Two organizations solidify commitment
to the care of area seniors
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.
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.
President Joseph Woodin and CFO Jeff Hebert announce via video that Gifford closed the books with a 3.2% margin for the 2014 fiscal year.
In a feat that has not been replicated by any other hospital in Vermont, Gifford Medical Center announced that it has achieved its state-approved operating margin for the 15th straight year, by managing its expenses and the budget process.
In a “reality TV” video announcement sent to staff on Monday, November 3, President Joseph Woodin and CFO Jeff Hebert announced what auditors have confirmed – Gifford closed the books with a 3.2% margin for the 2014 fiscal year.
“This is all thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff,” said Woodin. “Without their diligent focus, always trying to manage quality and costs, we would not be able to have accomplished this.”
An operating margin is the money the medical center makes above expenses – needed to reinvest in programs, staff and facilities. Sixteen years ago, Gifford ended the fiscal year with a negative 16% margin ($2.9 million loss), after having lost money 4 out of 5 years. At that time, the future of the hospital was uncertain, with some state officials even asking if the hospital should be closed.
Today, Gifford is known as one of the most successful and innovative hospital and health care organizations in New England. They are designated a CAH (Critical Access Hospital), as well as an FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center); one of only three in the nation to carry that dual designation. They also operate a nursing home (Menig) that is rated one of the top 1% in U.S., and are currently constructing the first phase of a five-phase senior living community in Randolph Center, VT.
Consistently achieving the operating margin can be an indicator of an organization’s success. Despite record shortfalls in revenue for Vermont hospitals, including Gifford, Woodin noted the medical center was able to make up for revenue shortfalls through managing expenses and due to support from federal programs like 340B, a drug pricing program that in part generates revenue when Gifford patients fill non-generic, non-narcotic prescriptions at participating pharmacies.
“This news is exciting for Gifford and for the community,” said Woodin. “It is an indicator of Gifford’s health as a medical center, community organization, and employer. Primarily it means we’re stable, and we’re able to provide consistent care and services without facing cuts and uncertainty.”
The achievement is especially remarkable within the current economic climate and amid so many changes in health care, hospital officials also noted.
The White River Valley Chamber of Commerce and Gifford Medical Center are collaborating to bring a local candidates’ debate to Randolph on Tuesday, Oct. 21.
Invited to the debate are Orange County senate candidates and candidates vying for two different House of Representative districts.
In the Senate race are Mark MacDonald, the Democratic incumbent, and challenger Robert Frenier, a Republican. One seat is up for grabs.
MacDonald of Williamstown is a farmer and former teacher who served a term in the Senate in the 1990s and has then held the post since 2003. Frenier is a Chelsea business owner.
Orange-Washington-Addison state representatives Patsy French and Marjorie Ryerson, both Democrats from Randolph, are facing Republican challenger Charlie Russell of Randolph Center. Two seats serving the towns of Roxbury, Granville, Brookfield, Braintree, and Randolph are on the ballot.
French has served since 2003 and is a former teacher and co-manager of rental property with her husband. Ryerson, a poet, writer and editor, was appointed by the governor a year ago following the death of former Rep. Larry Townsend. A former dairy farmer, Russell is running a write-in campaign.
In the Orange-Windsor-1 district, incumbent Democrat Sarah Buxton is facing Republican David Ainsworth, a Royalton dairy farmer who held the seat from 2007-2010. Buxton of Tunbridge, a regional coordinator for the Building Bright Futures Council, has filled the seat since 2011 – twice before beating Ainsworth in incredibly narrow races, including one election that was decided by just one vote. The lone seat represents Royalton and Tunbridge.
Buxton is trying to rearrange her work schedule to attend. All other candidates have confirmed they will be attendance.
Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin will serve as moderator for the debate and Chamber Director Emma Schumann will assist him.
The event starts at 6 p.m. Those in attendance are invited to submit questions and enjoy refreshments from 6-6:30 p.m. The debate will be from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Route 12 hospital’s Conference Center. In addition to audience members’ questions, the debate is expected to focus on business and health care.
