Fox Run, the Erickson Senior Living community in Novi, Mich., prides itself on embracing the different backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and religions that are represented by staff members and residents. To continue supporting that welcoming atmosphere, the community's Resident Advisory Council (RAC) established the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in 2020.
"The world is a beautiful tapestry of many different kinds of people. We want Fox Run to be a safe place for everybody!" says Sales Director Allison Murphy, who is staff liaison for the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. "Our differences make us stronger and better as a community, and we wanted to acknowledge that."
Unity in the Community, a group formed in 2011 to promote belonging, served as the foundation of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
"It kicked off the message we're trying to communicate," adds Murphy, who holds social justice close to her heart. "But the committee goes a step further, with formal bylaws and many more programs. We have done a lot of education to see what we could do better."
Doing what's right
Resident Marilyn Schueneman notes that Fox Run's dedication to inclusion and belonging is one of the primary reasons she decided to move to the community.
In fact, she still vividly recalls an impactful scenario from her childhood. In the 1950s, Marilyn and her brother were working at an ice cream parlor in Illinois. A sign on the wall read, "We reserve the right to serve our customers."
"Which meant that if you were Black, you did not sit down," she explains. "And, you got your food in paper cups with wooden spoons."
The discrimination that polluted her hometown was strongly opposed by Marilyn's mother. One day, when a conference for clergy members was in town, two Black clergymen came into the ice cream shop. Remembering the words of their mother, the siblings took action.
"We were supposed to get them paper cups and wooden spoons, but my brother and I got out the glass dishes and regular spoons and had them sit down. We served them as such." Despite their valiant efforts to counter the unfair rules in place, they were both fired.
Now, as cochair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Marilyn shares her experiences and messages of acceptance - in memory of her mother. "Our motto is: Seeing the world with new eyes," she says.
A culture of mutual respect
Resident Judi Odiorne, who also cochairs the committee, says that the group has three purposes.
"First, we facilitate ongoing programs and activities that make Fox Run a safe place for everyone," explains Judi. "Second, we foster a culture of mutual understanding and respect that encourages civil dialogue, learning, and growth. Lastly, we promote social responsibility related to volunteer opportunities, both inside and outside of the community."
One especially popular program hosted by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee was The Civility Project, included local journalists Stephen Henderson and Nolan Finley.
The pair, according to The Civility Project's website, "have been longtime friends, despite their different perspectives on pretty much everything. The one thing they agree on is the importance of their friendship - which includes a healthy dose of disagreement and mutual respect."
In the program, they discussed how they came together and learned to respect their differences.
After the program, one of the 200 attendees told Marilyn, "This is, without a doubt, the best thing I've been to at Fox Run."
The largest and most successful event presented by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee was the Cultural Fair, held this past July. The fair attracted more than 500 people, including residents, staff members, and people who live in the nearby area.
The fair featured speakers and panels, as well as 30 booths representing various races, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and the LGBTQA+ community. In addition, there was a wide range of cuisines for everyone to sample.
"We ended the day with a cultural fashion show, consisting of staff and residents," says Judi. "We got phenomenal feedback from everyone!"
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee has since populated libraries across campus with books about various topics on diversity and inclusion.
For the remainder of 2023, Murphy says the committee has planned a program about children of Holocaust survivors, a celebration of Black history, a book study of "Waking Up White," and a presentation about Indigenous people.
"The committee has helped us build bridges, open dialogue, and unify people," says Murphy. "I'm excited for the future of our welcoming community!"
To learn more about affordable, independent senior living at Fox Run, request your free brochure to get the scoop on amenities, floor plans, and so much more.