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The giving spirit

Outreach group meets needs in the greater local community

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March 28th, 2014
Among the many residents who power Maris Grove’s volunteer efforts are (from left) Jean VanVeen, Angela Stango, Regina Collins, Noreen Bayly, and Gerri Eisenstein.
Among the many residents who power Maris Grove’s v

Folks at Maris Grove excel at giving back. 

The Resident Outreach Club (ROC) at the Delaware County, Pa., Erickson Living community is a prime example.

Members consistently challenge themselves to find new and meaningful ways for the Maris Grove community to make a difference for people throughout the county.

“We’re so happy in our life here,” says the group’s unofficial leader, Gerri Eisenstein, “that if we can help in one little way, we will.”

Reaching out, giving back

“One little way” is an understatement. When members say, “We ROC!” they’re serious. 

ROC keeps its projects local and more than achieves its goals because it enlists the giving spirit of Maris Grove’s 1,400 residents plus staff. “We’re a community in the best sense,” Gerri says. 

Last fall, when members spearheaded Maris Grove’s annual Thanksgiving food drive, ROC requested and received 1,200 paper grocery bags from supermarket chain Acme. 

They attached a list of food items to each bag and hung one on every door in Maris Grove’s ten residence buildings. Donations poured in. “People donated cases of soup, cases of pasta, cases of beans,” says Gerri. 

The collection bins constructed by Maris Grove’s woodshop group continually overflowed. 

Members scooped up the donations, stored some in a room at one of Maris Grove’s two clubhouses, and also filled a vacationing staff member’s office. “I even put some in a confessional in our chapel,” says club member Regina Collins. 

The tally totaled 6,000 pounds of nonperishable food given to four organizations, one each in four corners of the county.

Projects galore

ROC collects more than food, however. The group has donated paper products because they’re expensive but can’t be purchased with food stamps. They’ve also collected school supplies for the county’s Head Start program. 

When ROC solicited towels for animal shelters and the collection bins again overflowed, members stored the increasing supply in their apartment homes. 

“I collected so many towels that my second bedroom looked like the linen department at Macy’s,” says Noreen Bayly.

The club also sold ceramic house pins at Maris Grove’s arts festival. After giving 10% of proceeds to the resident care fund, they donated $400 to Chester Children’s Chorus, a rigorous musical training program that aims to change the lives of children in the Chester-Upland School District.

Another project invited residents to decorate holiday “mitten trees” with winter wear.  Regina delivered the items to a homeless shelter ahead of January’s and February’s horrendous snowstorms.

“I’ve always been involved in social outreach activities,” she says, “so when I heard about [ROC], I wanted to be involved.” 

Most recently, she contacted Habitat for Humanity to learn how ROC might help.  

“We’re always looking for new places to be generous, and we keep our projects local,” says Gerri. “ROC is a vehicle. We find ways to meet needs in the greater community so that residents who can’t physically volunteer can volunteer in this way.”

 

One volunteer’s gift to daughters

A friend’s move to Maris Grove caused Noreen Bayly to research it. She liked what she saw. So, after 12-plus years in a condo in Newark, Del., she moved there, too.

Her Pennsylvania daughter lives more than two hours away; the other has homes in Phoenix, Ariz., and Sarasota, Fla., and travels for her job. 

“Moving here put their minds at ease,” Noreen says. “They said it was the best present I could give them.” 

Her two-bedroom corner apartment home is exactly what she wanted. A Jackson floor plan, its southern exposure and six windows, including a bay, allows light to bathe every room, even on dull days.

A short wall in Noreen’s great room showcases her grandmother’s silk and taffeta quilt, and she has ample space to display her favorite paintings.

At her townhouse, Noreen tackled clogged drains by herself. Maris Grove’s maintenance team has told her to call them instead. They arrive promptly and provide excellent service at no additional charge. And she needn’t sit around and wait for them to show up either.

Maris Grove’s maintenance-free, one-level living means that instead of doing chores, Noreen can drive to Delaware for plays, dinners out, and occasional overnights with long-time friends. 

Her frequent off-campus activities led her to choose Maris Grove’s flexible, 20-meal dining plan instead of the 30-meal plan. She uses her 20 meal credits, and it saves her $60 on her predictable monthly service plan.

When she moved in 2008, Noreen changed only her address, not her active lifestyle.

 

A helping hand on campus

Besides volunteer efforts that benefit the larger Delaware County community, Maris Grove programs like Helping Hands and Treasure Chest make a difference right on campus.

Angela Stango is among 70-some Helping Hands volunteers. 

“It’s such a reward when I can lift someone’s spirits,” says the former Springfield, Pa., resident. 

By calling, visiting, delivering mail, or bringing dinners from campus restaurants, Helping Hands volunteers assist neighbors who are temporarily under the weather or recuperating after hospital stays. 

Angela also delivers mail to residents doing rehabilitation at Rose Court in Maris Grove’s continuing care neighborhood. 

Her bubbly personality makes her a welcome visitor.

“When I came here, I found a whole new family,” she says. “People have given me rides to doctors’ appointments. It’s wonderful to give back.” 

Jean VanVeen’s commitment is Treasure Chest, the campus resale shop. She helped launch it in 2007 and has volunteered there ever since. It boasts 75 volunteers.

Jean manages new donations. Examining and pricing them is fun, she says, but she most enjoys interacting with customers. “You never know who you’ll see,” she says. 

Maris Grove staff, residents, and residents’ families all come to browse. Furniture, the most profitable item, sells quickly. 

Jean wishes they had more furniture to sell because Treasure Chest’s proceeds benefit Maris Grove’s resident care fund, a scholarship fund for its student servers, a staff appreciation fund, and grants to campus clubs. 

Last year’s awards totaled over $16,000. 

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