“Our state representatives and senator are our voices in Montpelier. As we near the election, it is important to give these individuals who are striving to represent us a chance to share their views and tell us why we should choose them on Nov. 4,” said Schumann. “We hope our communities’ members turn out to ask questions and hear our candidates’ positions on important local and state issues.”
This is the first – and possibly only – debate the candidates will face in Randolph.
The medical center is located at 44 S. Main St. in Randolph. The Conference Center is marked with a green awning. For handicapped accessibility, use the main entrance and take the elevator to the first floor.
Jan Rogers of Williamstown used colored pencils to depict this Brookfield barn. The barn is no longer in use and she has consequently titled the piece “Brookfield’s Past.” It is part of her display in the Gifford Medical Center art gallery in Randolph. (Provided)
Williamstown artist Jan Rogers’ drawings and photography are featured in the Gifford Medical Center art gallery now through Oct. 29.
Working under the name “X-pressions by Jan,” Rogers uses colored pencil, graphite, mixed media and photography to show primarily nature.
“Most of my work is done in the fine line drawing method using a soft touch, subtle elimination of lines and acute attention to detail,” says Rogers. “These skills can turn a drawing into a painting.”
Pheasants sit upon a broken down piece of farm equipment in “Country Freedom” – part of a new show at the Gifford Medical Center art gallery by Jan Rogers of Williamstown. (Provided)
Rogers uses various sizes of compressed paper stumps to apply graphite, pastel and colored pencil to Bristol board, mat board, and pastel and vellum papers. Values, tones and textures are constructed by drawing and blending to create depth and shading, resulting in a combination of lights and darks making the works almost “photo realistic.”
“Graphite is my choice of medium because of the detail that can be achieved,” Rogers adds, noting that she uses pastel and colored pencil with some of her graphite works to enhance a single area.
“Nocturnal Wisdom” features an owl perched on a slim tree branch. The piece is part of Williamstown artist Jan Rogers’ current show in the Gifford Medical Center art gallery in Randolph. (Provided)
Rogers has been drawing and painting most of her life. She attended workshops at the Ashton Art Institute in Connecticut on fine line drawing, and works out of a home studio on commissions and inspirations for upcoming shows.
Her paintings have been exhibited in galleries and shows in Connecticut, Arizona, California and Vermont, where she is a member of the Paletteers art group and also currently has her works on display at the White River Craft Center in Randolph. She additionally designs one-of-a-kind notecards that are sold in Gifford’s Garden Gate Gift Shop.
Her show at Gifford is free and open to the public. Works can be purchased in the hospital’s Garden Gate Gift Shop.
The Gifford Gallery is located just inside the hospital’s main entrance at 44 S. Main St. (Route 12) in Randolph. The Gift Shop is on the south end of the hospital near the entrance to the nursing home and Birthing Center.
“Untitled in Blues” is among Randolph artist Erica Sears’ works now in the Gifford gallery.
Three panels stretch from floor to ceiling. A painted image of a woman on sandstone is just inches tall.
Renowned local artist Erica Sears’ works are in the Gifford Gallery in a month-long show that does not disappoint.
Sears is a Randolph native who graduated from Randolph Union High School in 1985. She went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles, where she lived for 15 years before returning to Randolph in 2000.
She has previously shown her work in Los Angeles and throughout this region at Chandler, First Light Studios, Gifford years ago, in Bethel and currently at the White River Craft Center. Three panels also hang in the upper Ester Mesh Gallery at Chandler as part of its permanent collection.
Sears, who has had a varied career, including making, selling and teaching art for 25 years, has a studio in her home and works full-time at Gifford in the Food and Nutrition Services Department.
“My art is how I express, celebrate, explain or push through what happens in my life. Many different things inspire me, influence me, call to me. Each piece is a visual page in my journal. Each idea that needs to be expressed has its own medium that tells the story. Some in paint, some in clay, cloth, pastel, ink, metal or rock. “
Her Gifford show includes 10 pieces, including “garlic moon,” which is made of garlic skins, coated in gloss and set upon a painted block of wood. The three long panels took about two years to create. Wax, birch bark, oil pastel, pencil, ink and charcoal make up other works. “Untitled in Blues” and “Untitled in Reds” – acrylics on canvas – are more recent works.
