Meet 105-Year-Old Dorothy Wilson of Clark East Tower in Ypsilanti

By Sojourner Marable Grimmett

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Imagine having the opportunity to sit down and interview a 105-year-old woman. What would you ask her? I posed this very question on my personal Facebook page and received over 150 responses from friends. The questions ranged from, “What was your childhood like?” “Were you involved in any freedom movements?” “Which invention over your lifetime has made the most impact?”, and “Do you have any home remedies for colds?”

In late September, I had the blessing to sit down for a video chat with 105 year old Mrs. Dorothy Wilson to listen and learn about her life. I adjusted my earplugs as I sat in a small quaint Midtown coffee shop anticipating her voice. Thanks to one of our National Church Residences’ staff member’s iPhone, I was grateful to see that Mrs. Wilson was residing comfortably in an oversized chair in the front lobby of her home, located at National Church Residences’ Clark East Tower in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

With a million questions racing through my mind, I started off by simply asking “How are you feeling today?” She replied, “I feel good. I’ll be 106 in November. I never thought that I would live this long. I’ve been asked so many questions about my life. How do you live this long? What do you eat?” I laughed, because some of the questions she stated were the next couple of ones that I was going to ask her.

Mrs. Wilson was born on November 28, 1911 in Mt. Vernon, New York. Her mother passed away when she was a young child. She was raised, along with two older sisters and two older brothers, by her father who was a lumber worker and stepmother.

Mrs. Wilson is an African American woman who went to an integrated school and “had a very good life” not feeling the harshness of racism and discrimination. “I never felt too much discrimination. We went to school with white children and I played with them too,” she said.

Growing up, she enjoyed playing ball with her siblings, and spending hours of time at the library. Mrs. Wilson was a curious child, “I always wondered about the world. I would go out on the porch and stand and look out and I always thought the sky and the earth met.”

When asked about healthy eating, she said, “There are a lot of things I didn’t eat. My stepmother didn’t prepare meals like we have today. My favorite foods were vegetables. I enjoyed eating lettuce and tomatoes, and we ate things when they were in season. We grew everything; tomatoes, cucumbers, and string beans. When it came down to southern dishes we didn’t eat those.”

I pivoted the conversation and asked, “Let’s talk about the evolution of style, beauty, and fashion. How did you wear your hair?” She replied, “When I was younger I remember my stepmother use to comb my hair and put Vaseline and a hot comb through it until it ruined my hair. Black women look much different these days. They looked better when I was growing up.” As an African American woman, I processed her comment and then grinned. I thought to myself how different the world must look like now with its rampant consumerism and the over-complexities of beauty.

As a teenager, Mrs. Wilson’s penmanship was remarkable. Her only regret was not attending college. “I wanted to attend Wilberforce University.” Living near the railroad tracks she wanted to become an engineer. Instead, she chose a career path in nursing, working at Brooklyn State Hospital.

When asked, “What was your favorite decade and why?” Mrs. Wilson reminisced and proclaimed it was during the 60’s. “If you’re born in one decade and live to see another, then God has spared you to see as much as you can. I would go to soapbox talks in Harlem on the weekends. You’d have different soapbox speakers every weekend. I saw Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Joe Lewis.”

Mrs. Wilson married George Wilson at the young age of 19. He was an entrepreneur with a motivated heart and together they started a small catering business. “I had a good married life. My husband taught me a lot. He taught me how to drive. One day he was taking me down the road and I wanted to get behind the wheel. I got mad and was going to walk back home. He went around the block, starting following me, then he got out of the car, and let me drive.”

In 1967, her husband passed away, and five years later Mrs. Wilson sold their family business. Every year, Mrs. Wilson visited her sister in Ypsilanti, Michigan. “I’ve only lived in one state all of my life until 1972. I decided to move to Michigan to be with my sister and her family.”

Mrs. Wilson joined Brown Chapel in 1973 under Pastor George Powell. From then on she has continued her missionary and volunteer work in Ypsilanti, serving in the Missionary Society, Willing Workers, as a member of the senior Usher Board, past president of Church Women United, Beyer Hospital Auxiliary and past matron of Ruth Chapter #2 of the Eastern Stars; and at Beyer Hospital for 22 years and Turner Geriatric Center Silver Club for 8 years.

