Fox Run Resident Pursues Personal Goals and New Activities

By Michele Wojciechowski
May 2, 2024
Residents at Fox Run, the Erickson Senior Living community in Novi, enjoy opportunities to pursue new interests and pursuits

Even though she's retired, Rita Sparks--former affirmative action officer at Oakland University--hasn't slowed down in her lifelong pursuit of diversity and equality. In fact, she's used her years of experience to positively impact her new home.

When searching for a continuing care retirement community that would not only support her personal goals but benefit her health and well-being, Rita knew that she didn't have to look any further than Fox Run, the Erickson Senior Living community in Novi, Mich.

"The convenience of having a medical center, restaurants, fitness center, bank, and continuing care neighborhood on campus was unbeatable," says Rita, who moved to the community with her husband Norman five years ago.

She continues, "But what I like most about Fox Run is how diversity is celebrated here. My neighbors have some amazing stories! You learn something different from each person you meet."

Eager to share her own stories, apply her expertise, and add to the community's welcoming environment, Rita sprang into action.

Years of experience

"I witnessed so many wartime injustices, growing up in Latvia during WWII," says Rita. "From a young age, I was inspired to look out for people's rights and I haven't stopped."

Prior to retiring, Rita was very involved in equal opportunity and affirmative action groups and initiatives, even working with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner in Washington, D.C., to lead a Positive Action Conference for the Special Libraries Association.

She also served as state president of Wellspring Lutheran Services' Auxiliary, providing assistance to foster children and teens in group homes.

But much of her career was spent with Oakland University and the University of Detroit, bringing equality to as many facets of higher education as possible. In addition to serving as Oakland University's affirmative action officer during her time as the library's assistant professor, she led a Pontiac Youth Corps summer employment program through the college.

When the University of Detroit hired her as the assistant personnel director, she was in charge of all affirmative action efforts.

"This was prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed into law," she explains. "When the university was required to add wheelchair ramps to all of its facilities, I had to contact then-basketball coach Dick Vitale, who's now a famous announcer. It was intimidating, having to explain the legal regulations to him, but he agreed that the spectators needed ramps."

Giving back

Despite accomplishing so much in her career, personally and nationwide, Rita was ready to take on the next challenge in retirement.

Soon after settling into their two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath apartment home, Rita helped lead Fox Run's Health and Wellness Committee, a subcommittee of the community's Resident Advisory Council.

"Using my decades of experience in affirmative action, medical practice, and hospital management, I adjusted qualifications for future committee members--to ensure diversity in the group--and proposed changes to the services offered on campus," she explains. "I also used my writing skills to serve as the committee's secretary for three years."

During her term, the committee made several accessibility and safety improvements to benefit the community. They also organized the collection of unused narcotics to help the local police department with a drug awareness initiative.

"I enjoyed being on the Health and Wellness Committee because my colleagues were all experienced in different fields. Everyone brought a fresh perspective to the table--that's what diversity and inclusion is all about," says Rita.

Staying involved

Although Rita's term is up, she refuses to sit on her laurels. When five new committee leaders were elected, Rita stepped up to serve as their unofficial mentor, guiding them on best practices.

She also volunteered to mentor high school students who work as hosts, hostesses, and servers in Fox Run's restaurants.

"I helped them understand service goals, job skills, and how they apply to seniors," she says.

A published author, Rita has written about veterans for the community's newspaper, Fox Run Village News. She loves attending book club and German club meetings as well.

"I joined the German club to keep my language skills up. I'm learning Spanish too," she says. "I guess you could say I know Russian. I met a retired doctor here who speaks Russian, so we keep dropping Russian phrases to each other!"

A supportive environment

Looking back on the past five years, Rita credits Fox Run's vibrant, supportive atmosphere for her rewarding retirement.  

"Norman and I chose Fox Run because it is a comprehensive community. It has everything you could ever need!" she says. "What we didn't know is that the people and activities would be just as amazing as the amenities."

To learn more about the vibrant lifestyle at Fox Run, click to request a free brochure or schedule a tour.