“I am a very tactile artist,” Sears notes. “I love color and texture. I love all mediums. I love watching how the images take shape. I love watching people interact with the pieces. The conversations that happen between the viewer and the piece are amazing.”
Interact with Sears’ work at Gifford now through Sept. 24. The gallery is located just inside the main entrance of the South Main Street medical center.
On display as part of the final concert of the summer at Gifford on Tuesday will be the Randolph Center Fire Department’s new rescue tanker, pictured here in front of the Randolph Center station. The fire department is also putting on a community barbecue. All events start at 6 p.m.
Gifford and the White River Valley Chamber of Commerce community concert series ends Aug. 26 with a special performance from Jeanne & The Hi-Tops and a special barbecue from the Randolph Center Fire Department.
Firefighters from the volunteer department will be grilling up and selling hamburgers and hotdogs while Jeanne & The Hi-Tops perform old time rock and roll. Both events start at 6 p.m.
Jeanne & The Hi-Tops is a six-member band from central Vermont that first came together in the early 1990s. Their musical journey has led them down many alleys of inspiration, including New Orleans funk, Memphis soul, Kansas City swing, Chicago blues, Tex-Mex, reggae and the swamp-pop/zydeco sounds of the Louisiana bayou. Today, the group describes its style as driving rhythms and good-natured grooves.
The band includes lead vocalist Jeanne McCullough, guitarists Cannon Labrie and Terry Cantlin, horn player and MC Jack Kruse, David Indenbaum on bass and Michael Bradshaw on drums.
While the band gets its groove on, the fire department will also have its new rescue tanker on hand for children and people of all ages to see and sit in. The department took delivery of the 2013 International on May 1. It holds 1,800 gallons of water plus rescue tools, such as the jaws of life. The tools are pre-connected and stored in the front bumper for quick access and quick help in an emergency.
The firefighters noted they will also have gear on hand for spectators to see.
Money raised at the barbecue will go to the department’s fireman’s fund, said Chief Ken Preston.
“Benefits from these sales will go toward purchasing equipment that we couldn’t otherwise afford,” Preston said.
The community concert series in the park at Gifford is sponsored by Gillespie Fuels and Propane, the Frankenburg Agency, and the Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary.
The concerts typically go until 7:30 p.m. and also feature a farmers market. Spectators are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or picnic table, an appetite, and family and friends. Learn more online at www.giffordmed.org or call (802) 728-2339.
Runners take off for the Last Mile Ride 5K and walk on Friday at Gifford in Randolph. (Provided/Janet Miller)
Fueled by compassion, 154 runners and walkers, 201 motorcyclists and 38 cyclists gathered at Gifford Medical Center on Friday and Saturday for the Last Mile Ride, raising $60,000 for area residents in life’s last mile.
Now in its ninth year, the Last Mile Ride has grown to a two-day event that includes a timed 5K, one-mile walk, 38-mile cycle ride and 80-mile motorcycle ride. The annual event raises money for Gifford patients in and out of the hospital who are in advanced illness or at the end of life. Money raised at the ride goes directly to help patients with comfort measures, provides financial support to patients and families, and grants special wishes.
Cyclists leave for the Last Mile Ride on Saturday. (Provided/Janet Miller)
This year marked both a record number of participants – 386 in total – and a record amount of money raised. It was also an event fraught with emotional highs and lows.
The event included a Harley-Davidson raffle. Cody Flanagan, 19, from Barre won the bike from Wilkins Harley-Davidson, but wasn’t there to receive it. He is in Afghanistan.
His father, Tim Flanagan, a respiratory therapist at Gifford, who bought two tickets in Cody’s name accepted on his behalf. The older Flanagan got out that his son was in Afghanistan before breaking down. He received a standing ovation.
Motorcyclists wind their way through central Vermont as part of the Last Mile Ride on Saturday. (Provided/Alison White)
“I was just ecstatic and overwhelmed for Cody,” Tim Flanagan said Monday. “I just felt it was a storybook kind of finish. It was meant to be.”
