For residents of Maris Grove, the popular Erickson Senior Living community in Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania, giving back is part of their daily routine all year long. Various philanthropic clubs spend countless hours planning, collecting donations, recruiting volunteers, and supporting efforts that will make a difference in the greater community, particularly around the holidays.
One group, the Resident Outreach Committee, meets monthly to identify needs and to organize collection drives or stage events to meet those needs. Their holiday projects include a winter hat and mitten drive for children; collecting non-perishable food for the Kennett Community Food Cupboard and for Anna’s Place, a hospitality center in Chester that provides lunch, counseling, and other services to the entire community; collecting toiletries and hygiene products for Pathways, a women’s shelter in Media, PA; and “Stockings for Soldiers,” which distributes filled stockings to service men and women stationed overseas.
Founded by the late Gerri Eisenstein, the committee quickly expanded its outreach and enthusiastic membership, thanks to her irrepressible personality and commitment. “Gerri was the energy behind it,” says member Regina Collins. “After she passed a year ago, we all said, ‘We have to keep this going as a tribute to her.’”
Committee member Mary Welch embodies the spirit of giving that permeates the entire committee. While she always gave charity as part of her faith commitment, her busy career as a high school English teacher and the demands of family prevented her from becoming more involved. Now that she’s retired, she’s giving her all to giving back.
“I recently left two other committees to focus on this one,” she says with a smile. “My heart is with this group. I truly believe that it’s a time in my life when I have the time to give, and I will make the time to help others. It’s a part of my heart, and the people here are so generous, it’s wonderful.”
Stockings for Soldiers is another beloved project for the Outreach Committee and Veterans Club, as well as many individual residents. Jean Holveck has been involved since she moved to Maris Grove in 2007. Started by military mom Judy Travis 18 years ago, Stockings for Soldiers volunteers sew, stuff, and ship more than 10,000 personalized stockings each Christmas to virtually every country where US service personnel are stationed.
“It’s an incredible undertaking that involves hundreds of participants of all ages, from seniors to Scout troops,” says Jean. “Judy creates a huge assembly line of ‘elves’ to fill each stocking with donated toiletries, paperbacks, and treats. Volunteers write personal notes and attach them to the stockings, while others gather the completed stockings to prepare for shipping."
“Once you read some of the responses from the service men and women,” she continues, “you have to come back the next year. It’s so heartwarming to see how appreciative they are that someone is thinking of them at the holidays.”
Kicking Giving into High Gear
The official giving season begins before Thanksgiving with the community’s annual Turkey Trot. Organized by Maris Grove’s Fitness Manager, John O’Donnell, the event collects canned, non-perishable items for local food banks.
“As we prepare for this huge feast, we’re ensuring that everyone in our community has enough to eat,” says O’Donnell. “We collect a full truck load of food each year.”
From there, the holiday giving initiatives take off at a whirlwind pace. Maris Grove’s Executive Director Maureen Heckler notes that the vibrant, active lifestyle and diversity of clubs and activities make it easy for residents to volunteer in ways that are most meaningful to them.
“We have so many deep connections within the greater community,” she says, “because our residents are committed to helping others. I hear so often from our residents that they get back much more than they give, especially during the holidays.”
Jeff Watson, Erickson Senior Living’s Director of Operations, concurs. “Even during this busy time of the year, residents are so generous with their time, talents, and treasures, not only to do good in the world, but to also feel good in the world. This spirit of kindness always radiates throughout our campuses and enables those who call Maris Grove home to make a joyful difference in the lives of so many.”
Consider being part of a strong and caring senior living community like Maris Grove. Beautiful walking paths, gardens, resort-style amenities, an on-site medical center staffed by full-time medical professionals, and new friends await. Request a brochure or a visit now!