Project Independence receives welcome donation from Hannaford

Gift to support purchase of groceries

Hannaford donation to Project Independence

Pictured from left: Hannaford store manager Jeannette Segale, Project Independence chef Pam, participants Paul, Diana, John and Project Independence executive director Dee Rollins.

Hannaford Supermarket in South Barre recently presented Project Independence with a much welcomed donation. Totaling $1,500 in gift certificates, the gift will be used to offset the cost of groceries for the program which provides a daily breakfast, lunch and snack for roughly 38 participants.

The supermarket chain, which operates in five northeast states, continually supports regional and local non-profit organizations. Recently six of Vermont’s fourteen Hannaford stores conducted a milk drive in conjunction with the Vermont Foodbank. When store manager Jeannette Segale asked her department managers what non-profit the South Barre store should contribute to, the adult day program was at the top of their list.

“We have so much respect for what Project Independence does, for the care they give our elders. We wanted to recognize that,” says Seagle. “We’re always looking for a way to give back to the community.”

For a company whose core business is food, their involvement with the adult day program is one of mutual support. The two have shared a long and satisfying relationship, with the program purchasing the bulk of their groceries from the supermarket, many of which are funded through the center’s Adopt-a-Grocery Week program. Started in 2013, the program is a fundraising effort in which donors can sponsor an entire week’s worth of groceries. Since its inception, it has raised over $7,000 to defray the cost of food.

“Hannaford has been a partner of Project Independence for many years and many of our participant’s families shop there,” says Project Independence director Dee Rollins. “Hannaford truly understands the needs of our elders and supports us with all their hearts in providing the services our participants receive. We are very thankful for their support.”

Partnerships such as the one with Hannaford, along with the Vermont Foodbank, ensure the center maintains its commitment to providing healthy, fresh and delicious home style meals for their participants.

Rollins also noted that Hannaford is not only an excellent partner when it comes to feeding their participants; they are supportive of the program as a whole. Recently they shared with Rollins how they’re just as excited about the recent merger with Gifford as Project Independence is. It’s a merger that secures the future of the organization’s continued care of area elders.

For more information on the Adopt-a-Grocery Week program, please call Project Independence at (802) 476-3630.

Gifford and Project Independence merger official

Two organizations solidify commitment
to the care of area seniors

Dee Rollins and Linda Minsinger

Project Independence executive director Dee Rollins joins ribbons with Linda Minsinger, Executive Director of Gifford Retirement Community.

On September 30th, Project Independence and Gifford Retirement Community, part of Gifford Health Care in Randolph, officially merged in a ceremony and celebration held at the Barre-based adult day program.

The ribbon joining ceremony was attended by representatives from both organizations, participants and their families, dignitaries, and special guests, including Project Independence founder Lindsey Wade.

The merger comes after years of struggle for the independent adult care program, Vermont’s oldest, which faced flood recovery efforts in 2011 in addition to other facility issues and financial woes.

“It is very hard in these changing times in health care for a stand-alone nonprofit to make ends meet,” says Project Independence executive director Dee Rollins. “Merging with Gifford allows us to be off the island with more supports and resources so we can grow our services for our elders and caregivers. Gifford is the right and best partner Project Independence could imagine.”

While still responsible for their own bottom line and fundraising efforts, Project Independence now has the resources and backing of the financially stable Gifford to help maintain ongoing services.

Joe Woodin, Dee Rollins and Steve Koenemann

Gifford CEO Joe Woodin officially welcomes Project Independence to the Gifford family, shaking hands with board president Steve Koenemann and executive director Dee Rollins.

And the center is already experiencing the benefits of being part of a larger organization through savings in expenses and access to a wider range of resources.

For example, Project Independence is now able to utilize purchase point buying for a savings on supplies and groceries while also benefiting from the services of established Gifford departments such as billing, payroll, human resources, marketing, and others.

For Gifford, the merge is an opportunity to expand on its commitment to the region’s seniors. Already home to an award-winning nursing home and a successful adult day program located in Bethel, Gifford has a strong foundation in caring for the aging.

It’s a foundation they are building upon with the creation of a senior living community in Randolph Center. This new community will include a nursing home, assisted living and independent living units.

Construction on the campus began this past spring with work focusing on infrastructure and the building of a new Menig Extended Care facility, the 30-bed nursing home currently connected to the main hospital.

Current Menig residents are expected to transition to the new facility when construction is completed in the spring of 2015, a time that will also see the ground breaking of the first independent living facility.

Project Independence Finds New Life in Gifford

Project Independence

Project Independence participants, from left, Marie, Diana and Kathy dance to singing and music by a visiting Chris Beltrami (not shown).

BARRE – The state’s first adult day center, Project Independence, got its start in Barre in 1975 when a nursing home activity director, Lindsey Wade, recognized an opportunity to do things better and more cost effectively.

