Neighbors helping neighbors

Community creating connections during COVID-19

Springfield, Va. – June 4, 2020 – Author Maya Angelou once wrote, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Never has this statement been truer than in recent weeks, as generous neighbors look for ways to reach out to others in the midst of social distancing efforts.

At Greenspring, a continuing care retirement community managed by Erickson Living, members of the Resident Council initiated a new program to help facilitate connections and meet the emotional needs of their fellow neighbors.

“The purpose of the program, which we call the Resident-to-Resident Call program, is to help community members cope with loneliness, boredom, or stress while socially or physically distancing from one another,” says Betty Christman, the president of the Resident Council. “It has been extremely effective for both the residents receiving the calls and those doing the calling. We receive only very positive comments from residents and staff about our efforts.”

A seed takes root
Even before the state of Virginia announced its stay at home order, Greenspring’s Resident Council Committee, including Betty, Vice President Ron Paterson, and Secretary Phil Scianna, met with Executive Director Chandra Kumar to investigate ways to best meet the needs of fellow community members during these challenging days.

“We decided that calling each other would be the best way to reach out,” says Betty. “Working with the Resident Council liaisons, committee chairs, and relying on word of mouth, we solicited assistance in reaching out to the community by asking for one or two resident volunteers, per floor, in each building.”

These volunteers are responsible for contacting, by telephone only, each neighbor on the assigned floor, at least once a week. The main purpose of the calls is to check on how everyone is doing. The volunteers also remind their neighbors of current COVID-19 procedures and encourage viewing of the daily updates airing on Greenspring’s in-house TV channel, GSV-TV.

“The volunteers also check in on personal health and well-being,” says Betty. “Any issues or concerns raised by the resident or identified by our volunteers are reported to the Executive Committee, which, in turn, contacts the management area that can resolve the issue or concern.”

No stone left unturned
The Resident-to-Resident Call program began in earnest on April 1, 2020, just two days after Governor Northam’s stay at home order was issued. All of the volunteers receive detailed instructions and periodic updates on evolving policies to help them during their calls. Currently, more than 85 volunteers, representing all 60 floors in Greenspring’s 12 residence buildings, call their 1,600 neighbors each week.

“The response has been tremendous,” says Betty. “In addition to our active volunteers, we currently have more than 20 residents on a wait list to help make the calls should a current volunteer need a break.”

In support of the residents’ efforts, Greenspring staff and management help spread news of the new program, providing updates on the daily GSV-TV news special. The pastoral ministries department, mirroring the goals of the resident-to-resident call program, also makes phone calls to those who request to speak with someone to fulfill their spiritual needs.

“The Resident-to-Resident Call Program has made a very positive impact at Greenspring in maintaining the health and well-being of all residents during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Betty. “It is not easy being unable to visit with friends and other residents. Our volunteers enjoy talking with the neighbors they call and vice versa. Some conversations go on for 30 minutes or more, several times a week. We’ve also asked our volunteers to make additional calls to those residents who are single or living alone. As a result of the program, new friendships are developing, which will no doubt continue to grow.”

Words of gratitude
Since the program’s inception, Betty notes that the majority of the community members receiving phone calls express their wish to thank not only their callers but also the staff and management at Greenspring who work tirelessly in their efforts to keep everyone safe, healthy, and well cared for during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, each day, new, handmade thank-you notes and signs are appearing on community members’ front doors.

In addition to the signs lovingly displayed throughout campus, community members continue to send Greenspring management and members of the Resident Council thank-you notes and emails for their efforts. In April, a group of residents began sewing cotton masks from the safety and comfort of their homes for staff members to wear when leaving Greenspring at the end of the day (staff wear community-provided personal protective equipment while working). Others use their time and talents to create holiday and birthday cards for their neighbors.

“Each day, we receive positive comments that illustrate the importance of everyone’s efforts,” says Betty. “Many express their gratitude for living at Greenspring during this unprecedented time.”

To learn more about Greenspring, please visit www.GreenspringCommunity.com or call 703-913-1200. 

About Greenspring: Greenspring, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 58-acre campus in Springfield, Virginia. The not-for-profit community of more than 2,000 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 can be found at GreenspringCommunity.com.

Photo Courtesy Greenspring: Greenspring residents and employees come together to support one another during the coronavirus pandemic, building strong connections and an even stronger community.

Written by Kelly A. Shue