Volunteering: “just the natural thing” for one Beaumont senior

senior man accepting volunteering award

91-year-old Calder Woods resident John Templeton is known around the Beaumont senior living community for his helpful, can-do attitude.

During any given week, you’ll find him leading the Calder Woods sing-along, helping Chaplain Fontenot during church services, facilitating Wednesday’s intercessory prayer session, counseling during the Alzheimer’s caregiver support group, providing entertainment during Thursday’s social hour or just lending a hand to a neighbor in need.

Simply put, Templeton is a one-stop-shop for Calder Woods volunteer efforts and an easy choice for Calder Woods’ 2018 Volunteer of the Year.

“Ever since he moved to Calder Woods, Mr. Templeton has been an integral part of this community,” said Ben Mazarra, executive director of Calder Woods. “He proves that moving to a senior living community isn’t about slowing down, but about getting involved and doing your part to help the community thrive. Recognizing him as our Volunteer of the Year was a true honor.”

For Templeton, though, volunteering is natural.

“It almost seems routine to me,” he said. “I just love people and like to see them happy. It’s so rewarding when I can do something for someone. I don’t have any hesitation about helping when I can.”

Templeton moved to Calder Woods with his now-late wife in 2009 after a longtime career at Texaco. He and his wife were married 65 years and spent much of their time in early retirement volunteering at the local hospital. It was his upbringing, Templeton said, that taught him to give back.

“Being involved in church life really motivated me to be aware of other people and find ways to assist their needs. Sometimes it’s as simple as talking to them and encouraging them. I’ve been blessed with good health, especially as a 91-year-old! My legs are still good, and I can just pop up and help someone whenever they need.”

The Buckner “pig-me-up”

seniors enjoying a pet pig

Meet Max.

Max is a four-month-old, 22-pound therapy pig, affectionately known as the unofficial Buckner Hospice mascot.

Max began visiting Buckner Hospice patients in March when he and owner Nicole McPherson, Buckner Hospice administrator, earned their companion animal certification. The pig now also visits residents at Parkway Place senior living community, and plans to soon make trips to each Buckner community.

“The joy on these residents’ faces when they see Max is almost indescribable!” said Susan Phelps, executive director of Parkway Place. “Animals have a unique way of bringing out a childlike joy in senior adults, and to see them get so excited is truly heartwarming.”

Therapy pigs have proven to be a unique source of joy and comfort for senior living residents. As with any therapy animal, research shows they can help reduce anxiety and lessen symptoms of depression, particularly for seniors who have a history of working with or being around animals.

McPherson received Max as a gift when he was three weeks old and weighed just five pounds. Since then, she’s been training him as a therapy pig. He lives inside her family’s home, in a kennel, like any other household pet.

“He’s just like a dog, but smarter,” laughed McPherson. “He can sit, spin, kiss and shake hands. He’s quite the pig!”

McPherson keeps Max on a strict diet of fruits, vegetables and, as a special treat, Cheerios. She walks him in her neighborhood—on a leash—nearly every day. While he’s still growing, her goal is to keep him at a trim 50 to 60 pounds.

“The name Max means ‘one of a kind,’” McPherson said, “and Max is truly that to everyone who meets him, especially these senior adults.”

Writing on a prayer: Westminster Place resident becomes published author at 85

senior becomes author at 85

85-year-old Lee Rose never expected to be a published author. She never even considered herself a writer.

But today the Buckner Westminster Place resident is the proud author of “Time Alone with God,” a collection of prayers and conversations with God. The book candidly addresses struggles many senior adults face related to downsizing, loss and life transition.

“I didn’t sit down to write anything more than just my conversations with the Lord every day,” Rose said.

Rose wrote every day, one day at a time, over six months before the book was finished. The process, Rose said, deepened her walk with God in ways she never expected.

“Now I can hear the birds sing and know it’s something to give thanks for,” Rose said. “I don’t get down like I was before. My husband, brother and sister-in-law had all passed away in a matter of months. At the time I felt like it was the end of the world, but I don’t feel that way anymore.”

When Rose began writing the book, she had no intention of publishing it. She simply sat down every morning and wrote what came to mind, whether conversations with God or memories she didn’t want to forget. She wrote by hand, then went to the computer and typed it.

“I just set aside a time to be with the Lord, then wrote down what he taught me,” Rose said. “I did it for my family, but then I thought maybe there are others that have some of those same anxieties and fears. The response has been incredible.”

Well aware of the challenges that come with aging, Rose hopes that the book reminds people of who God is every day, in every season.

