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Designation earned by Westminster Woods

Westminster Woods in Huntingdon has been designated as one of only 23 Centers for Successful Aging (CSA) in the United States.

Sue Deobil, director of sales at Westminster Woods, stated that the designation comes at the end of a five-year journey to improve the lives of residents.

“Our journey (to become a CSA) began five years ago when our community decided to embrace successful aging for all residents,” Deobil said. “We looked at how we viewed the aging process and, through Masterpiece Living (MPL), were required to examine our belief system, re-create and establish a culture of growth, engagement, vitality and purpose for all our residents regardless of chronological age and in opposition to negative cultural stereotypes of disease and decline.”

To qualify, Westminster Woods was required to fulfill rigorous criteria built upon the basic components of MPL. This involved demonstrating successful again in six areas and fulfilling criteria within each.

“We needed to apply to MPL for this designation and show how we demonstrate successful aging in six areas: leadership, culture, outreach, purposeful programming, resident/member engagement and team member engagement,” Deobil said. “Each area has a list of at least seven criteria and requires measured outcomes.”

There are some who should be recognized for their personal efforts in receiving the designation. Linda Shultz-Long, director of community life and volunteer services at Westminster Woods, and Kyle Cusick, independent living service director at Westminster Woods, served as co-chairs for the MPL initiative.

“It is an honor to be part of a community – both Westminster Woods residents, team members and Masterpiece Living – who support successful aging,” Shultz-Long said, speaking for both herself and Cusick. “(The initiative) has not only changed the face of aging in our residents, it has influenced team members to start to participate in their own successful aging journey.”

However, Deobil believes all residents and team members alike were instrumental in getting the community the designation.

“Our residents and team members worked over a year to show how we demonstrate and support the criteria in these six areas,” Deobil said. “For our efforts, as a community, we achieved CSA designation the first time around and demonstrated 95% of established criteria, of which we all are very proud.”

Chad Evans, executive director of Westminster Woods, stated that the credit to the entire Westminster Woods community, including residents and team members, is well earned; everyone at Westminster Woods played an important role in achieving the designation.

“Everyone who lives and works at Westminster Woods deserves credit for this award,” Evans said. “It is about all of us encouraging each other and promoting ways to maximize our potential regardless of our chronological age.”

The benefits of the designation can be seen in the increased unity of the residents and team members.

“As a resident, I have seen significant benefit already,” said Barb Herrera, an independent living resident at Westminster Woods. “In striving to meet the very stringent requirements to qualify as a center for successful aging, we have become a community in which residents, adminwwefforts and work as a unified team toward mutually identified goals. Westminster Woods has always heeded input from its people, but in meeting the CSA standards we have far surpassed our former level of cooperation.”

Benefits, too, come in the form of a bettered reputation in Huntingdon and across the county.

“Westminster Woods can be viewed as a resource to the greater Huntingdon community on the possibilities of aging,” Deobil said. “Family members and care partners can participate in successful aging experiences, and the Westminster Woods community can help dispel the negative stereotype of aging as only one of decline.”

Westminster Woods was also provided with a physical award for the designation. It is currently on display in the entrance to the Oaks skilled nursing facility on campus.

Looking forward, Westminster Woods’s CSA designation will be re-evaluated every three years. Deobil believes their continued efforts will allow them to maintain it.

“With the growing older adult population, Westminster Woods continues to have a positive impact on the residents we serve in our own community and the greater Huntingdon community,” Deobil said. “Ultimately, we hope to have a positive impact on public policy and the way we treat our aging population. Our mission statement, combined with (our) advocacy for the possibilities within the aging process, positions our community to be advocates of positive change — one person at a time.”

Marking a day of service

Juniata College participated in the MLK Day of Service for the first time Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with volunteers working on direct service projects in Huntingdon and Mount Union.

Suraia Silveira, a Juniata College student from Boston, Massachusetts, was one of the students instrumental in organizing the day of service.

