NOVI, MI (August 4, 2015) – Celebrating diversity takes many different forms at Fox Run, and the retirement community's Unity in the Community group members work to make their ongoing events, many of which involve cultural exchange, informative and fun.
The resident-run group's mission is to cultivate an environment where all embrace, accept, value, and celebrate the unique qualities of each individual. It promotes an atmosphere that encourages equality and mutual respect without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, or physical and cognitive abilities.
Resident Marilyn Schueneman has been involved since the group's inception three years ago. She says its very first event was an illustrated lecture and question-and-answer session on the work of African-American missionaries in the civil rights movement.
Another popular event was a cookie exchange at which residents were invited to bring a dessert that represents their cultural heritage. The result was a sweet smorgasbord that allowed residents to learn more about where their neighbors come from, and the types of foods that are special in their culture.
"We found one person from Scotland who loves to make shortbread, and we also got some Jewish dishes," says resident Arnetta Whitehouse, former leader and current secretary of Unity in the Community. "Like most cookie recipes, we are all basically the same."
Around the same time as the first cookie exchange, the group displayed a large world map in the clubhouse and asked residents to mark their country of ancestry with a pin. Unity in the Community group members tabulated the results and presented the community with a composite of residents' heritage.
In the summer of 2014, the group hosted an event based on the theme of "music as the universal language." The program featured a multicultural musical showcase, including Native American flute music, a Taiko Japanese drum session, and a performance by Mexican Lindo Folklore Dance Troupe that featured two Fox Run employees of Mexican heritage.
"We do a lot of cultural exchange programs," Arnetta says.
In addition to special events, Unity in the Community also hosts regular happy hours for the people who live in each of Fox Run's residence buildings. Wine, beer, and hors d'oeuvres are served and the get-togethers give the neighbors a chance to mix and mingle with one another.
Pat Smith, Unity in the Community's current leader, says each of the happy hours includes a presentation on some issue of difference and acceptance, like disability or age. This gives residents a chance to discuss issues that impact their lives and come up with ways that they can live in harmony and create a culture of mutual respect.
Unity in the Community also hosts meet and greets for new residents. Over coffee and cookies, the group members chat with new residents about all of the amenities and activities available to them at Fox Run and give them an opportunity to ask any questions they might have.
Arnetta has teamed up with the volunteers who create the Fox Run resident newsletter. She writes a monthly column called "Unity in OUR Community," which highlights and celebrates diversity at Fox Run. In the coming year, Arnetta says Unity in the Community is hoping to collaborate with staff members on a diversity quilt project.