International Dinner Group at Ashby Ponds Celebrates Culture and Diversity

February 3, 2014

"A mini United Nations," is how one Ashby Ponds resident refers to the international women's group that meets for dinner every evening at the Ashburn, Va. retirement community. 

The group, made up of nine women, has met one-by-one for the past five years after the community opened; six of them share something incredible---they were all born internationally in different areas of the world including England, Germany, India, Japan, Palestine, and Puerto Rico, and are now all neighbors and friends at Ashby Ponds.
Three American-born residents at Ashby Ponds join the group for dinner each night and learn of their neighbors' amazing world travels and histories.  All of the internationally-born residents came to the U.S. in their own unique way---having met an American military spouse overseas, emigrating as a young adult, and moving to be closer to children and grandchildren describe some of their roads to the states.
"It's amazing how well we all get along.  It makes you wonder why the countries of the world can't all do the same," said resident Lieselotte Michak, who was born in Munich, Germany.  "It's a wonderful stroke of good luck that we met each other."
After an initial visit to the community, Michak was introduced to another internationally-born resident, Lois MacKay, by the sales team at Ashby Ponds.
"As soon as I got off the phone with Lois, I knew I would move to Ashby Ponds," said Michak.
MacKay was born in Great Cosby, England and the first of the group to choose Ashby Ponds as her home.  She met her husband in England and in the 1950s, they moved in New York where he had accepted a job.
Another resident, Vicki Gardella, was born to Greek parents while living in Palestine.  After high school, she moved to Libya where her brother worked for the U.S. Embassy.  She met her husband there, who worked for the U.S. Department of State.  When he retired, they moved to McLean, Va.
"No matter what our individual experiences have been, I think our coming together as friends happened quite naturally," said Gardella.
One of the most interesting insights is from American-born resident, Leila Odum, who shares that she was a young child during the Great Depression and World War II:  "At that time, our major enemies were the Germans and Japanese.  Now two of my closest friends are women who lived in those countries during that awful time in history."
The women plan to continue meeting daily for dinner as long as their schedules allow.  "These are all beautiful, remarkable women and I am honored to call each one of them my friend," said MacKay.
About Ashby Ponds: Ashby Ponds, one of 16 retirement communities managed by Erickson Living, is situated on a scenic 132-acre campus in Ashburn, Virginia (approximately 30 miles west of Washington, D.C.). The community is home to more than 725 residents and has over 120 resident-run and resident-driven clubs and groups, an indoor pool, a fitness club, transportation services, 24-hour security, and flexible dining options. More information about Ashby Ponds can be found