to Cody Sipe, Ph.D. and director of clinical research in the physical therapy program at Harding University, “Most adults view themselves as being 10 or more years younger than their chronological age, but they also realize that they are not as young as they once were and need to train differently than younger individuals.”

Be careful not to dismiss physical activity out of your day because of your chronological age.  But when deciding on intensity level, be careful not to ignore signs that your body is conveying to you.

Try this out!  Avoid making decisions based on chronological age alone and instead base your decision on your biological age by listening to your body and analyzing your daily capabilities.  You might surprise yourself—or even better—impress yourself!

And just for fun!

References:  Vogel, A. (2013).  Older-Adult Fitness: Gauging the Limits of Your Fit Clients.  IDEA Fitness Journal, 10(2), 28-31.