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Making the world a better place

Greenspring receives national diversity award

Created date

February 16th, 2016
Greenspring Executive Director Ben Cornthwaite
Greenspring Executive Director Ben Cornthwaite

“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”

—Max de Pree, American author

Recently, the tragic, hateful events filling television screens and newspaper pages around the world have led many to fear for the future. However, in the midst of these horrors are the stories of those who refuse to let hate and violence triumph, and instead celebrate diversity and acceptance. 

Community members at Greenspring, an Erickson Living retirement community in Springfield, Va., support a variety of initiatives designed to improve community living through an acknowledgment of unique thoughts, cultures, and talents.  

As a result, LeadingAge, a national association representing 6,000 nonprofit aging services organizations throughout the United States, recently awarded the community the 2015 Hobart Jackson Cultural Diversity Award. 

Greenspring Executive Director Ben Cornthwaite accepted the award at the LeadingAge national conference in Boston, Mass.

“We are extremely proud to receive this award from LeadingAge,” says Cornthwaite. “As a community, we recognize that we live independently, but we live independently together with the understanding that our actions and our behaviors affect one another.  At Greenspring, we cultivate a recognition of diversity, allowing us to create a welcoming environment for both our residents and our employees alike.”

Celebrating individuality

“In my opinion, Greenspring fully represents tolerance and acceptance of others,” says community member Libby Haynes. “Our community demonstrates what I believe America should be. We all accept each other as individuals doing their best. I am proud to be a part of a community that respects each individual’s uniqueness.”

Comprised of residents and staff, Greenspring’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee works diligently to find new and interesting ways to celebrate and promote individuality. 

One of the most popular events is the annual diversity expo, an interactive event that provides an opportunity for guests to enjoy various food and drink from around the world, see and hear authentic cultural entertainment, and learn more about many of the resident groups on campus that honor heritage and diversity. 

Members of Greenspring’s various religious organizations as well as the many language clubs participate in the expo. Clubs representing hieroglyphics; history; the zither; multicultural dialogue; and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) set up displays for guests to peruse.     

During the event, many residents and staff chose to wear traditional native attire while sampling food from around the world. 

“The diversity at Greenspring greatly enriches my life,” says community member Carolyn Pledger. “I feel our community represents the way the world should be.”

Support network

In fact, Carolyn found her own way to celebrate diversity at Greenspring. As a member of Greenspring’s George Mason Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she runs a tutoring program for foreign-born Greenspring employees studying for the U.S. citizenship test.

“I feel that it is so important to help our employees make their dreams come true,” she says. 

As a result of her efforts, in 2011, the Virginia Daughters of the American Revolution (VADAR) presented the Dedicated Chapter Participation in Tutoring Prospective New Citizens award to Greenspring’s George Mason Chapter at the annual VADAR state conference.

Greenspring also supports its diverse employee population through a specialized English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) program. Since 2002, more than 300 employees have completed the program.  

“I knew almost immediately that this was something I wanted to be a part of,” says community member Hazel Poole, who has coordinated the group since its inception. 

“The success the students experience as a result of their hard work really keeps you going,” she says. “Sharpening their English language skills helps the employees get along better in their current jobs and often leads to promotions.”

In 2013, Volunteer Fairfax presented Hazel with an award of appreciation for her efforts. 

In addition to supporting its staff members, Greenspring celebrates a spiritually diverse culture that includes 20 different faith groups. The resident-driven Interfaith Council works diligently to provide programs that recognize and support all spirituality and belief systems. 

“We are an inclusive community of faith,” says Greenspring Pastoral Ministries Manager Loyce Craft. “Our Interfaith Council seeks to find ways to create a strong interfaith community through interfaith services, gatherings, and activities while fostering spiritually healthy relationships.” 

Last fall, the Interfaith Council hosted the fourth annual observance of United Nations Day. Representatives from numerous faith communities came together to pray for world peace.

Branching out

Greenspring residents also look outside their campus in an effort to support diversity and inclusion within the local community. Since 1999, Greenspring has enjoyed a thriving community partnership with MVLE (Mount Vernon-Lee Enterprises), a neighboring organization that assists in providing support and employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.  

Individuals receiving supportive services from MVLE visit Greenspring and assist with dining-related organizational tasks. Greenspring has also been a long-standing sponsor of MVLE events and activities, including their annual golf tournament. 

In 2014, MVLE presented Greenspring with the Social Responsibility Award for supporting the organization’s mission through contributions and volunteer work.

“The diversity we enjoy at Greenspring reminds us all that we are a small part of a much bigger world and there are many, many things we can learn about and from each other,” says community member Frances Huenemann. 

Neighbor Roy O’Connor agrees.

“Many of the events and activities Greenspring offers provide a real awareness that we live in a country where people from all backgrounds and ages can live and enjoy our opportunities and freedoms together.”