“I hope my book shows people that God continues to love us despite all our mistakes,” Rose said. “He sent his son to draw us to him, and he just continues to draw us to him if we just listen.”

Writing isn’t the only thing that keeps Rose busy. She volunteers twice a week at Heartisans Marketplace in Longview and regularly participates in Buckner Westminster Place activities.

“We’re blessed to have residents like Lee Rose here at Buckner,” said David Sims, executive director of Buckner Westminster Place. “Her genuine heart is so evident, and it’s inspiring to see the ways she continues to use her life to glorify God.”

Why we roll out the red carpet for residents

seniors eating

Charlie Wilson serves as senior vice president of Buckner Retirement Services. Today, he’s sharing his thoughts on why, when it comes to our hospitality philosophy, we work to roll out the red carpet for senior adults at each Buckner senior living community.

The entertainment world just finished awards season, and from the Grammys to the Academy Awards to the Emmys, there was plenty of pomp and circumstance to go around.

What do people remember most about these ceremonies? It’s often not the speeches, the performances or even the awards themselves.

It’s the red carpet.

Famous for it’s flashy fashion and high-profile attendees, the red carpet is where we honor these celebrities for the work they’ve done.

At Buckner senior living communities, we roll out the red carpet for every resident every day. Not literally of course, but we do strive to make each resident feel like a celebrity because to us, they are.

The residents at Buckner senior living communities are veterans, teachers and philanthropists. They’re doctors, parents and pastors who’ve made a deep impact on the world we live in today. It’s because of their hard work, their sacrifice, that we’re able to enjoy the world we do today.

People like Billie Schmidt who worked as the assistant to the associate director of NASA and John Ramsey who spent 45 years in the ministry, including 27 overseas, inspire us to dream. Others like Virginia Derry who leads music for residents with Alzheimer’s and Jane Wulf who makes quilts for charity remind us to make a difference right where we are.

These are the kinds of people we want to honor.

Rolling out our own red carpet for these residents means that every Buckner team member goes above and beyond to serve residents with excellence. We’ll go out of our way to ensure each resident has the opportunity to live a vibrant, positive lifestyle.

Wilbrun Gage, a Buckner Westminster Place resident, said it best: “Anything you want done that needs to be done, they’ll do it! If you want ice cream, they’ll go get it. They take care of people.”

At Buckner, we ensure each resident feels like a valued member of the community—someone worth celebrating.

To put it simply, we roll out the red carpet for residents because we’re the ones honored and privileged to have them at Buckner.

Calder Woods chef recognized for nearly 20 years in food service

senior dining chef

Chef Charles Duit, director of nutrition and food services at Calder Woods in Beaumont, and his wife Debbie were recently recognized by the Sabine Area Restaurant Association for their dedication to the Southeast Texas food service industry. Collectively, they’ve spent nearly 50 years in local food service, including Duit’s 14 years at Calder Woods. Congratulations, Chef!

Friday photo: Residents hit it off with Texas Rangers

rangers player with senior

Residents of Buckner Westminster Place in Longview got to meet some of their baseball heroes when the Texas Rangers visited Buckner during their Winter Caravan. The visit was part of the team’s new partnership with Buckner International and its ministries across the state.

Seniors celebrate New Year’s

seniors celebrating the new year

Residents at Calder Woods, a Buckner senior living community in Beaumont, started off 2018 with a bang! They gathered Sunday with friends and family for the community’s annual New Year’s Eve gala.

A love built with stitches

old clothing

January is National Hobby Month, so each week we’re featuring different hobbies and talents of residents at Buckner senior living communities. This week, meet Jo Ann Cannon, the heralded seamstress of Calder Woods in Beaumont.

It’s difficult to say which is sweeter: Jo Ann Cannon’s Alabaman, Southern belle accent or the carefully hand-sewn garments she crafts for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The 87-year-old Calder Woods resident has been a seamstress most of her life, but in the last 40 years has devoted her creative efforts almost entirely to French hand sewing, a unique European technique that uses delicate fabrics and no sewing machine. She’s put together countless outfits for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren using the finest laces and linens she could find.

“When I first learned this technique, it opened a whole new world for me,” Cannon said. “I’ve had the best time with it every since!”

Every Monday, Cannon, a native of Alabama who moved to Texas five years ago to be closer to her daughter, gathers with a small group of local women to work on their sewing projects. While she continues her latest endeavors for family members, the other ladies hand stitch clothes for local foster children. Monday nights, Cannon said, have become one of her favorite times of the week.

“Hand sewing is an art, and we don’t want those skills to be lost,” Cannon said. “These clothes express our love for the people we give them to. It’s comforting to know you’ve made something beautiful.”

