Singing "Hero" to thank the staff at Cedar Crest

Residents find unique and touching ways to express their gratitude

While staying safe at home during the coronavirus pandemic, Cedar Crest residents have been using video and Facebook to express their gratitude for staff at the Erickson Living senior living community in Pequannock Township, N.J. The community’s Facebook page showcases several videos and photos of residents expressing their praise in various ways.

‘Thank you’ video

In a video posted on April 23, residents Jacqulin Harris, Christa Tromblay, Sally Novak, Nancy Squier, and Jim Gallagher recorded their thank you notes on their home computers or devices. Cedar Crest Resident Life Director Erica Zayat coordinated the effort, and TV Coordinator Mike Dygos then compiled the videos into one.

“It was out of the blue, Mike Dygos called and asked if I’d want to do it because I used to sing with the chorale, and I sing in the church choir. I do like to sing and it’s a nice way to say thank you,” Nancy Squier says of how the whole thing got started.

Zayat provided the music via email, and each community member memorized his or her part. The video is an uplifting look at how one community has been able to serve and keep the people who live there safe. “We have one of the best executive teams anybody could ask for,” Christa says. “I just don’t know how to praise them anymore. Even my family says, ‘Mom, you are really lucky to be there.’” She mentions how the availability of services like a pharmacy, medical center, and meal delivery on campus have made the situation more comforting. Jacqulin calls the workers “heroes,” praising their effort and spirit throughout the shutdown. Sally shares a note from her daughter in Ohio: “I am praying for you every day and am so glad you are in a place that’s probably one of the safest.” Nancy lists all the things she’s thankful for, such as mail and meal delivery, and programs produced by Cedar Crest’s TV studio like exercise classes, church services for various religions, updates, and call-in shows. These efforts help residents and staff feel connected. Finally, Jim Gallagher thanks the families of staff members, who are sharing their mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons to care for Cedar Crest community members during this challenging time.

As of June 5, the video has been viewed by more than 2,700 people, making it one of Cedar Crest's Facebook page’s most popular posts.

Song of praise

On May 2, Dygos, Zayat, and fellow staff member Matt Colvin helped create another moving video of residents singing “Hero,” with community member Elaine Thomas on piano.

Residents wanted to express their appreciation to the dedicated employees on campus for keeping them safe.  During the stay-at-home order, Cedar Crest has arranged for all meals, mail, and packages to be delivered to every apartment home. A concierge service is delivering items such as toiletries and other odds and ends from the on-site market, like soup, milk, and eggs. And the community’s in-house TV station has produced exercise programs, religious services, virtual sing-a-longs, instructional art classes as well as informational talks from the administration to keep everyone informed. 

The camera shows each person singing a verse in their home, then fades to the next person and verse. Cedar Crest neighbors who sang in the video include Sharon Bizik, Sally Novak, Joan Neustaedter, Carolyn Krause, Carolyn Hunt, Bill Twardzik, Bette and Neal Monda, Nancy Squier, and Kathy Blumers. Nancy, who participated in both videos and has lived at Cedar Crest for almost six years, says, “They really are our heroes.” That message was truly felt by the staff.

“I thought it was so heartwarming and so touching,”says Kelly Bailey, a home support aide who has worked at Cedar Crest for about a year and a half. I cried when I watched it,” she says. 

The video went viral with more than 5,000 views and was featured on News12 New Jersey. Once some restrictions were lifted and community members could leave their apartment homes, they would cheer and clap for the staff around campus.

To learn more about Cedar Crest, visit CedarCrestCommunity.com.

About Cedar Crest: Cedar Crest, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 130-acre campus in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. The not-for-profit community of more than 1,800 residents and 1,000 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Additional information about Cedar Crest can be found at CedarCrestCommunity.com.