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Meet and greet

Oak Crest neighbors roll out the welcome wagon to help new residents feel at home

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October 10th, 2016
Carol Ann Ruth, along with 60-plus Oak Crest volunteers, welcomes new residents and helps them settle into the community.

Carol Ann Ruth, along with 60-plus Oak Crest volunteers, welcomes new residents and helps them settle into the community.

Dorothy (Dottie) and John Staab appreciated the warm welcome they received from their Oak Crest neighbors when they moved to the Parkville, Md., Erickson Living community two years ago. So much so that Dorothy now pays the generosity forward by helping other new residents feel at home.  

“The first day we moved into Oak Crest there was a ‘Welcome Home’ sign hanging on our door, and our neighbor stopped by with brownies and some menus from the dining rooms,” says Dottie. “It really brightened what had been a tiring day and made us feel at home.” 

That neighbor was Carol Ann Ruth, head of the Oak Crest Welcoming Committee, a group of volunteers who have the art of being neighborly down to a T. 

“We understand that new residents are going through a stressful time because we’ve been through it ourselves,” says Carol Ann. “We try to get them acquainted with the residents and the community and just make them feel welcome.”

A newcomer herself at the time she joined the committee in 2013, Carol Ann took on a leadership role just one short year later. 

“After that first meeting, I thought to myself, ‘This is something I would love to do.’ I have been a volunteer my whole life, and I wanted to get involved with some of the volunteer opportunities here on campus. I’m energized by people. It’s just who I am and what I do.” 

Each week, Carol Ann receives a list of new residents from Oak Crest’s sales office and selects a volunteer from the committee to act as an ambassador.  

“We have more than 2,000 residents here at Oak Crest,” says Carol Ann. “So I try to hook up volunteers with people who live near them so they can get to know their neighbors. I encourage them to stop by with cookies, muffins, or whatever they want to bring just to say hello and see if [their new neighbors] need anything. A few days later, we invite them to dinner in one of [Oak Crest’s] restaurants.”

Inside scoop

Carol Ann and her cohost Gene Miller hold bimonthly breakfast meetings where new residents can mingle and get the inside scoop on the activities and amenities offered at the community.  

“It’s a good opportunity to learn about the various activities that are available to them here,” says Carol Ann. “Our community resources team is also on hand to talk about how they can assist them if they would like to start a club or group. I also give out what I call ‘nuggets,’ which are just little bits and pieces of info that it took me years to learn—things like, ‘You can buy stamps in the campus store,’ or ‘The general services department will change your lightbulbs.’” 

Carol Ann says that, over the last two years, the committee has continued to grow as people like the Staabs are eager to share their positive experiences.

“Oak Crest is like a small city,” says Carol Ann. “If you live in a city, you don’t know every person who lives there. Oak Crest is no different, but you meet people who share the same interests as you do, and you create a network of friends.”  

Dottie and John are confident they made the right move. Dottie says she enjoys helping new people feel comfortable and easing any anxieties about this new phase in their life.   

“We love it here,” she says. “Everyone is so friendly. It’s almost like a vacation atmosphere. The Welcoming Committee made such a big difference for us, I thought I could do the same for someone else.”

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