Ashburn, Virginia--Throughout the COVID-19 shelter at home directive, employees at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living-developed and managed community in Ashburn, searched for meaningful ways to bring enjoyment to residents while strengthening strong community bonds.
"Our staff are our heroes," says Lyn Lubic. "It has been amazing the way they have stepped up to do so many things that they have never done before. I wouldn't want to be living anywhere else but right here at Ashby Ponds as we navigate this crisis together."
Just days into the implementation of physical-distancing measures, employees looked for ways to reach out to residents, including staging a flock of plastic flamingoes outside, writing sidewalk chalk messages and creating special musical performances.
"The outpouring of love from staff to our residents is heartwarming," says Director of Sales Holly Henderson. "Even as many have worked outside their typical roles to best meet the needs of our community, they do so with a generosity that is unmatched."
One morning in April, Ashby Ponds residents awoke to a surprise flock of pink flamingoes decorating the campus lawn.
"We love, love the flamingoes," says Barbara Koks. "Many of us watched the staff plant the flock late one evening. We began thinking of games we could play—name the flamingo, tell stories of where they came from, sneak out at midnight to rearrange them in a different pattern."
Barbara's neighbor Nancy Eisenbise agrees.
"The flamingoes are so fun," she says. "Not only are they so very thoughtful but a brilliant idea. There seems to be no end to the efforts the Ashby Ponds staff takes to care for us, not just physically but mentally, too. Thank you, thank you from a laughing community."
Getting their hands dirty
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Ashby Ponds residents have received daily communications from members of the management team. A live television update airs at 4 p.m. each day and is rebroadcast at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. The majority of the broadcasts are hosted by Executive Director Will Nance, who provides statistical updates and explanations regarding procedures.
"Mr. Nance's presence has been very comforting to the community," says Charles Duggan. "He is candid and reassuring, and that has resulted in a sense of security throughout the community."
In addition to the live daily updates, the Resident Life team began writing inspirational quotes and motivational sayings in chalk on the sidewalks outside of Ashby Ponds' continuing care neighborhood.
"The chalk was left out with a note encouraging others to share their support of each other," says Senior Sales Associate Elizabeth Dunwoody. "It's another way of expressing the fact that we are all one team and we are all in this together."
Other residents enjoy sharing their thanks by creating signs of gratitude, which they display on their front doors and on windows across campus.
"It's been fun making special thank-you notes and signs with pictures and posting them around campus so that the staff know how grateful we are for their efforts," says Lyn.
"We want employees to know that their unending willingness to help us meet our needs, keeping us safe in our homes, their happiness while serving us, and their contributions to ensuring our safety provide a wonderful comfort during this time," says Carol Katchmark.
The magic of music
One of the most popular methods of communication and togetherness displayed at Ashby Ponds is through music. In the early days of COVID-19, residents began opening their doors or stepping out onto their porches at 11:45 a.m. each Friday morning to sing "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond. The effort quickly became a highly anticipated activity that caught the attention of a Fox News program in late April.
"The sing-along is energizing," says Carol. "It is nice to see my neighbors' faces at their doorways."
Encouraged by this love of music, Mrs. Henderson reached out to her cousin Charles "Chip" Esten, a singer and comedian best known for his role as Deacon Claybourne on the television series Nashville, in the hopes that he could provide musical support and entertainment for members of the community.
"Chip loved the idea and recorded a special, acoustic concert just for Ashby Ponds," describes Mrs. Henderson.
Chip, who made his professional theater debut as Buddy Holly in the London West End production of the hit musical Buddy, performed several Buddy Holly classics, including "I Love You Peggy Sue" and "All My Love and All My Kisses" during the special concert.
"We really enjoyed 'Chipper' singing his songs," says resident Chuck Loomis. "He is a great talent. We thoroughly enjoyed watching him in Nashville and want to pass on our thanks to him for sharing his 'gift' personally, as he has done with us. It was almost as good as being at his live concert!"
While the entire Ashby Ponds community looks forward to greeting their neighbors in person, sharing a hug and a good meal together, and resuming the numerous clubs and activities they enjoy, everyone is grateful for the strong bonds of community they share.
"I certainly am most happy and grateful to be residing at Ashby Ponds," says Bob Warakomsky. "Erickson Living, in general, and [executive director] Will Nance, [assistant executive director] Tom Channon, the management staff, and all employees, in particular, are performing an outstanding job in doing the very best you can to keep us safe and taken care of. Will's leadership by example is magnificent. And the staff's compassion, patience and understanding are top tier."
To learn more about this strong and caring community, call 1-800-516-0328.
About Ashby Ponds: Ashby Ponds, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 132-acre campus in Ashburn, Virginia. The not-for-profit community of more than 1,650 residents and 550 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of Ashby Ponds. Additional information can be found at AshbyPonds.com.
Written by Kelly A. Shue