When Mrs. Wilson turned 89 years old she moved into East Clark Towers. She still writes checks and enjoys the freedom of living on her own. Mrs. Wilson mentioned that the greatest invention of her time was the automobile, which she gave up driving when she turned 101 years old.

Her greatest accomplishment in life is: “Getting along with people and treating everyone right. Always be careful what you say. And never look down on anyone else. I’ve always gotten along with anyone no matter what color. Always remember to treat people the way that you want to be treated.”

The best of the National Conference 2017

About 900 National Church Residence employees gathered in Columbus for the  2017 National Conference, “The Mission is Me,” from Sept. 25-28. The conference, which took place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, gave employees from all regional and corporate offices opportunities to fellowship and support one another.

The conference began with an address by President and CEO Mark Ricketts, who painted a vision for the organization’s future while welcoming employees to the conference. Television personality and journalist Joan Lunden also spoke about the importance on living your best and healthiest life.  Executive Vice President Michelle Norris talked about the importance of caring for yourself when you are doing mission work.  She gave the first of several updates on the situation of three National Church Residences properties in Puerto Rico.

The next day brought classes where employees discussed the importance of communications, philanthropy, social media and public speaking, among other topics. Following the day of presentations, the day ended with an awards dinner where many property managers in different properties were honored. The rest of the conference provided more insight of hot topic issues happening in communities and offering support and guidance.

 

 

 

 

 

Commons at Chantry and Heart of Ohio come together to bring free backpacks and health tips to residents

By Elizabeth Randolph
Erandolph@nationalchurchresidences.org

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Sending a child back to school comes with many financial obligations for parents. Some can only hope for assistance with new school supplies and healthy snacks for their child to start off the school year right. Even more people would love to have a health care facility that was both close and affordable for them.

Commons at Chantry and Heart of Ohio made these desires a reality on Saturday, August 19. The property hosted a backpack giveaway for almost 90 children in the facility who are heading back to school. The backpacks were filled with new school supplies for the first weeks of school and were only available to the residents who are under 18. More than 120 participants were in attendance at the event. “We wanted to give our residents something that will make things easier for them,” said Christine Manigoe, family advocate for Commons at Chantry.

Commons at Chantry gave 71 backpacks to children in the community to enjoy.  After receiving the backpacks, the children enjoyed a complimentary bagged lunch, courtesy of Mid-Ohio food bank. The property gave out approximately 117 lunches to those who attended. The food bank holds a weekly food drive at Commons at Chantry and provides fresh, healthy foods for residents of the community.

In addition to the backpack giveaway, the back to school event was a way for Commons at Chantry to announce its recent partnership with Heart of Ohio. Heart of Ohio is a health center that specializes in family and women’s health care including pediatrics, OB/GYN, wellness visits, pharmacy assistance, preventive care and education, especially regarding diabetes, breast cancer and prenatal/postpartum care for new mothers, according to its website.

Heart of Ohio wants to reach out to as many people in the community as possible and give them overall health care. “We are already helping some people in the area with our primary care facilities,” said Jen Schehl, marketing director of Heart of Ohio. “When National Church Residences approached us to help staff the health center in the clubhouse we were thrilled. Even though we have a little more to go until we actually launch, we wanted to come out and meet the residents and let them know we’re coming.”

The health fair provided residents with blood sugar screenings, blood pressure screenings and diabetes screenings from a certified doctor. There were 25 health assessments completed by the end of the event. Heart of Ohio plans to have these services in more when the launch of the Chantry Family Health Center takes place. “It will be just like a normal doctor’s office,” said Schehl. “It’s going to be overall health care including services for infants through seniors.”

The Chantry Family Health Center will uphold the tradition of helping people within the community. Heart of Ohio also plans to market to other people who live in the community near Commons at Chantry. “We want to offer as many services to the community as possible, said Schehl.  If there is anything we can’t offer, in the new facility, we will refer them to another one of our facilities.”

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Inniswood Village residents move into their new home with the help of National Church Residences volunteers

By Elizabeth Randolph

Erandolph@nationalresidences.org

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Move-ins started on August 15 and now the first wave of new residents can call Inniswood Village home!

