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Voices of their neighbors

Cedar Crest resident advisory council elects new liaisons

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December 25th, 2012

As the nation s newly re-elected president takes his seat in the Oval Office, other newly elected civilians are getting acquainted with their roles as well. In September, three new members joined the resident advisory council (RAC) at Cedar Crest, the Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J. As we enter a new year, they saddle up for the first of three years serving the community. Council members represent the voices of their neighbors to management, communicating observations and suggestions, says current RAC president Phyllis O Reilly. The nine-member council includes an executive team of president, vice president, treasurer, and a non-voting secretary. The remaining members lead committees such as dining services, resident life, and health services.

Voices of the community

The three newly elected members include Ivan Chasalow, Jim Gallagher, and Alice Ruggieri. As leader of the community relations committee, Ivan interfaces with local community and government organizations, such as ORANGE the organization of continuing care retirement communities in New Jersey and the school board. His first task: reinstitute volunteering at local schools for Cedar Crest residents. We used to have people volunteer at the schools, but apparently that isn t going on at the moment, so I m going to try to get that going again, Ivan says. Jim Gallagher leads the resident life committee, which includes all the things that entertain us and keep us involved in social life, Jim says. My job is to report to residents on those activities and even suggest new ones to continue to build our community life here at Cedar Crest. For example, he created a recognition program for residents who have contributed to the community. I m asking residents to recommend others who are doing a variety of actions that encourage neighborliness, Jim says. We already have [neighborliness] here, but we re trying to enhance it even further.

Fit for the job

Alice Ruggieri, who now leads the health services committee, puts her nursing background to work. The health services committee handles all questions and concerns regarding the on-campus medical center, pharmacy, continuing care neighborhood, and Cedar Crest s new Rehab and Wellness Center. Additionally, members of her committee attend the Chilton Neighbors for Better Health meetings to learn of various health services and needs in the area. We have a broad range of health services here with very efficient management offering several levels of care, Alice says. My job is to communicate questions and concerns of residents to management and to communicate from management to residents in a broad manner. To help accomplish her tasks, Alice plans to expand her committee, capitalizing on the many residents with health care backgrounds. The committee is a pretty good size of about a dozen or so. I would like to expand it with one or two more people with health backgrounds, she says. Alice herself started teaching nursing at Saint Marys Hospital, in Rochester, Minn. Once her children were grown and she and her husband Bartholomew a physician moved to New Jersey, she practiced surgical nursing at Mountainside Hospital, in Montclair. Though this marks Alice s first time voted onto the RAC, she spent about a year in her current role. Someone resigned, and the health services leader took the vacant role, so I stepped up to the health services position, she says. After getting her feet wet, I enjoyed it, so I was willing to run for election.

Peer support

The RAC meets monthly as a group, and they also meet monthly with Executive Director Cathy Guttman to share observations and suggestions made by fellow neighbors. We re the liaisons between the residents and the administration. We recommend what residents suggest, Phyllis says. Phyllis, who has served on the RAC for three years, was elected president this September. Formerly, she led the resident life committee. Before moving to Cedar Crest in 2005, she held several offices in the Kinnelon Education Association. The RAC supports the 184 groups and clubs at Cedar Crest. Additionally, they provide peer support to their fellow neighbors. Former RAC President Carolyn Krause says, Residents can come to any RAC member for anything. New community members find us especially helpful. We are here for them, and they know who we are.

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