Residents discover hidden talents

Don Lloyd and Perry Hunsley highly recommend Gina's class. 

Don Lloyd and Perry Hunsley highly recommend Gina’s class.

“I’m a terrible artist.”
“Don’t look at mine.”

Gina Lee hears these statements over and over, from art students in their teens up to their 90s. But Gina doesn’t let those beliefs persist. She knows that with a few basic techniques and encouragement, we can all discover our inner artist.

For almost a year, Gina has been visiting Salina Presbyterian Manor once a month to guide our residents through an art project. She has a small, devoted core of regular members, and many others drop in to see what it’s all about, sometimes after seeing the latest creations on display in the resident gallery.

“Gina makes it fun and puts everyone at ease. We learn something new every time,” said resident Don Lloyd.

Don and the other art students can thank Chaplain Mary Bridges for bringing Gina to our community. Mary’s daughter used to work with Gina at South High School. Today, Gina teaches art at South Middle School. Last year, Mary asked Gina if she would offer a regular class at Presbyterian Manor.

“I was thrilled. I had gotten my certification so I could work with hospice,” Gina said.

Gina received her degree in art from Fort Hays State University and has taught middle and high school students for many years. But she has enjoyed working with older adults, ever since she was a child.

Growing up in a small western Kansas town, Gina became very close to the retired people in her neighborhood, especially one couple down the block. “It was nice to have them as ‘extra’ grandparents because my mother’s family lived really far away,” she said.

Gina and her parents would also visit people at the nursing home in Oakley every Sunday. They didn’t even have a relative living there. “We knew all the residents names. I would play piano for them,” she said. “I didn’t have an aversion to nursing or retirement homes. That’s where the fun people were. That was my parents’ attitude: we were going to visit our friends.”

Later, Gina was able to combine her experience with older adults and techniques she learned from teaching art to kids with special needs. She knows how to adapt her lessons for people with low vision or difficulty holding a paintbrush.

“I had to find projects that are not long and exhausting but that are still challenging. I hope I’ve done them justice,” Gina said. “I see very creative people who are excited to talk about what they’re doing.”

Her students say Gina does a great job of creating that excitement. Resident Perry Hunsley said he enjoys the class because Gina is “innovative, lively and pretty.” Kim Fair appreciates that Gina explains the projects thoroughly. “She follows each artist’s progress, always encouraging us to go in our own direction,” Kim said. “We all feel fortunate to have her expertise and support in expanding our horizons.”

It’s important to Gina that residents know they’re making real art. “I tell them this is a great way to get the brain thinking in a different way.”

Gina’s monthly Art Class is open to all residents. Take Don Lloyd’s advice and give it a try: “If you had her as a teacher in school, you wouldn’t play hooky — she is that much fun.”

Chaplain: Mary’s musings

shutterstock_557438314By Mary Bridges, Salina Presbyterian Manor chaplain

I love buttons! I have a button heart pin that I made, a button necklace and earrings, a button tie and button vest. One year I made special button sweatshirts for myself, my daughter and granddaughters. At the antique shop in Russell they have an old wash tub filled with buttons. Oh, how I love to dig in the tub and look for special buttons.

One of my earliest childhood memories is playing in the attic at my grandmother’s house. My grandmother came to America when she was 16 years old. She had 15 children and lived to be 99 years old. She didn’t have any toys at her house but oh did we have fun in her attic, where we played with her old wooden spools. My cousins and I would have contests to see who could build the highest tower. But my favorite thing to play with was her button box. She had the most wonderful collection. I could play for hours with those buttons. She’d thread a needle with a long string, and I could spend hours making strings of buttons; some would be dark colors, and some all white, but my favorite were the multi-colored ones.

As I got older I’d sometimes make up stories about the buttons and what kind of clothes they’d been on. Maybe this one filled with rhinestones belonged to a Russian princess. Could this gray one had come from the work shirt of my grandfather, whom I never knew? And, I think this one came from my Grandma’s dress that she wore to church. And, perhaps this tiny button was from some clothes that my dad wore as a baby. Did this tiny pearl button come from a wedding dress? Some were almost weird looking, and it was hard to figure just what their purpose was.

When you think about it buttons are a lot like people. Buttons come in all colors, all sizes and all shapes. Some may be chipped or broken, but they still function. Some are simply decorative and aren’t meant to fasten anything; they’re just plain pretty. Each button is created for a special need. Sometimes we only need one button on our clothing, but most times it takes several. Some clothing has buttons not only on the front or back but also on the sleeves and collars.