“It was stressful in the beginning because there was only five of us and we were afraid that we wouldn’t have enough people to participate, that students wouldn’t come back early. But in the end, it came a long way actually. We ended up spreading it out through Huntingdon and into Mount Union,” she said.

In total, 91 volunteers participated, comprised of the college’s students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Volunteer sites and projects across Huntingdon County included: community meal prep at the Stone Church of the Brethren to prepare for a community meal at the church at 5 p.m., a moving project at the Huntingdon Borough Office, general cleanup and organizing at the Huntingdon Community Center, cleaning and painting at the Huntingdon County Library, restocking cleaning, dog walking and cat petting at the humane society and sorting and organizing at the Huntingdon Area High School and work at the Silica Athletic Park in Mount Union.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only national holiday that is also a national day of service.

“I feel this should be done everywhere, not just one college doing it,” said Silveira. “We have speakers here to talk about Martin Luther King Day but we never had a day of service where students are engaged.”

April Wells, a student from San Fernando Valley, California, is glad to see the college community go out into the surrounding area.

“Juniata has never given us this day off until this year, so to take it as not a day off but as a day of service and get involved in our community was a good idea...I think today seeing the Juniata community coming together with Huntingdon as a community is a beautiful thing. Especially on a day when this is what Martin Luther King Jr. would want to see. While we can’t see equality all over, I think it’s the little things that make changes,” she said.

The slogan of MLK Day of Service is “A Day On, Not a Day Off” and students have taken that to heart.

“I really like the people at Juniata and volunteering, and I thought it would be a great way to start the semester doing something I feel strongly about with people I care about,” said student Anne Calloway from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

Payton Kough, a student from Chambersburg, said she just enjoys giving back.

“I just like volunteering and giving back whenever there’s an opportunity,” said Kough.

Matthew Damschroder, dean of students at Juniata College, was in awe of the turnout Monday, and drew parallels between the past and the present.

“It’s inspiring to see students turn out and try to make the change in the world that they aspire to. I was really moved by Dr. (Marita) Gilbert this morning when she talked about Martin Luther King Jr. and how at the beginning he was a young man just doing the work.”

Damschroder believes that young people shouldn’t view Martin Luther King Jr.’s achievements as unattainable.

“We sort of revere him without understanding that our students have the same capacity to make social change, that same drive to see a better world for themselves and a better future for all of us, and it starts with things like this,” he said.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

TMSB members hire superintendent

Designation earned by Westminster Woods

The Tussey Mountain School Board Monday evening unanimously agreed to appoint Dr. Jerry Shoemake as district superintendent.

Shoemake has been acting superintendent since September 16 following the sudden departure of former superintendent Dr. Gary Dawson. He was appointed at a pro-rated salary of $106,638, for the 2019-20 school year for a five-year term effective immediately.

Shoemake began his career at Tussey Mountain as an English-social studies teacher during the 2003-04 school year before being hired as junior high principal for a year, followed by high school principal for a five-year period. He later became the district’s director of education, a post he held just prior to becoming acting superintendent.

Following the meeting, the 60-year old Shoemake told The Daily News he is very grateful and humbled of the confidence the board placed in him. He said he will work hard everyday to show he is worthy of the opportunity to fill the superintendent’s position.

The board also authorized the administration to advertise for a director of education/special education director immediately. The board also agreed to schedule interviews for lead custodian with four candidates scheduled to be interviewed.

The board approved the engagement of attorney Michael I. Levin per the terms of his engagement letter.

A number of other personnel matters were also approved including a number of volunteers being hired for positions at the nominal stipend for the 2019-20 school year conditioned upon submission and approval of required documentation. The board agreed to accept, with regret, the resignation of Kelly Rhoat as part-time cook’s helper at the high school effective Dec. 11, 2019.

The board accepted a resignation letter from Genevieve Lynn as part-time 21st Century aide at the elementary school effective Nov. 26, 2019. It approved the hiring of Tara McElwee for the same position effective Jan. 13, upon submission and approval of required documentation.