Volunteers from both National Church Residences and Downsize with a Heart, a program through Furniture Bank of Ohio, were in attendance to assist the residents with bringing in furniture, clothing and other items. A lemonade stand was also available to refresh volunteers in the almost 90-degree weather.

The community is adjacent to the peaceful and serene Inniswood Metro Gardens and offers residents a carefree and maintenance-free lifestyle. Amenities include a chapel, library, bistro, club room, wellness center, guest suite and community room.  “There are 40 senior living apartments in this building,” said Tiffany Affolter, Corporate Marketing Director in the Senior Living division. “It’s a two-story building and has a [underground] parking garage.”

For some residents, moving into Inniswood Village is the first time they’ve had to downsize from a family home to an apartment. This is the reality for Bette Coles, one of Inniswood Village’s firstresidents.  “Before I moved here I had a six-bedroom house,” said Coles. “At first I thought ‘this isn’t enough room’ but I’m really looking forward to not having to do any repairs because it was an old house.”

Coles, who is from North Columbus, says the decision to move to Inniswood Village seemed like something she was destined to do. “My husband passed away last July and he loved Inniswood Metro Gardens,” said Coles. “He worked as a bus driver in Westerville for years. Inniswood Village just seemed like the perfect place for me.”

While she says moving can be stressful, Coles is happy to be in her new home. “I’m looking forward to meeting everyone,” she said. “Once I get everything situated it’s going to be great.”

Inniswood Village is set to have approximately 15 new residents by August 18.

 

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Bette Coles in her apartment 

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Coles with her nephew in her apartment

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Volunteers from “Downsize with a heart” with a new Inniswood resident

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Doug Himes, VP of Operations for Residential Services is working hard in an Inniswood Village apartment. 

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Items provided by Inniswood Village staff to residents

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Lemonade stand to refresh volunteers

National Church Residences’ Atlanta Resident Naomi Barber King Opens Her Home, History and Heart

 

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King sitting in her living room at a National Church Residences property

By Sojourner Marable Grimmett

“Everyone has a story and if you don’t tell your story then it might not ever get told.” – Naomi Barber King
 
A black and silver butterfly burette rested perfectly in her snow white colored hair. She proudly stood in her living room, wearing a white sweater-set with black trimming, black pants. I was greeted with a bright, big smile, as I entered the home of Mrs. Naomi Barber King, located at a National Church Residences’ property just about 15 minutes southwest of Atlanta, Georgia. I extended my hand and she leaned in for a hug.
 
She led me by the hand, as together we circled the space, both admiring her numerous photographs and precious memories on the walls. The feeling of African American history and pride was overwhelming. I pictured myself living as her in her prime in the 1960’s, rallying for civil rights and “justice for all.” Old photos adorned the walls of her late husband Rev. Alfred Daniel “A.D.” King, brother-in-law Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and sister-in-law Coretta Scott King. Mrs. King picked up a celebratory card off of her maple coffee table and placed it in my hands. I opened the card and read it to myself quietly and then spoke the final words aloud, “Signed, Sister Coretta.”
 
Mrs. King was born in Dothan, Alabama in 1931, and was raised an only child to Bessie May Barber. At the age of 5 years old, her mother decided to relocate them from Dothan to Atlanta, Georgia to live with her brother. We sat down across from each other on comfortable flower patterned beige cushions as Mrs. King reflected on her childhood. “All of the memories of my childhood are based on the things that children do and enjoy. I had a wonderful childhood. I did well in school and took piano lessons. I was very well loved and protected.”
 
 “What was your most fond memory as a child?” I asked.  Her voice changed and the gaze in her eyes became cloudy as they watered a bit. She replied, “I met my beloved husband when we were 12 and 13 years old at the YMCA. We became friends and you might say that our puppy love evolved. As my boyfriend he gave me all of the attention that any girl needed, leaving no stones unturned. My most fond memory was when I turned 16, and he surprised me with a Sweet 16 birthday party.”
 
After graduating from high school, Mrs. King enrolled in Spelman College in 1949 and left school after her first year to marry A.D. King in 1950. Rev. A.D. King stayed in school and graduated from Morehouse College, soon after beginning his pastoral career.
 
Mrs. King’s bright smile turned into a worrisome frown when I asked the question “Can you talk to me about the day your home was bombed in Birmingham on May 11, 1963?”
 