People also come in a variety of shapes, size and colors. Sometimes it takes only one person to do a job, but there are other jobs that take many people working together. People working together can accomplish marvelous things.

Remember, alone, we can’t always achieve or accomplish much. We may be like that single button, a bit weird or perhaps a bit shabby, or chipped and not quite sure where and when we will be used. One single button cannot hold a shirt closed. But together with others our single voices can become a powerful statement. Together, we can and do make a difference in our world. Remember, to the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.

Finding love in a senior living community

Add romance to what single older adults look for when seeking housing

By Kimberley Fowler for Next Avenue

Credit: Getty Images

There are many reasons older adults move into a senior living community, but is looking for love one of them?

Burdett Stilwell has been working with older adults for many years and, and as sales and marketing director of Somerby of Mobile,  she has had the pleasure of developing friendships with the many residents of this Somerby Senior Living home in Alabama. She’s up-to-date on who is dating whom. When it comes to relationships, Stilwell says, the Somerby people she knows fall into two categories: those who are interested and those who have “been there, done that.”

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Don’t ignore these facts about sunscreen

5 ways to apply it right and help avoid skin cancer

By Sheryl Kraft for Next Avenue

Credit: Thinkstock

The sun’s power is undeniable: The largest object in our solar system, it contains approximately 99.9 percent of the total solar system mass. Its interior could hold more than 1.3 million Earths. The sun provides for our very life. But this 4.5 billion-year-old star also has the power to kill.

Melanoma, the most dangerous and potentially lethal form of skin cancer, is caused most often by intense UV rays of the sun, and its rates have been rising for at least 30 years. About 73,870 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the U.S in 2015, and approximately 9,940 people are expected to die, according to the American Cancer Society.

The typical victim? On average, a person is 62 when the cancer appears. The risk of melanoma increases as we age.

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The health benefits of pets for older adults

They reduce blood pressure, help us get exercise and brighten our outlook

By Ronni Gordon for Next Avenue

Caption: Bridget Irving and her Yorkshire Terrier, Ben

When Lynette Whiteman’s youngest child went to college, Whiteman went out and got a second dog that she calls “my empty nest dog.” She wanted someone else to care for, “who loves me non-judgmentally and doesn’t mind if I’m gaining weight or getting gray.”

Whiteman may get home from work tired, but the 60-year-old resident of Toms River, N.J., says the dogs stare at her until she puts their leashes on. She walks them and always feels good afterwards.

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10 ways to turn your finances around in 2017

How advisers say you can do it without a lot of effort

By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell for Next Avenue


Credit: Getty Images

Did you resolve to save more for retirement this year, become debt-free or put cash aside for a bucket-list trip? We’re more than a month into the new year, but there’s still plenty of time to turn your finances around in 2017.

Next Avenue spoke with a few noted money experts for their suggestions. Here are 10 recommendations:

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5 tips for disorganized taxpayers

How experts say you can avoid the mad scramble at tax time

By Rosie Wolf Williams for Next Avenue


Tax season is here and it may be causing you agita. Rifling through drawers for your 2016 tax paperwork; sorting a flood of receipts to qualify for write-offs; printing out assorted bank, brokerage and mutual fund statements and on and on.

Don’t hide under the covers. Instead, follow these five organization strategies from tax advisers to get your taxes together once and for all:

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4 money moves for a happier retirement

Advice from a writer who just combed through the latest retirement surveys

By Bart Astor for Next Avenue

Credit: Thinkstock

How do pre-retirees and retirees feel about retirement these days? Glad you asked.

Since this is “National Retirement Planning Week” (dreamed up by 40-odd financial industry and advocacy groups), a passel of retirement surveys have just been released. I’ve read them — so you don’t have to — and here are the highlights and four action steps to take based on the findings.

Interestingly, the results are somewhat contradictory.

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Founder’s Day celebration planned

Alice Kalb

Alice Kalb

Salina Presbyterian Manor will celebrate 68 years of providing quality senior services guided by Christian values at our annual Founder’s Day celebration this month.

Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America all started with Alice Kalb’s vision. Alice, a widow from central Kansas, appealed to a Presbyterian Church organization to establish a home for seniors. Thanks to her efforts, the first Presbyterian Manor community in Newton, Kan., opened in 1949.