Wade encountered nursing home residents who didn’t seem to medically belong there. Others were visiting the nursing home daily for the social interaction. Wade had an idea. The area needed an adult day care and not a medical model adult day, but a social model – something that didn’t exist anywhere else in the country.

An active board and an interested city brought to life Project Independence on Washington Street and in the decades since, its model has not only flourished but expanded statewide. There are currently 14 adult day programs in Vermont.

Project Independence

Project Independence Executive Director Dee Rollins visits with participants, from left, Flo, Gail, Beverly and Shirley as they wait to be served a home-cooked lunch that included baked macaroni and cheese and flavorful carrots.

Today’s Project Independence serves 23 towns in Washington and northern Orange counties, welcoming an average 38 seniors and the disabled each weekday. The project includes meals, showers, medication management and ample activities, allowing them a fun and safe day care experience while also allowing them to stay at home – a far more affordable model than nursing home care.

But statewide adult days are struggling. Funding available for adult days almost guarantees failure. “The Adult Day financial model is not a successful one,” says Project Independence Executive Director Dee Rollins. “It’s a continued struggle to support our model.”

And Project Independence has had some recent extra hurdles.

It bought a North Main Street location and moved in 2010. Less than a year later, in May of 2011, the building flooded during a period of torrential rains that had storm water draining through a bulkhead into the building’s basement causing $295,000 in damages and losses. The following summer a sewer hookup issue during Barre’s “Big Dig” caused backups and additional damages and losses.

Project Independence

Gifford licensed nursing assistant Penny Severance helps Project Independence participant, Maddie, to her table for lunch.

Between those losses and looming health care reform that promises changes to health care funding and encourages health care relationships, small, standalone Project Independence began looking for help in the form of a partner. It found it in Gifford Health Care in Randolph.

A merger
Project Independence of Barre and the Gifford Retirement Community, part of Gifford Health Care in Randolph, will merge at the conclusion of Gifford’s fiscal year on Sept. 30. Boards for the two nonprofit organizations unanimously agreed to the merger in May after studying the relationship for more than a year.

It will be a full asset merger with Project Independence retaining its name, location and fund-raising dollars. Project Independence’s board will become an advisory board to provide local perspective and experience, and employees will become part of Gifford, opening the door to enhanced benefits. Project Independence will benefit from Gifford’s staff, from financial to billing to nursing help, as well as its buying power as a larger organization.

For Project Independence it is an opportunity for financial stability and more amidst what have been a stormy couple of years and the projected financial changes under health care reform. For Gifford, it is an opportunity to further its work to support seniors and to partner with a reputable organization.

“It’s the right thing. It’s the right match. We have the right partner,” says Rollins, who was drawn to Gifford because it has its own adult day, the Gifford Adult Day Program in Bethel, shares a mission of supporting seniors and because of the Randolph hospital’s commitment to community.

Project Independence

Tammy Mattote, left, a licensed nursing assistant at Project Independence in Barre, serves participant Joanne lunch.

Gifford is currently building a senior living community in Randolph Center that will include a new nursing home and independent and assisted living units after seeing a need in the community for these services.

The Randolph medical center also already has services in the Barre area in the form of a health center off the Airport Road in Berlin. The Gifford Health Center at Berlin is home to family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, infectious disease, midwifery, orthopedics, podiatry, neurology and urology services.

“The combination of the two of us makes a lot of common sense and a lot of business sense,” Project Independence Board Chairman Steve Koenemann said, calling his board’s vote a very easy one to make and the plan “a no-lose proposition.”

“The goal is try to see the program grow,” Koenemann said. “We don’t want to change Project Independence. It has nearly 40 years of experience and reputation serving that community that’s not something that you want to back away from.”

“It’s not taking away anything from Project. It’s all additions,” added Rollins.

Gifford employees have already been providing support to Project Independence over the last year as the two organizations have carefully studied a merger.

Project Independence

Project Independence staff pose in front of the North Main Street adult day center in Barre. The center will merge with Gifford Health Care in Randolph this fall.

“When someone has a humble request for help as it relates to the delivery of health care services, we take that seriously,” said Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin, praising Project Independence’s board, values, volunteers and hardworking team. “For us, that’s extraordinarily appealing and we’re thankful that they’ve asked us.”

“We feel this is an honor that they asked,” agreed Linda Minsinger, Gifford Retirement Community executive director. “This is the right thing to do. It’s really important that these participants have a place that will carry on.”

Joining with Project Independence is in keeping with Gifford’s mission and providing support to a needed service that will no doubt grow as the state looks for more affordable ways to care for a growing senior population, said Gifford Board Chairman Gus Meyer.