“Everyone has a story and if you don’t tell your story then it might not ever get told,” she said. Her voice became soft as she cleared her throat and spoke:
 
“On a Saturday night before Mother’s Day it was around 11 o’clock in the evening and I was in the dining room area preparing the table decorations for Mother’s Day. My husband was in the bedroom working on his sermon, and our five beautiful children; Alveda, Alfred II, Derek I, Darlene, and Vernon were in their rooms. After I finished decorating the table, I sat in the living room area. I noticed that the picture window began to crack, and I shrugged my shoulders as if it was nothing, and continued to decorate the table.
 
The Lord would have it that my husband came to the front of the home and he went to the front door, opened it, and looked up and down the street. He said to me, “Naomi let’s get out of here.” It was so quiet you could hear a cotton ball fall on the carpet. By the time we got to the center of our home that was when the first bomb went off and then a second bomb exploded and the front of the house was blown away. I believe the bombs caused me to have permanent hearing loss in one of my ears. By God’s grace all 7 of us were able to go out of the back of the home, and that no one was hurt. God has a time planned for everybody and a purpose for everybody. It was our time at that time to bring focus to the world on what was happening in Birmingham.”
 
This wouldn’t be their last encounter with a bomb. When Rev. A.D. King pastored a church in Louisville, Kentucky, the church was also bombed. And tragically just one year after the assassination of his beloved brother in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, Rev. A.D. King was found dead at his home, lying in the family swimming pool.
 
To suggest that the King family has had more than their share of heartbreaks, does not begin to touch upon the trauma and devastation they have endured. Mrs. King has always relied on her faith. She reminds herself often to “fear not for God is with us always.” With all that she has been through, Mrs. King remains optimistic about Atlanta, and current conditions in the surrounding world. She believes that “there is good in people and that all problems can be worked out if we just sit down and talk to one another.”
 
We shared a warm smile of appreciation with each other when the interview concluded. Before leaving her home, Mrs. King pointed to a picture of Rev. A.D. King in her bedroom. She reflected on a time when her late husband asked a violinist to play a song while they were eating dinner at a restaurant. “That’s why I loved him so much. He was so thoughtful.” A true love story cut short too soon. Her life story is a testament of love, hope, and triumph.
 
Mrs. King continues to share her husband’s contributions and legacy as an activist and minister. She is a beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and bright light to those in the church and communities she serves.
 
Author’s Note: Thank you to Dr. Babs Onabanjo, Co-Founder and CEO of the A.D. King Foundation for arranging the interview. More information can be found about Rev. Alfred Daniel “A.D.” King and Naomi Barber King at www.adkingfoundation.com.
 

Ohio State University partnership creates geriatric residency program at National Church Residences

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Sarah Kidd, a recent graduate of Ohio State University with a doctorate in physical therapy, is the first-ever resident specializing in geriatrics in a new partnership program between Ohio State and National Church Residences. Here she provides physical therapy to a resident at First Community Village.

By LANCE CRANMER                                                    lcranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org

COLUMBUS – Last summer National Church Residences began a partnership with Ohio State University to create a geriatric physical therapy residency program.

“Ohio State needed a partner for the geriatric residency so they asked us if we would partner with them,” said Sarah Dalton Ortlieb, National Church Residences Vice President of Rehabilitation Services. “We get to cultivate an expert in the field.”

The first resident in the program is Sarah Kidd, who began the program at First Community Village in July 2016.

“They’re helping me prepare to be a credited specialist,” said Kidd, whose residency program runs through July 2017. “I get to experience the geriatric spectrum in one year.”

“This residency is a geriatric specialization,” said Ortlieb. “Sarah, our resident, is a licensed physical therapist who has graduated with her doctorate from Ohio State. This program is an extra year, similar to what a physician would do. She’s elected to do this residency to become a specialist in geriatrics.”

Kidd’s year-long learning experience is a rarity in her field.

“Most physical therapists who are working in geriatrics don’t have this kind of specialization,” Ortlieb said. “There aren’t many opportunities around the country for people to go through geriatric residency.”

In this program, Kidd will get to experience multiple facets of geriatric care specializations, allowing her to obtain experience in all areas of the field.

“This is great for my development,” Kidd said. “There are various geriatric settings. This allows me to figure out where I do thrive and what I struggle with. Every day and every week is different.”