It also approved the hiring of Kelli Gambol for a similar position at the high school effective Dec.13, 2019 conditioned upon submission and approval of required documentation.

The board also acknowledged the following van/bus drivers for Snyder Busing conditioned upon submission and approval of required documentation: Brooke Hall, Ed Foore, Harmony Evan’s, Ronnie Jenkins, Angela Barton, Kayla Dodson, Linda Garner and Randy Hess.

Ashly Strait was also approved as a student teacher during 2020 with Mr. Carrier beginning Jan. 6. Maizie Husick was approved to observe Sandy Kay Rickabaugh, Tanner Snyder and Kim Donaldson and Ryan Leonard was approved to observe Casey Flaherty all during 2020.

The board acknowledged that Anita Burnscwascthe most senior qualified TMESP member applicant to transfer from part-time cook’s helper at the elementary to full-time cook at the high school effective Jan. 9, 2020, under the terms and conditions provided in the contract between the TMSD and the TMESP.

A Memorandum of Understanding between the TMSD and the and TMESP that exchanges the contracted holiday “second day of deer,” to instead be “Christmas Eve” for the 2020-21 school only as recommended by the school board was approved. The board also approved a request for leave without pay for reasons acceptable to the board for Dulce Dick.

Adam can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

Habitat renovation starts in Mapleton

Members of the Huntingdon Area Habitat for Humanity are busy working to renovate a new home in the Mapleton area.

They are now looking for a partner family to help with the rehabilitation of a three-bedroom home at 128 Bankstown St., as renovations to the home have just begun.

“Habitat for Humanity offers a “hand up” to qualified families to purchase their home through a zero-interest mortgage,” said David Drews, board member for Huntingdon Area Habitat for Humanity.

Drews also discussed the requirements needed to be a habitat partner.

“The potential family needs to have a significant housing problem,” he said. “For example, they may not have enough bedrooms for their family size, their house is unsafe, the heat may be inadequate or rental and utility costs exceed their budgets.”

Income is also a requirement to be in a Habitat home.

“Families must have enough monthly income to pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance and other living expenses,” said Drews. “Their income must also be enough to pay any current debt. In Huntingdon County ,the income limits for a family of four is between $31,000 and $50,000, before taxes are taken out. Minimum income for a family of two is $25,000 if there is no current debt. That’s about $500 income per week before taxes.”

Sweat equity is also a requirement for a family who is willing to partner with Huntingdon Area Habitat for Humanity for a home.

“Families in the Huntingdon chapter need to contribute 300 hours of sweat equity,” said Drews. “Friends and family members can help contribute construction hours. Sweat equity is a way to keep costs down, but is also a way to help families gain skills that can be used in home maintenance and it helps to develop a sense of pride in home ownership.

Volunteers, along with partners, usually meet at the renovation locations Saturday mornings.

“So you and your family need to have time to commit to working on your house,” said Drews, noting this particular renovation will not take long because the main body of work needs to be completed on the inside of the home.

“Because of the sweat equity requirement, and because this build will be faster than normal, we need to have a partner selected very soon. If a qualified partner is not found by that date, Habitat may consider selling the house on the open market,” he said.

Partner families are also assigned mentors during the process to help with budgeting, as needed.

“The mentor and families meet periodically as the house is being built to help them prepare to become homeowners, including preparing for and budgeting expenses that are associated with homeownership,” said Drews.

If anyone is interested in becoming a partner with Huntingdon Area Habitat for Humanity, they can contact them by calling and leaving a message at 386-7265 or sending them an email at huntingdonhabitat@yahoo.com.

Also, if anyone is willing to donate to Huntingdon Area Habitat for Humanity with this project or any future project, they can contact them at the same email and phone number.