“When you’re a very small organization, you don’t have the staff to do all of the different things to be done. It’s extremely difficult and it’s extremely draining to make an organization of that size successful. They’ve done a great job of keeping their organization alive in the face of huge challenges and at the same time provided a great service,” Meyer said. “A larger organization is much more able to absorb things that just come up. If there’s some facilities’ damage, it doesn’t become devastating.”

That is a scenario that has Project Independence breathing a sigh of relief.

“We are just all so encouraged. This just brings a true breath of fresh hope,” Rollins said. “We’re dancing in the streets.”

Well, maybe in the living room.

Project Independence participants – most of whom think of their home away from home as “the club” not an adult day center – let up a cheer upon hearing the news from Rollins that “the club” would merge with Gifford.

Staff members, who have been part of what have been very transparent discussions, were equally enthusiastic.

Cook Pam Bresette of South Barre said, “I think it’s going to be fabulous.”

Office Administrator Sue Catto of Barre took her job a year ago knowing positive changes were coming.

Licensed nursing assistant Amanda Koledo of Barre hopes to go to nursing school. Gifford provides tuition reimbursement.

Koledo has worked at Project Independence for six years. “I think it’s so exciting,” she said. “We’re on an island and we’ll now have life jackets.”

Experienced Nurse Leader Alison White Joins Gifford

Alison White

Alison White

Experienced nurse leader Alison White has joined Gifford Medical Center as its vice president of patient care services – a role that oversees the Hospital Division, including inpatient care, the Birthing Center, ob/gyn and midwifery practice, Emergency Department, nursing home and Adult Day Program.

A graduate of the bachelor’s degree nursing program at the University of Vermont and the master’s degree health care administration program at Independence University in Utah, White has spent her career in nursing and then nurse leadership.

Her nursing career focused on cardiac and dialysis patients – populations she loved because of the relationships formed with patients. “They grow to be your family,” she says.

White went on to serve as director of care management at Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC), the director of regional care management and quality improvement for the Dartmouth Hitchcock Alliance, the director of clinical outcomes at CVMC and most recently vice president of quality, chief nursing officer and patient safety office at the Berlin-based hospital.

A motorcycle accident in August that nearly took her life left White reevaluating her priorities, however. She was seeking a better work/life balance, and says she has found that at Gifford.

“I felt like I hit the jackpot,” says White, who joined Gifford earlier this year. “The people are so open and warm and helpful and genuine, really genuine. Team comes through. It has a feeling of family. It doesn’t have a feeling of ‘corporateness,’ but at the end of the day the job gets done.

“I’m just so grateful to be here. I look forward every day to coming in.”

White succeeds Linda Minsinger, a long-time vice president who has transitioned to a new role: executive director of Gifford’s retirement community that will soon be under construction in Randolph Center and requires substantial planning.

“I think Alison is a great opportunity for Gifford’s Hospital Division. She comes with expanded current knowledge in the health care field and quality. I feel she will provide the staff and leaders with a new and different view of their roles,” says Minsinger, who is equally enthusiastic about her new role, which in part develops not just a community, but a culture “to ensure the residents and staff are happy and enjoy all the activities and opportunities that are offered.”

White lives in Barre with her husband Paul, a Vermont State Police captain. They have two children, Catie, 21, and Jeffrey, 18. White enjoys photography, volunteering at her church, serving on the Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice board and traveling in her free time.

Year in Review – Part 4

Our 2012 Annual Report included a month-by-month “Year in Review” section. Here is the fourth quarter excerpt.

OCTOBER

Food choices in the Gifford cafeteria get even healthier as the hospital transitions to a healthy breakfast bar; healthier, lower salt meats; less butter and heavy cream in foods; and more grains and legumes as starches.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott stops at Gifford on his “Cycling Vermont’s 14″ 500-mile bicycle tour of the state’s 14 counties. He tours Menig as part of his stop.

Dr. Josh Plavin, a National Health Service Corps scholarship recipient, speaks out for the federal program supporting primary care providers on Corps Community Day on Oct. 11, and for the need for more primary care providers, especially in rural regions.

Two local women, Krista Warner and Teresa Bradley, organize a bowling tournament in support of Gifford’s Woman to Woman fund and raise $1,485 for breast cancer awareness.

The CT scanner is upgraded from a 40-slice model to a 64-slice model, offering patients faster service, clearer imaging, and less radiation.

NOVEMBER

A new system, a CAREpoint Workstation, for transmitting EKGs from ambulances in the field to the Gifford Emergency Department is brought online. The system, generously paid for by the Gifford Auxiliary, is for use with heart attack patients to determine if they should be brought to Gifford or directly to a cardiac catheterization lab at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center or Fletcher Allen Health Care.

Stuff a TruckMenig residents work with school children from the Baptist Fellowship of Randolph to create 100 boxes of gifts for children in Third World countries through Operation Christmas Child.

