The Residents Association of Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay welcomed its new officers who form the Executive Council in May.   George Peters is the President of the 2013-14 Executive Council and he is joined by Mary Allyn, Vice President; Joan Sheil, Secretary; Ellen Steele, Treasurer; and Immediate Past President Ellen Harrison.

The council also includes three Executive Associates who serve as liaisons with resident committees, colony directors, and residents as a whole. The three Council members serving as Executive Associates are Jim Griffith (committees), Bill Brackett (colonies) and Elsa Price (residents).

Three members of the Resident Association Executive Council- the president, vice president and immediate past chair- serve as members of the Plymouth Harbor Board of Trustees which guides the management of this exemplary not-for-profit continuing care retirement community.

Photo: L-R (sitting): Ellen Steele, Treasurer; Joan Sheil, Secretary; George Peters, President; Mary Allyn, Vice President; Ellen Harrison, Immediate Past President
L-R (standing): Bill Brackett, Executive Associate; Dr. Jim Griffith, Executive Associate; Elsa Price, Executive Associate

Larry Coffey, the Executive Council’s previous Immediate Past President, just concluded his three year term of service on the Plymouth Harbor Board of Trustees. Board President Tom Hopkins recognized Mr. Coffey with an engraved award for his service, dedication, and willingness to serve on the Philanthropic Advisory, Finance, and Assisted Living Facility/Memory Support Planning committees.  Photo: L-R Larry Coffey, Tom Hopkins.

The new Resident Association President, George Peters emphasizes the importance of communication as one of the key mission points of the Resident Association pertaining to life at Plymouth Harbor.  Serving as a conduit to maintain the ongoing dialogue between the residents and the administration, the Resident Association is essential to balancing the communication with the active participation of residents in nearly all facets of this lively community.

“I consider the colonies to be the hub of the operation,” says Mr. Peters. “We are intentionally putting more emphasis on resident colony input.”

Plymouth Harbor’s unique organization of resident colonies stems from the three-level atrium groupings in the iconic tower on campus.  These natural resident “neighborhoods” follow a democratic process to make decisions that pertain to their colony, such as the use of common spaces.  Each colony also elects a director and associate director to represent their interests on the board of the Residents Association.

All residents are welcome to participate on any of a variety of committees that add to the quality of life and strength of the community at Plymouth Harbor.  Those committees include Art, Building & Maintenance, Civic Affairs, Conservation, Décor, Dining Services, Finance, Gratuity, Grounds, the Harbor Light newsletter, Health, Hospitality, Housekeeping, Library, Multi-media Library, Programs, Resident Fund, Safety & Security, Spiritual Life, and Wood Shop.



Balance is an extremely important part of wellness, especially in the senior population.  Seniors tend to have falls more frequently than the younger population because functions such as their reflexes, reaction time, muscle mass, and vision have changed. An alarming one third of seniors over the age of 65 fall each year and over half of seniors over the age of 80 fall each year2.  These shocking statistics could be lowered by practicing balance through exercise to decrease the chance of a fall.

Tai Chi Helps Reduce Falls in Senior PopulationAt Plymouth Harbor we offer two beneficial balance classes to help improve overall balance and reduce the risk of falling for our residents.  The two classes that we offer are Better Balance, which meets every Monday and Friday from 10:45-11:15 a.m. and Tai Chi, which meets every Thursday from 9:00-9:30 a.m.   Better Balance is a fall prevention class that combines static and dynamic balance exercises to improve coordination, posture, and balance. Tai Chi is a form of exercise that combines slow, controlled, meditative, standing movements that improve posture, coordinated movement, and balance.

A study performed in one senior living community looked at the benefits that Tai Chi had on its residents1.  There were 17 residents that participated in a 60 minute Tai Chi class 3 times a week for 12 weeks1.  All residents were 65 years of age or older, 7 residents used walkers and 10 residents used canes1.  The residents’ balance and strength were assessed one week before starting and one week after finishing the Tai Chi program by using four assessments.1

Results showed that the residents performed significantly better on the post test compared to the pre test, concluding that Tai Chi can increase a person’s balancing capability and decrease their risk of falling1.

