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‘We’re becoming family’: Event celebrates growing Stonecrest community

It was a perfect fall day last Friday to celebrate the opening of 25 new apartments for seniors and the disabled in Standish. While the apartments at Stonecrest II were completed in March, we like to hold off on a celebration until they are full or nearly full, so the residents can be part of the event as well.

This grand opening was much different than other grand openings we’ve had in the past. First, we didn’t even call it a grand opening, but rather a Harvest Luncheon and Community Celebration. We asked residents of Stonecrest I and Stonecrest II to invite their families and to provide their feedback on what kind of event they wanted to have. We invited local officials like Sen. Gary Plummer and Town Councilor Lynn Olson to join us and get to know the residents. We deepened our connection to the Standish community by inviting the Bonny Eagle High School Jazz Combo and Select Chorus to perform.

We didn’t want the focus of this event to be on Avesta or the development of the project, but rather the residents and their community. One of the residents, Norman, served as the MC and kept everyone smiling with his jokes and heartfelt words about his community. Two of his neighbors stood up to talk about why living at Stonecrest was important to them. Other residents shared their stories in writing, describing what the Stonecrest community means to them on cards that were displayed at the event.

“Stonecrest gave me a home that is safe and clean, and friends that make me feel good every day,” said one resident. “And a real sense of community, to share our stories, our ups and downs.”

“After five years without a home of my own, Stonecrest has given me a roof over my head that I can call ‘home,’” wrote another resident. “I really want to thank everyone for the friendships we’re developing!”

All these stories had common themes: a sense of safety, support from the community, a willingness to help each other. I can attest to the residents’ willingness to help, as I was surprised and delighted when several of them came out to help set up the tables and decorations for the event! They told me they were happy to do it, and I could see that they truly were. After the event, they literally opened their homes to us, offering tours of their apartments to visitors and guests who wanted to take a peek.

I’m very appreciative to the residents for their help and their hospitality. And I’d like to offer a special thanks to Norman for serving as the event’s host and for sharing what the Stonecrest community means to him. “To face aging with a community of caring adults gives great comfort to us,” he told the crowd. “The greatest meaning for us is the friends we have made. We’re becoming ‘family’ and that’s a real good feeling.”

Read more about the event and watch video at the Bangor Daily News website.

And read about the community garden at Stonecrest here.


By Mindy Woerter, Communications Manager

Partnerships revive garden at Stonecrest in Standish

This is part two of a three-part series on community gardens at Avesta properties.

The residents at Stonecrest in Standish have had a community garden for several years, thanks to a partnership with Rippling Waters Organic Farm. In 2007, Standish-based Rippling Waters received a grant from Gorham Savings Bank to build the gardens at the senior community of 12 apartments.

Earlier this year, phase 2 of Stonecrest opened, adding another 25 apartments and breathing new life into the community gardening effort. New residents meant a need for expanded garden space. Avesta applied for and received a $400 grant from NeighborWorks America (of which Avesta is a chartered member) to help fund the addition of three new raised beds at the property to complement the existing six. The residents worked together to build the beds, and Rippling Waters supplied the plants.

Liz from Rippling Waters visits Stonecrest every Monday morning to help residents tend to the garden. She can always count on a group of six residents to show up, while a handful of others help out when they’re able. “The majority of people helping are new to gardening,” Liz says. “It’s going pretty well.” The residents harvest the vegetables and put them in the community room to share with their neighbors; a chalkboard alerts residents to what’s available.

Theresa has been working in the gardens since she moved into Stonecrest over two years ago, when there were just two people keeping the effort alive. She’s happy to see more of her neighbors participate this year. “It’s good for the whole community for everyone to have fresh veggies. And I’m willing to work for it.”

The residents are growing beets, radishes, lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, carrots, leeks and other vegetables that anyone is free to pick and use, or collect from the kitchen. At a recent community cookout, residents and guests got to enjoy a salad that included veggies fresh from the garden.

“The stuff is good so far,” she says. “I love anything out of the garden.”

Read Part One of the community gardening series: Community gardening improves quality of life for seniors in Raymond


By Mindy Woerter, Communications Manager

Community gardening improves quality of life for seniors in Raymond

This is part one of a three-part series on community gardens at Avesta properties.

Gardening is a newfound passion for Benny. He had a small garden years ago but said he gave up on it after his wife died in 1983. A former Portland cab driver, Benny has lived at Avesta’s Jordan Bay Place, a housing community for people 62+ in Raymond, for six years but didn’t get involved in the community garden until last year.

And now he’s hooked.

From left, Benny, Michial and Junior talk about their community garden plans

He visits the garden “a dozen times a day” and half-jokingly admits to singing to the plants. “I didn’t think I’d get into it this much,” he says.

Benny is one of a handful of residents at Jordan Bay who have thrown themselves into the community garden. On a recent overcast day, the residents were out surveying the garden with Michial Russell, the farm manager for Pearson’s Town Farm at Saint Joseph’s College. Michial has been helping the residents double the size of their garden this year, thanks to a $400 grant from Kitchen Gardeners International, a Scarborough-based nonprofit. The grant provided the funding for four new raised beds, which Michial helped the residents build.