Working with Connor Contracting Inc., Gifford staff and community members Stuff a Truck for Hurricane Sandy survivors in the Rockaway neighborhood of Long Island, New York.

The first patient is seen in the Radiology Department’s new fluoroscopy room. The room is utilized for interventional radiology procedures, which have grown in number.

Great American Smoke OutAll Gifford grounds go smoke-free in concert with the Great American Smoke Out on Nov. 15.

Gifford’s Annual Craft Fair raises funds for the Adult Day Program.

Married couple Elvira Dana and Jason Kass travel 36 hours from their home in Armenia to give birth at Gifford, for a second time.

Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire, the Vermont Ethics Network, and Gifford’s Advanced Illness Care team join together to offer a community discussion around end-of-life care planning. Other talks on death and dying continue at Gifford in the months that follow.

DECEMBER

Family physician Barbara Lazar joins Gifford, bringing a love of geriatrics to the Randolph team.

Chef Wendell Fowler leads a free talk on the pitfalls of the American diet. He suggests cutting the food additives, chemicals, hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup in favor of fresher, less-processed foods to improve our health.

Gifford once again supports the community through its holiday gift certificate program – a buy local program where employees receive “gift certificates” redeemable only at regional, locally-owned businesses.

Menig Once Again Ranked Among Nation’s Best!

Gifford Medical Center

From left, Menig Extended Care Facility licensed nursing assistants Loretta Cushing and Darlene Doyle and licensed practical nurse Anne Murphy gather around nursing home resident Della Allen, 99, on Wednesday. The nursing home at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph was recognized among the nation’s 2013 Best Nursing Homes.

RANDOLPH – For a third consecutive year, the Menig Extended Care Facility at Gifford Medical Center has been named among the nation’s very best nursing homes by U.S. News & World Report.

Looking at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data regarding health inspection, level of nursing staffing and quality of care for nearly 16,000 nursing homes nationwide, U.S. News & World created and released a “2013 Best Nursing Homes” list on Tuesday. Menig, along with seven other Vermont nursing homes, made the list for its “five-star” (the maximum available) rating.

Menig was also recognized in 2011 and 2012 and was named among the top 39 nursing homes in the nation last year.

“I am so proud of the Menig staff. We work in a place that is clean, well maintained, has great food and a dedicated pool of volunteers who love the elderly. Varied activities keep the residents’ quality of life high. This teamwork and our nursing staff’s commitment to care are what make Menig such a high-quality home,” said Cindy Richardson, Menig director of nursing. “This honor is wonderful recognition of the work we do on behalf of our residents every day.”

The U.S. News list is created to help consumers find quality nursing home care. Homes are given between one and five stars in the rankings.

“Fewer than one out of every five nursing homes got an overall rating of five stars,” said Avery Comarow, U.S. News health rankings editor. “All seniors deserve the best nursing care available, and these are homes that merit their consideration by demonstrating such high quality.”

Menig is a 30-bed nursing home attached to Gifford Medical Center in Randolph. The medical center is currently amid the permitting process to move the nursing to Randolph Center where it would become the anchor of a senior living community. The new community would include independent and assisted living as well, helping to meet a significant community need for more senior care and living options. The move would also free up space at Gifford to create industry-standard single inpatient rooms (rather than shared two-person rooms) for patient safety and privacy.

Learn more about the nursing home rankings here. Also, you can learn more about Menig online at www.giffordmed.org.

 

Gifford Craft Fair Nov. 16 and 17

craft fairMark your calendars: Gifford Medical Center’s Annual Craft Fair in support of the hospital’s Adult Day Program is coming Nov. 16 and 17.

The Craft Fair – now in its 17th year – takes place in the hospital’s Conference Center, hallways, spacious visitors’ entrance and the adjoining Menig Extended Care Facility’s large living room from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16 and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17.

The fair is an opportunity to start your holiday shopping while also supporting a worthy cause: Gifford Adult Day Program activities.

Adult Day provides safe day care, personal hygiene help, medication administration, healthy meals, activities and socialization to the elderly and disabled below the Bethel Health Center on Route 107.

The fair also supports our local craftspeople.

Items for sale will include handcrafted jewelry, homemade baked goods and foods, woodcrafts, quilting, homemade pillows, hand painted Christmas ornaments, and more made by area crafters.

The fair is open to the public and all are welcome.

Vendor space is still available, although vendors signing up now must supply their own table. Call organizer Bonnie Pettit at 763-8828 to become a vendor or learn more.

Gifford is on Route 12 south of Randolph village at 44 S. Main St. The Conference Center entrance is just off from the patient parking area and is marked. The handicapped-accessible visitors’ entrance, where crafts are also expected to be on display, is on the southern end of the hospital. Signs will also help guide you.