Balance is an important skill to practice and it cannot be practiced enough.  All residents are welcome to join us in the group fitness room during Better Balance and Tai Chi to help improve their balance and minimize their risk of falling.

Reference List

1. Hao L, Connors M, Grando V, Liu H, Wedam L, Blake H. Tai Chi intervention for older adults using assistive devices in a senior living community…including commentary by Wedam LM and Blake H. International Journal Of Therapy & Rehabilitation [serial online]. March 2012;19(3):136-143. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 18, 2013.

2. PR N. Independent Living and Safety For Seniors – Guidebook Offered by American Senior Services, Inc.  PR Newswire US [serial online]. June 14, 2013: Available from: Points of View Reference Center, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 19, 2013.


On first glance one might not see that the finest continuing care retirement community located on the shores of Sarasota Bay stands like a sister next to the internationally renowned Sarasota Music Festival.  Of course, Plymouth Harbor residents number a good many of those enjoying the concerts performed by famed classical musicians and the extraordinary students who come from all over the world to vie for the limited opportunities at this all-scholarship chamber music festival.  But there is really more to it than that.

It all starts with the visionary individual, the Reverend Dr. John Whitney MacNeil.  In the same year that he negotiated the fundamentally essential financial support of the United Church of Christ for the establishment of Sarasota’s New College, he set his congregation on course to build “a retirement community of distinction.”  It was 1961.

By 1966, the first New College students were in their junior year of studies when the community gathered to dedicate the beautiful new building on the bay front.  Just a few months before, Dr. John Elmendorf had been installed as the New College’s second president.  According to his widow, Dr. Mary Elmendorf, herself a pioneering anthropologist, when her husband was interviewing for the position at New College, he was asked if he would support the concept of a new chamber music festival that was in the making.  “Not only did he say he would support it, he told them that he wouldn’t take the job UNLESS they started this music festival!” shares Mary with obvious pride.

The New College Music Festival held its first concerts in 1965 during Dr. Elmendorf’s first year in office and within two years was a three week festival drawing exceptional students from across the United States.   In 1984, renamed the Sarasota Music Festival, it was transferred to the administration of the Florida West Coast Symphony. 

What the visionary leaders of Sarasota set in motion 50 years ago is still enriching the community.  Dr. Mary Elmendorf, a Plymouth Harbor resident since 2001, is joined by many of her fellow residents as subscribers, regular concert attendees and financial supporters of this longtime musical gem.  For three weeks every June, music fills the air and Plymouth Harbor reaps the benefits.

Please join us in congratulating Nancy Baldwin, our Plymouth Harbor Employee of the Month for June 2013.

Nancy Baldwin is June's Employee of the Month!Nancy has been with Plymouth Harbor since December, 1987, when she was hired as a resident sitter. In April of 1990 she was promoted to a Certified Nursing Assistant in the Smith Care Center, where she consistently received “exceeds standard” remarks on her appraisals in several areas including Job Knowledge, Quality of Work, Efficiency, Attitude, Relationships with People, and Personal Conduct.

Her supervisors and nominators commented:

  • Nancy knows her job well.  She arrives to work ready to work and works well with coworkers.  Nancy goes the extra mile to assist others.
  •  Nancy is a pleasure to work with.  She takes excellent care of her residents and is helpful to others when needed.  I am glad to have her as a member of the night shift.  She is an asset to Plymouth Harbor.
  • Nancy takes a lot of pride in her work.  Her residents are always well taken care of.  She has a positive attitude and works well with others.
  • Originally from Cairo, Georgia, Nancy attended Washington Consolidated School.  She moved to Sarasota in the late 50’s where she graduated from Booker High School.

Congratulations, Nancy, on this recent honor, that comes from your loyalty and hard work.