All employees and residents are invited to celebrate Founder’s Day on Thursday, April 20, with pizza and cookies for lunch and root beer floats served from 2 to 4 p.m. Think you resemble Alice? Enter our look-alike contest and you could win a cash prize! We will also have a fun trivia contest.

Each year, we also recommit to the Presbyterian Manors mission by signing Promise Boards to uphold the values upon which our company was founded. Kelly Wellbrock, director of human resources, noted that we have many new hires this year. For 49 of our 140 staff members, it will be their first Promise Board signing. “It’s kind of a fun opportunity to educate about our history and celebrate our mission,” Kelly said. The signing will take place beginning at 2 p.m.

We invite you to join us as we celebrate 68 years of providing quality service, respect for our residents and support of our surrounding communities.

We asked our employees to share some of their reflections on Founder’s Day and the promises we renew every year. Here are some of their responses:

Pam Meehan, employee for more than 25 years
What does Founders’ Day mean to you? It reminds me how our organization has benefited the lives of our residents with the highest possible lifestyle.
Are there any specific memories that come to mind of people upholding our mission to provide quality senior services guided by Christian values? I have seen employees come in on their off days to share with a resident, bring them a homebaked goodie, or let their children bring smiles to them.
How do the promises on the Promise Board guide you? They remind me why we are here and continue the great care.

Ruth Werling, employee for 27 years
What does Founders’ Day mean to you? It is my job to give good, consistent care to people in need.
Memories of people upholding our mission: There are too many memories for me to pin down after 27 years of service. But I do think the most special memories are at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The staff makes a large, homemade meal for the residents. Then we all sit down together to enjoy the good food and fellowship.
How many Promise Boards have you signed? Five.
How do the promises guide you? It inspires me to always give the best of myself to the residents. I consider all of them family.

Jodi Gawith, employee for 24 years
Memories of people upholding our mission: Respecting the elderly. Having a safe, homelike environment.
How many Promise Boards have you signed? Two or three.
How do the promises guide you? Continuing to take pride of the elderly. Do the best to your ability to fulfill the happiness of all. Enjoying working with the elderly. “The founder wanted to change the world.”

Chaplain: Musings from Mary


By Mary Bridges, Salina Presbyterian Manor chaplain

In May I will celebrate an anniversary. In 2002, I was certified as a Parish Ministry Associate, or a PMA, as we are called by the Central States Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. At that time I didn’t have any idea what I would be doing. My husband had been diagnosed with cancer of the vocal cord in 1999, and as is always the case with cancer, there is no way to predict the outcome. So I enrolled in the PMA program just to give me some more skills in the event I might be needing to become a primary breadwinner. I truly had no idea what the future held.

The program is spread over three years with mandatory and elective classes. I loved the opportunity to learn and grow. With a group of diverse classmates, we had many thoughtful discussions, and most of all they had many suggestions for new (to me) books.

Father Edward Hays — author of more than 30 books on contemporary spirituality, a gifted storyteller and an imaginative Kansas artist — became a favorite of mine. I have two of his books and recently was given more of his books, a treasure trove. The first one I picked up was “Holy Fools and Mad Hatters.” Here are some excerpts from one of my favorite exercises, “Creating the Miraculous”:

If you wish to do the kind of works that Christ promised his disciples would do, how should you begin? One way to start might be to take an object that is found in every home, car and most purses: a mirror. The mother word of both miracle and mirror is the Latin mirari, ‘to wonder at.’  In days long ago, to see an image of oneself in a piece of polished metal did indeed cause wonder. Mirrors were wonder-full things for ancient peoples, who could see their reflections only in pools of still water.

Who among us today is ever caught up in wonder when looking into a mirror? Mirrors have become practical necessities for those who wish to be well-groomed and neat. However, your mirror can also become a source of inspiration for learning how to perform miraculous deeds.

Remember the famous scene with the evil queen in the fairy tale “Snow White”? She would stand in front of her mirror and ask, ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?’ Here is an exercise similar to those words. Daily, after you have finished with the practical use of your mirror, stand for a moment in silence. Then, looking directly into your mirror, say: ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, may I look with love on all.’”

We are all created to be unique individuals with different beliefs, values and opinions. By learning to respect our individual humanity, I believe we can begin to make a positive difference in our world. Who may you believe this day?