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No shortage of volunteers

Ann’s Choice residents share rewards of contributing

Created date

April 16th, 2015
Ann’s Choice Philanthropy Director Susan Abtouche (right) admires the 400th crocheted blanket knitted for Project Linus by Adele Lloyd. The pattern is the same one Adele used for her first Project Linus blanket.
Ann’s Choice Philanthropy Director Susan Abtouche

If Ann’s Choice has a shortage of anything, it’s couch potatoes. Many of the people who live at Erickson Living’s retirement community in Bucks County, Pa., are out and about volunteering their time and talents to help others. Last year, they donated more than 112,000 hours of volunteer service. 

So many people volunteer that the annual Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast is held on two separate days to accommodate the attendees. 

Director of Philanthropy Susan Abtouche sent out 750 invitations this year, “But they only went to people who actually turned in their volunteer hours with us,” she says. “A lot of people don’t register their hours.”

Ann’s Choice treasures its volunteers, so the breakfast is a big deal. Abtouche presents President’s Volunteer Service awards, dining services prepares a special menu, and the program includes a guest speaker. 

When the breakfast concludes, many attendees likely depart for their next scheduled volunteer commitment. 

Some volunteer off campus at local schools, churches, and synagogues, or nonprofits like Gilda’s Club or the SPCA. 

Others grow vegetables in their garden spaces at Ann’s Choice to donate to local food cupboards.

Still others power the community’s 150-plus groups and activities. “The cubbie stuffers, TV studio volunteers, and the club leaders are all volunteers,” Abtouche says.

Here’s a look at three of the community’s volunteer projects. 

Project Linus

The Project Linus website proclaims that it “spreads blanket hugs nationwide.” The organization donates homemade blankets, afghans, and quilts to children who, for one reason or another, need hugs.

Adele Lloyd chairs the Ann’s Choice-based group. Last year, members made 219 blankets ranging from preemie-size “hugs” to afghans large enough to comfort 18-year-olds. Since 2010, the group has made 1,009 blankets.

Adele first volunteered with Project Linus ten years ago. After reading a newspaper article about it, she donated her just-completed blanket to the Philadelphia chapter. She also joined a local group.

Her husband had passed away, and her five children were grown. Adele was lonely without a houseful of kids. Making blankets for children appealed to her. A lifelong needle worker and expert crocheter, she also felt good doing something for her community. 

When Adele moved to Ann’s Choice eight years ago, she joined its group, too. 

She also volunteers as an Ann’s Choice ambassador telling sales guests what it’s like to live there.

Nineteen years and counting

Twice a week, Kazmira Heinbaugh commutes to Abington Hospital for six-hour stints in its oncology department. Her 19-year commitment now exceeds 9,000 service hours.

She started volunteering there as a thank you to the doctors and nurses who’d cared for her late husband during his battle with cancer. 

“I have such a bond with the hospital and the people there,” Kazmira says. “It’s part of my life now.” So much so, in fact, that she considers herself part of the staff.

Her duties keep her on the move, which she enjoys. “I don’t like to just sit,” she says. Interacting with patients and their family members are among her more meaningful responsibilities.

“Anyone coming into a hospital, for whatever reason, is anxious,” says Kazmira. She aims to help relieve some of that anxiety. 

“When you retire, this makes you feel you’re still able to contribute,” she says. You’re worth something. Knowing I can contribute is rewarding.” 

Kazmira moved from Huntington Valley to Ann’s Choice ten years ago. She resides in a beautiful and sunny apartment overlooking Warminster Community Park. 

The community’s on-site medical center, staff physicians, and a campus pharmacy that delivers are among the amenities that make living there so convenient. 

“Erickson Living has done its homework to make life easy,” Kazmira says. “Everything they do is done well.”

Volunteering with a capital V

When Ann’s Choice opened in 2003, Jerry Wright wasn’t ready for retirement living. If retirement means retreating from life, he’s still not ready. 

But three years ago, when he and his wife moved from the Main Line to Ann’s Choice, he immediately got involved with campus life.

He’s most active with the veterans club, which boasts more than 300 members. Jerry is in the Color Guard, which brings out the flag at meetings and at campus memorial services, and he delivers the club’s monthly newsletter to his neighbors.

Ann’s Choice comprises three neighborhoods of five residence buildings each. As a veterans club board member, Jerry represents veterans who live in the Village neighborhood. 

He also heads the club’s flag deployment project. Four days a year—Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day—he oversees the placement of 600, 12- by 18-inch flags along the community’s main roads and around the entrances to its three clubhouses.

Some 40 residents, veterans and non-veterans alike, place and remove the flags. It’s a solemn responsibility. Jerry, a Korean War veteran, speaks for them all when he describes the significance of the deployment.

“I’m patriotic, and the flags look great,” he says. “I’m proud to be an American. We have a lot of guys here who served in WWII and Korea. It’s important that we keep remembering what they did and what they went through. This honors their service.”

The local business community thinks so, too. When Jerry asked Home Depot for a price break on some new flags, he received 50 flags at no charge.

A campus ambassador and a member of the ROMEO club, Jerry takes part in sports. He plays weekly water volleyball in the indoor, all-season pool at the campus aquatics center and pitches horseshoes on the campus green.

He most enjoys being a panelist on Let’s Talk Sports, a television show staffed and produced by resident volunteers at the in-house TV station. “We talk about almost any sport, and we have some very knowledgeable panelists,” Jerry says. “I hope the people watching have as much fun as we do.

“I’m never bored,” he adds. “I play volleyball on Monday, and the next thing I know, it’s Friday! If you enjoy being with people, and I do, Ann’s Choice is the place to be. You have 2,100 neighbors.”