Nancy Cressotti, LPN, is has joined Plymouth Harbor to serve as Admissions Coordinator at the Smith Care Center. Nancy says when she first started working at the young age of 14 in a nursing home; she knew her life-long calling was in health care. She will be responsible for the Smith Care Center (SCC) admission process and coordination of residents moving into the SCC in a manner that is supportive of the Center’s mission and values. As the Admissions Coordinator, she is accountable for all Smith Care Center admission activities.

Nancy Cressotti is the new Admissions Coordinator at Plymouth Harbor's Smith Care Center. “I am thrilled to have Nancy join our team. She will help improve our accessibility to residents of Sarasota and provide the medical community with information about Plymouth Harbor’s Smith Care Center,” says Joe Devore, Vice President of Health Services at Plymouth Harbor.

As the Admissions Coordinator, Nancy will be the first point of contact to build relationships with future families and patients that will come to the Smith Care Center. She looks forward to taking personal care of each family member and patient to make them feel comfortable during this crucial time in life.

Prior to joining the team at Plymouth Harbor, Nancy was with Universal Health Care in St. Petersburg, FL as a Case Manager. She has an impressive career of over 30 years of experience in the areas of direct patient care, patient evaluation, coordination of care, and verification of health services.

Some of Nancy’s other experiences include an External Care Coordinator at Skilled Nursing Facilities in Hartford, CT, and Admissions Director at Evergreen Health Care in Stafford Springs, CT.  Nancy started her career at Johnson Memorial Hospital, also located in Stafford Springs, CT, as a Staff LPN Nurse, Continuing Care Coordinator, and Placement Coordinator.

Nancy was born in Morrisville, Vermont, before moving to Enfield, Connecticut.  A Connecticut nursing home provided that first experience for Nancy who later graduated from Enrico Fermi High School in Enfield, CT, and Thompson School of Practical Nursing in Brattleboro, VT.  She relocated to Florida only one year ago with her husband. Now that their children are grown they love to spend their vacations cruising.

“With all my years of experience in nursing homes and hospital settings, none can compare to my new position at the Smith Care Center. Everyone has warmly welcomed me and it is a pleasure to come to work every day,” says Nancy. “I look forward to a long and rewarding career with Plymouth Harbor!”

Karen Novak, RN, MS, says that her daily goal is to touch the life of another and make things better.  Stepping into the role of Clinical Mentor as part of the excellent Health Services team at Plymouth Harbor, she will be responsible for training of all the nursing and ancillary personnel associated with health services.  In addition to continually assessing and polishing the clinical skills of the entire health services team, Karen will provide direct service in assessing potential residents and monitoring all infection control and skin condition issues.

Karen Novak is the new Clinical Mentor at Plymouth Harbor. “I am thrilled to have Karen join our team. She will help continue to raise the level of our staff competence, which will directly translate to even better resident care,” says Joe Devore, Vice President of Health Services at Plymouth Harbor.

Karen has experience as a staff development and training director and was the Account Clinical Director at Hill-Rom Industries, Inc. Karen has an extensive background in the health care industry, and has received several prestigious awards for her services during and including the years 1981-2006.

“I have been a nurse for over 33 years. To this day, I can gladly say that I am as dedicated to helping others as the day I received my nursing pin from Col. G, (the army nurse that taught me well),” says Karen.

Prior to Hill-Rom Industries, she was with Shands Lakeshore Regional Medical Center as the Infection Control Officer/Patient Representative and at Hillenbrand Industries, Inc. as a Clinical Consultant. At the Gainesville Healthcare Center she was the Director of Corporate Compliance.

At the Shands at Alachua General Hospital in Gainesville Florida, Karen wore many hats, including Nurse Educator for Subacute Nursing Unit, Nurse Educator for the Clinical Support Office, Clinical Practice Coordinator, and Staff Development.

Clearly, as Karen points out, “Nursing has always been my calling and my passion.”  In 1980, she started her career at Tampa General Hospital as a Pediatric Intensive Care Registered Nurse while she completed her first degree at the University of Tampa in 1982.  She continued in this field at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center until 1987 and soon after completed a graduate degree at Concordia University in 2003 for Health Care Management.