HASD members get grant update

The Huntingdon Area School Board, during its monthly meeting Monday, heard of a new grant received and an addition to one of the high school’s extracurricular organizations.

Director of education Kim Rieffannacht reported that the school district has received a PA Smart Grant for improved computer science education.

“I was just notified today that we did receive the PA Smart Grant to continue growth in computer science. So we’re going to begin that curriculum process and scheduling process for the high school,” she said.

The grant was written for $34,985.

“We were awarded that amount to outfit a computer science coding room at the high school. So we’re pretty excited about that moving forward,” she said.

The board approved a motion for four students from the Juniata Valley color guard competition team to join the Huntingdon team.

Board member Tammy Peterson provided the details.

“They’re coming to us,” she said. “About four or five years ago we had an agreement with them that their kids came here. Two years ago they decided to go out on their own. They tried it. Unfortunately, last week their program fell apart. There were several that were brand new that we chose not to bring in because competition starts in two weeks. We agreed to bring in four students who have several outdoor and indoor seasons with them so they know how to twirl and spin.”

The move is fully booster funded.

One of the stipulations of the agreement is that the program will remain together heading into the future.

Peterson was also nominated and a motion was accepted to make her the school district’s liaison to the Pennsylvania School Board Association.

Huntingdon Area Middle School principal Nick Payne spoke about a recent staff training and the opening of a student-led project.

“Today we had an active intruder training with officer McBride that went exceptionally well with the middle school staff,” he said.

Rachel’s Closet, a free used clothing and apparel boutique, has had a successful opening at the middle school.

“It opened last Tuesday. I saw kids going in and out and actually taking bags out with different apparel and clothing. It’s amazing,” said Payne.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

Expert advises on preventing falls

Winter weather brings icy roads and the need for increased caution on the road, however, icy walkways pose just as much of a danger for those on foot.

Adam Landrin, clinic director at Drayer Physical Therapy, Smithfield Township, believes icy walkways threaten elderly residents the most. However, everyone should remain aware of the risks.

“What should be kept in mind is that, as we get older, our bodies become weaker and more fragile,” Landrin said. “Elderly folks should be especially careful on any walkway or sidewalk during the wintertime. They are our focus, as they can’t recover from falls as easily as others. But even so, everyone can potentially get hurt. People should be well aware of that fact.”

Injuries someone can incur range depending on many things.

“There is a certain range of injuries everyone can get,” Landrin said. “This can be anywhere from bumps and bruises to head injuries and sprains and fractures. We’ve seen people end up with concussions, too.”

Falls can be prevented by several means. The simplest of these means is the purchase of traction devices.

“Traction devices are products that attach to the bottoms of shoes and provide extra grip on snow and ice,” Landrin said. “Some people at our facility who enjoy running own a pair of the devices I’ve already described. Most of these products will run people around $20 and are available at major department stores and online retailers like Amazon. I would recommend them.”

Changing how one walks can also aid traction.

“It’s best to avoid normal-size strides when walking across icy surfaces,” Landrin said. “It helps to take smaller steps, or even shuffle, and walk slowly. This will allow for better control when you can’t get traction.”

But, most of all, Landrin believes fall prevention begins with positive lifestyle changes.

Many who already struggle to maintain their balance should perform exercises that help to better it.

“Prevention begins, I think, with making adequate changes to your lifestyle if needed,” Landrin said. “Those who struggle to maintain their balance, elderly folks especially, should regularly perform exercises or activities that help balance. We often tailor a regime to suit our patients, but there are plenty of simple ones that can be done in the home: standing on tiptoes at a counter, sitting down and standing up at a chair. There are many more that people can look up online if they’d like.”

These exercises can benefit those not already struggling to maintain balance, as well.

“It’s definitely not a requirement to do these, but it never hurts to test your balance, regardless of who you are or what stage of your life you’re in,” Landrin said. “It’s a great step to living a healthy and safe lifestyle.”

Joshua can be reached at jblattenberger@huntingdondailynews.com.