“It’s part of our commitment to helping people,” Michial says. “I enjoy getting out and helping people get going and eat better.”

Benny and his neighbors list off this year’s crops: squash, green peppers, tomatoes, beans, cauliflower, radishes, beets, cantaloupe and herbs, to name a few. Residents who are interested in gardening divvy up space in the beds volunteer their time and skills growing and harvesting the fruits and veggies. They share their harvest with their neighbors by putting it in a basket in the community room.

“It keeps us busy,” Benny says about the garden. “It’s great for conversation. People are constantly talking about it and what’s going on out here.”

As he surveys the garden, Benny talks about the A-frames he built last year for the cucumbers, and points out the seaweed he’s using as fertilizer. His gardening success is the result of techniques and tips he’s gleaned from YouTube, like using bars of soap dangling from plant stakes to ward off critters.

For Junior, another Jordan Bay resident, gardening is an old habit. He worked on a farm for most of his life, whether it was his grandparents’ farm, the Watkins farm in Casco or the 50-acre cattle farm he owned for 25 years.

For both Junior and Benny, the garden is more than a hobby – it’s a way to stay healthy. Working in the garden provided Benny a push to take on more physical activity; both he and Junior take daily 4-5 mile walks. Benny’s health conditions – diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol – have improved or disappeared altogether through his commitment to the garden.

“The garden is my exercise.”


By Mindy Woerter, Communications Manager

Celebrating Edith, Avesta’s oldest resident

At the age of 102, Edith Libby is the oldest resident at all of Avesta’s 68 properties. She’s lived at New Marblehead North in Windham since it opened in 1989, and has outlived her husband, her son and her siblings. We asked Edith to share her story with us last year when she turned 101. She told us about leaving her hometown of Rumford despite her parents’ wishes, living on crackers and marshmallows through the Great Depression, and supporting her family after her husband was injured at work.

Now she spends lots of time knitting. It began as a way to make money, and then became a way for her to give back. She’s donated knit clothing to newborns and patients undergoing chemotherapy at Mercy Hospital, for which she received two Governor’s Service Awards.

On Tuesday, Edith was one of six New Marblehead residents who are 90 and older honored with a birthday celebration. The community’s Friendship Club — a group of residents who organize activities — decorated the community room with flowers cut from their gardens and organized a lunch of finger sandwiches, chips, cake and ice cream. Each 90+-year-old received a card and a plant. Three of those six people were able to attend the luncheon in their honor along with a guest.

They also shared their advice for a long life, including “Keep busy,” “have fun,” and “just don’t worry about everything.”

While Edith wasn’t able to attend the luncheon, she was able to receive a plaque commemorating her as Avesta’s oldest resident. The plaque will hang in the New Marblehead community room. Edith was still keeping busy on Tuesday, teaching a visitor how to knit and knitting a scarf herself that she planned to give to a friend — thinking of others as she always has.

By Mindy Woerter, Communications Manager

Seniors enjoy a chance to eat and socialize at Community Cafe

The residents of Park Street School, a community for seniors in Kennebunk, admit to being a social bunch. They hold daily card games in the building’s large community space and convene regular cribbage games.

Starting in January, Park Street School also began hosting monthly Community Cafes, a program of Southern Maine Agency on Aging that provides people ages 60 and over a regular chance to meet, talk and enjoy a healthy lunch. The program is offered in Kennebunk the first Friday of every month and is open to all seniors in the area.

In February, about 35 people filled the tables decorated for Valentine’s Day to enjoy a meal of meatloaf, vegetables, rolls and Boston cream pie. Guests chatted about their families, books they’ve read and their favorite restaurants in Kennebunk. Guests that day included a woman who worked as a secretary at the school for seven years and was excited to be back in the building. Park Street School resident Joan entertained the group with songs by Patsy Cline and Neil Diamond.

Ann MacAusland, an assessor specialist for SMAA, runs the program but relies on the help of volunteer Park Street School residents like Barbara, herself a recipient of SMAA’s Meal on Wheels program. “I couldn’t help in the kitchen or set up” because she uses a wheelchair, she said, “but I could be at the door helping people fill out paperwork.” Barbara and neighbor Jackie signed up new cafe-goers, handed out raffle tickets and took the $5 donation from each attendee.

Before moving to Park Street School last fall, Barbara was living with her son in Arundel. “Since I’ve moved in here, I’ve met so many beautiful people,” she said.

And the food? “Oh gosh, it’s delicious.”

Avesta staff also help set up for the event and serve food. “It’s a good event,” said Resident Service Coordinator Angie Littlefield. “People seem to really enjoy it.”

The next cafe happens Friday, March 1, and rumor has it the menu is shrimp scampi. Contact SMAA at 1-800-400-6325 for more information.

Our Unity Gardens community in Windham also hosts meals for seniors on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with catered meals the second Thursday of the month.

By Mindy Woerter, Communications Manager