Karen is a proud mother of three daughters. One daughter is a Program Director for the Children’s Miracle Network, another is an Elementary Kindergarten Teacher in Mississippi, and her youngest daughter attends University of Florida.

As a family they enjoy making creative pizza on the barbeque. Time and laughter with her daughters are always a priority for Karen, especially as they grow into their own lives. Karen feels that laughing comes easy when you do things fun and inventive with your family.

About that daily goal, she says, “I have yet to have that day where I didn’t touch someone’s life and make something better!” And for someone who is in the midst of career in the nursing field with a lot of time invested in Pediatric Intensive Care research in Food Science and Human Nutrition and Nursing Education, that’s saying she’s really dedicated.

For some the urge to travel across the globe to work in another country is a call to adventure, for others it is a smart career-building move. For Paul Groen, fresh out of Baylor College of Medicine and his internship in family medicine, it was a call to serve. And more specifically, it was a call to serve God.

Macky Groen, was on a rigorous career track completing her Masters degree in Nursing Administration at Columbia University when she felt a similar tug on her heart to devote herself to mission work in a Third World country.

Macky got there first and was just starting her third year of nursing in the bush of Nigeria when the handsome new doctor arrived. Their clinic consisted of eight women, nurses and educators, and one male doctor. The entire group worked and socialized together and everyone got to know each other quite well. Paul wisely treated each woman with equal attention and respect, careful not to betray any favoritism. Yet when he was given the opportunity to invite a select young woman to entertain on a friend’s veranda, supervised of course, it was Macky that got that call.

Their individual life choices had brought them together in this remote region and between that and the intense daily collaboration between them in their work, their love sprang from a deep “knowledge of the heart,” as Paul described it. They were meant to be. Paul and Macky married in Nigeria and spent a total of 10 years there together before finally deciding to return to the States when their two sons were of school age.

After completing a residency in orthopedics, Paul practiced medicine in Wheaton, Illinois outside of Chicago while they raised their sons. Their boys, initiated by their early childhood years in Nigeria, travelled with them on numerous trips back to Africa for short-term teaching stints. As a result both are “Third World citizens” comfortable wherever they might land.

Seventeen years of medical practice was enough, as both Paul and Macky were eager to get back to what they felt was their true life calling. This time, they formed a not-for-profit organization called Doctors on Call for Service, or DOCS, in order to develop the partnerships within countries like Kenya, Rwanda and the Congo to provide local medical education.

Their work was very successful. Rather than losing talented young people who trained abroad and failed to return home, Kenya and Rwanda developed their own capabilities to train medical professionals with the help of DOCS. “We were a catalyzing force in those countries and they were quick to draw on other resources to build their own training centers,” shared Paul.

The Democratic Republic of Congo was another story. Here, in a region rocked by years of war, genocide and sexual violence, there has been an even greater need for the outside assistance and support of DOCS. They focused their efforts in the eastern city of Goma which was at the center of the refugee crisis resulting from the genocide in Rwanda and two Congo wars. Understandably, success has been slower in coming there. The Learning Center that they built in Goma was soon destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Nyiragongo in 2002.

Undaunted, Macky and Paul strengthened their efforts with dedicated volunteers and a board of directors consisting of medical educators, business people and physicians based in the U.S. The Learning Center has been rebuilt and is serving their training efforts in that region. Only two years ago did Macky and Paul decide it was time to pass the reigns of the organization over to others to carry on their work.

After so much excitement, not-so-glamorous travelling, and hard work they are satisfied with their lives and are now enjoying the cultural riches of Sarasota from the comforts of Plymouth Harbor. Both of them relish the expanse of blue sky and water outside their living room windows. “We spent years in the dry, dusty bush and look at us now – surrounded by water!” Macky says with a smile. Paul enjoys walking the Ringling Bridge in the cool, early mornings and being surrounded by other interesting residents at Plymouth Harbor.

“Maybe we lived an exciting life, but I think the people here at Plymouth Harbor are really stimulating!”