Cannon sees sewing as a labor of love, and often uses her talents to help others. During the recent Hurricane Harvey disaster that flooded much of Beaumont and surrounding areas, a friend’s antique wedding gown from the 1800’s was nearly destroyed. Cannon, because of her experience working with delicate fabrics, was able to restore the dress to its original quality.

“It was an honor to  be able to help my friend keep an heirloom like that after such a disaster, and it meant so much to her!” Cannon said.

Cannon takes pride in the things she creates, and in crafting clothes that last. Many of the clothes her great-grandchildren wear today, in fact, are ones she sewed for her own daughter decades ago. The sewing discipline itself, however, didn’t pass through the generations.

“They just think it’s so convenient that I can do it,” laughed Cannon, who enjoys her role as the family mender and seamstress.

Calder Woods has welcomed Cannon’s talent and helped her convert the second bedroom in her independent living apartment into a sewing room. There, Cannon stores countless thread types, linens and exotic fabrics from her and her husband’s world travels, including pieces from Russia, Ireland and Scotland.

“Hand sewing is a process,” Cannon said. “You enjoy the process and are really kind of sad when the little garment is finished. But that’s what makes it fun, always getting to make something new.”

Looking for a fresh start in 2018? Start by volunteering!

senior volunteer

For many of us, the turning of the calendar is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf. If you’re looking for a way to jump-start your year, volunteering through Buckner International in Texas could be just what you need.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. It’s science. For example:

Looking to make new friends? Volunteering is proven to expand your social network, providing a common point through which you can bond with others.

Individuals and groups with similar interests – a desire to help others, concern for vulnerable families and a strong faith foundation – are often drawn to serving through Buckner International. Their desire to put others first creates a fun and inviting group of people who work together to change lives.

Social bonds decrease loneliness and social isolation. They also increase friend circles. Doesn’t everyone want friends?

Looking for a sense of purpose? Volunteering is shown to boost confidence and self esteem as well as encourage a sense of purpose in life.

Buckner volunteers are positioned to make a significant difference in the lives of those they serve, so they see the impact their efforts have. Discover your purpose as you help others discover theirs.

Looking for health? Long-term volunteering has long-term health effects, including longer, healthier living, possible lower risk of dementia and graceful aging.

Regardless of the study you look at, volunteers are shown to benefit mentally and physically from serving others. Volunteering gives individuals perspective on life, improves how people feel about themselves and reinforces healthy behaviors.

Start 2018 the right way, by volunteering through Buckner. Find out how this can be the best year yet – for you and a vulnerable family – at buckner.org/volunteer.

An unforgettable holiday reunion

senior with santa

This year, Edna Buck, a resident of Calder Woods senior living community in Beaumont, celebrated the holiday season with her Calder Woods friends and neighbors. She’s pictured here at the community’s annual Christmas Open House. But when asked which holiday season she remembers most, it’s the 1945 season that most rings clear in her memory.

When Edna’s husband stepped off the train at 10 p.m. one night the week before Christmas in 1945, they didn’t even recognize one another.

Raymond Buck was one of hundreds of thousands of GI’s trying to get home in time for Christmas that year. The war was over, and they had survived. Everyone had plans, lives and families to start, and dreams to bring to life.

Thinking he would be in uniform, Edna had eagerly scanned the face of each military man who disembarked.

He remembered noticing two women wearing the same coat—Edna and a friend who’d accompanied her—but in the excitement of the moment he somehow failed to recognize her.

Disappointed, Edna was determined to await the next train at 12:30 a.m.

Raymond took a cab to Edna’s aunt’s house, so her uncle went to fetch her from the station in his car.

“When I got out, there was a man in a suit, top coat and hat,” Edna said. “And it was my husband.”

She almost fainted, then she ran into his arms.

At her mother’s house in Lumberton, Edna had been sick in bed with the flu, but when she got word that Raymond was coming, she got up, washed her hair and got dressed.

She took a bus to Beaumont.

The couple spent Christmas at her grandparent’s home in Pineland.

Her brother, also a soldier, had made it home as well, and the family was ecstatic to have everyone home, alive and together.

“We had a big tree and big dinner,” Edna Buck said. “Everybody came and brought stuff.”

She gave her husband new clothes that we all too big for him; he’d lost weight after being wounded. Raymond gave his wife French perfume—“the real stuff.”

Tears came and her voice broke when asked what she remembers about that Christmas.

“I can just see it,” she said. “It was a good Christmas.”

This article originally appeared in The Beaumont Enterprise.

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