Diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB) committees at Greenspring, an Erickson Senior Living community in Springfield, Va., have hit the ground running this year.
"By celebrating diversity and listening to others tell their stories, we all benefit," says Helen Herbert, cochair of the resident DIB committee. "There is so much to learn!"
The resident-run DIB committee and the staff-led DIB committee collaborate throughout the year to plan a robust list of educational programs and cultural events that represent various backgrounds.
"Everyone appreciates the rich diversity of our community, which fosters inclusion and a sense of belonging," says Dr. Karyn Flannagan, Greenspring's associate executive director. "As a result, each member of our community feels comfortable being their authentic self."
A team effort
Jan Herman, who cochairs the resident DIB committee alongside Helen, emphasizes the importance of education when it comes to making someone feel included.
"One of the primary goals of our committee is to educate ourselves and our neighbors about different cultures, religions, abilities, and lifestyles," says Jan. "That way, whoever enters the gate at Greenspring--whether they live, work, or visit here--will feel welcome."
Greenspring's Resident Council supports this goal and the work of the committees. Virginia "Ginny" Bridges, Resident Council liaison to the resident DIB committee, notes that residents are very interested in the programs, events, and groups that promote inclusion.
"There is an abundance of special interest clubs, including the Black and White Shared History group, PFLAG, and a variety of religious groups," says Ginny.
She meets monthly with chairs from both DIB committees--as well as chairs and liaisons from other Erickson Senior Living communities--to uncover new opportunities.
"I have learned a lot from them," she says. "I feel completely supported in these efforts."
Events for everyone
Last year, the resident DIB committee applied for and received a National Safety Council grant to place diversity libraries in each of the community's three clubhouses. The bookcases housing the books were thoughtfully crafted by members of Greenspring's woodshop.
"The books, available to both residents and staff, cover subjects such as the hardships and successes experienced by members of marginalized populations," says Helen. "The books include non-fiction, memoirs, and fiction. Some are kid-friendly so residents can share them with their grandchildren."
Following 2023's success, the DIB committees are excited to join forces once again. Efforts throughout the year will include a celebration of Holi by painting hands on canvases and hanging them around campus; participating in the annual Pride Parade in June; lighting candles and floating paper lanterns on the campus pond in honor of Diwali; and hosting the annual Diversity Fair featuring a fashion show, entertainment, and a global food reception.
"Also, our Dining Services team will host cooking demonstrations to showcase different recipes that honor special heritage awareness months," says Nadia Ramos, a dining room general manager who serves on the staff DIB committee.
Expanding their reach
In addition to community-led efforts, the DIB committees will welcome a variety of outside speakers to campus.
Last year, General Clara Adams-Ender gave a motivating presentation based on her own experience as a sharecropper's daughter who rose to the rank of Army General.
Popular performers Greg Greenway and Reggie Harris, known as "Deeper Than The Skin," also visited the community to share thought-provoking music, stories, and history. Following the performance, the duo facilitated a small group workshop for interested residents.
"Inviting speakers to share their knowledge with us has been great," says Helen.
Uniting for a cause
Helen, eager to build on the committees' momentum, is hopeful that even more residents will join her in 2024.
"Our committee members are enthusiastic about making a difference!" she says.
Flannagan notes that Greenspring's diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts are part of what makes the community such a great place to live and work.
"Together, in collaboration with residents, we are excited to build on the foundation we've already created at Greenspring when it comes to valuing the many dimensions of diversity and creating inclusion. We're fulfilling Erickson Senior Living's mission of helping people live better lives through these efforts," she says. "Across the enterprise, it is our goal to make everyone--residents, staff members, and visitors--feel seen and valued."
At Greenspring, the dimensions of diversity are not just recognized--they're embraced and celebrated.
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