Last summer Kidd spent most of her time at First Community Village, while also doing lab work and student teaching at Ohio State. In early 2017 she began moving into work with a greater focus on Home Health.

“She’ll be there for a few months learning that type of practice,” said Ortlieb. “The last couple months of her residency will be geared toward outpatient care at First Community and wellness at our Centers for Senior Health.”

The residency program also includes mentoring opportunities, didactic (specific education content) work, and a researched case study that will likely be published in medical journals.

“Its wonderful training and career development in one year,” Kidd said. “I just love that the residency gives me mentoring opportunities. I have these experts around me that I can discuss things with.”

When Kidd’s residency is complete it is possible that she could come to work for National Church Residences full-time.
“If they would hire me, I would want to,” she said.

Ortlieb said that in the long term it is her goal to be able to recruit the people who go through the residency – which is limited to one per year – to join the organization.

“We’re doing great things for our mission of helping seniors and for us, we want to be able to cultivate a long-term potential recruiting pool,” she said.

Care Coordination reaches seniors’ mind, body and soul at Atlanta’s Panola Gardens

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Care Coordinator Sharon Dawson Reid, center, with two residents before a play at Panola Gardens.

By LANCE CRANMER                                                                lcranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org

Before it even opened its doors, the vision for Panola Gardens was a community where housing and health care services came together under one roof. But to make that vision a reality, National Church Residences needed to find the right person.

“When the state agency awarded the important tax credits to National Church Residences to build Panola Gardens, they took a leap of faith that we would commit to an enriched service environment for our residents once we built the building,” said Michelle Norris, National Church Residences’ Executive Vice President of External Affairs and Strategic Initiatives. “That vision does not come to fruition without dedication and leadership of someone on the ground once the building opened.”

The organization found that leadership in Sharon Dawson Reid, Panola Gardens’ Care Coordinator.

“Sharon is an exceptional Service Coordinator,” said Terry Allton, National Church Residences Senior Vice President of Home and Community Services. “We are blessed to have her leading this effort!”

Sharon has been a member of the staff at Panola Gardens since the facility opened its doors in March 2015.

“As a Care Coordinator what I really do is work with the residents’ mind, body and soul,” Sharon said. “It’s a person-centered approach. It’s service coordination with care coordination laid on top of it.”

Using the concept of layering the two approaches has worked well for Sharon, especially when it comes to making partnerships and getting much-needed grants to fund projects.

“I have applied for several grants through Horizon Housing Foundation and they have been most kind to Panola Gardens,” she said, noting that over $16,500 has been awarded to her building. “They provide a lot of these classes for the residents that are free because of the type of grant that I applied for. I composed the grant and layered it with what I wanted to bring to the residents.”

Sharon found funding for Tai Chi classes which provide both mental relaxation and physical exercise.

She also brought in live musicians who provide entertainment, and also a form of music therapy.

“The way I proposed that grant is that (the music) stimulated the mind. They talk about the songs and who the musician was and where they were when they remember that song,” she said. “I’m always layering. It’s multifaceted.”

Other projects Sharon secured grant money for include art classes, live plays, free dental clinics, on-site physical therapists and chiropractors, and regular visits from a registered nurse to do health screenings and personal coaching for chronic diseases and medication questions.

“Built into those grants as well, even though they’re giving us all that money, I like to ask for even more money,” she said. “I have been given a lot of gift cards randomly given to residents for participating in at least one of these services. The residents are taking their time to come.”

As part of her job requirements Sharon hosts at least two educational wellness events per month. She is also required to plan at least 12 socialization events per year – but last year she held 91 of them.

“It engages their mind. Their thinking. It gets them walking. Gets them moving,” she said. “Every time a resident is in front of me I’m giving them something that is person centered. Something for the mind, body and soul. I go overboard trying to make sure these residents are well-rounded.”

Recently, she brought in retired NBA great Terry Cummings to speak to the residents.

“The focus of his speech was hope. It leaned on the spiritual side. Where the residents are in their lives. It is so this vulnerable population does not feel lost,” Sharon said. “It helps them transition through that period, if they are a widow or widower, or if they’re transitioning from a single dwelling or from living with family. Aging is a part of life and there’s a productive way to age.”