Cody, a medic airborne ranger, who graduated from Spaulding High School a year early, joined the U.S. Army two years ago at age 17. He has been in Afghanistan a month. His battalion just lost a member on Aug. 12 and has been on an emotional low.
Tim Flanagan called his son in Afghanistan from the ride to tell him he had won. It was around midnight there and he was exhausted, but excited. “He’s quite ecstatic. He’s thrilled,” said his father, noting it has been a morale booster for the unit.
The moment was reminiscent of the cause, which uplifts families in difficult situations.
Margaret Gish of Sharon races back toward Gifford in the fastest among a female at 20:49.7. (Provided/Janet Miller)
Robin Morgan spoke at the 5K and walk on Friday evening. She lost her step-father Michael Durkee to an aggressive cancer in May 2013. He spent his last days in the Garden Room – Gifford’s garden-side end-of-life care suite.
“Being in the Garden Room, we all got to be together. They were so supportive of us,” Morgan said. “They gave us food, (and) everything you can possibly imagine.”
Morgan and her family walked in the Last Mile last year and again this year. Morgan pushed her two young children in a double-stroller. “It (the Last Mile Ride) is a big part of my life now,” she said, before rushing to embrace her mom and Michael Durkee’s widow, Joan Durkee.
Last Mile walkers return to Gifford Friday evening. (Provided/Janet Miller)
Palliative care nurse John Young on Saturday at the motorcycle and cycle ride spoke of the privilege of working at a hospital that supports palliative care and how lucky the hospital is to have the community’s support.
Physician assistant Starr Strong remembered her friend Judy Alexander who was “an incredible nurse, wonderful friend and mother.” A “Harley chick” and past participant of the Last Mile Ride, Alexander died in April of cancer.
Her family received assistance from the Last Mile Ride fund.
Philip Tenney of Northfield walks over the finish line of the Last Mile Ride 5K. He came in last (1:00:14.0) but was first in many participants’ eyes. Three weeks earlier he had a lifesaving kidney transplant. (Provided/Alison White)
“It made her passing much richer because of the support from the Last Mile Ride,” Strong said, encouraging those present to recognize both the importance of their contribution “because you never know when it’s your turn” and to “celebrate life.”
The event also included the raffle of a bicycle from Green Mountain Bikes in Rochester. Richard Polarek, 88, from Brookfield won the bicycle. And a queen-size quilt made by Gifford nursing staff was won by motorcyclist Cherry Lloyd of Randolph.
Prizes were also given out for the events top fund-raisers and the top 5K finishers.
The fastest male finishers were Christopher Gish of Sharon (16:37.9), David Mattern of Tunbridge (18:47.6) and Zachery McDermott of Randolph (20:26.0). The fastest female finishers were Margaret Gish of Sharon (20:49.7), Becky Olmstead of Bethel (23:58:4) and Stacy Pelletier of Braintree (24:11.7). See a full list of race results online at www.begoodsports.com/race-results/.
The top 5K fund-raiser was Kyla Grace of Randolph and the top walk fund-raiser was Penny Maxfield of East Roxbury. The top cyclist fund-raiser was Cory Gould of Worcester. And the top motorcycle fund-raisers were Linda Chugkowski and Robert Martin of Northfield who collectively raised $4,000 for the cause and Reg Mongeur of Randolph who raised more than $3,500.
Mongeur spent many evenings at Shaw’s in Randolph collecting for the cause.
“I have the time and the desire,” said Mongeur of why he made the effort. “I’ve lost quite a few family members in the Garden Room and quite a few vets went through there.
“It’s just my way of giving back to the community,” said Mongeur, who also coordinated road guard efforts for the ride as a member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 26-2.
Runners, from front, Richard Kozlowski, Stacy Pelletier and Becky Olmstead race along Route 12 toward Beanville Road. (Provided/Alison White)
This year’s ride, he said, was “beautiful, absolutely gorgeous.” Riders returning it called it “the best.”
As top fund-raisers, Chugkowski and Martin won four Red Sox tickets and VIP tour of Fenway thanks to the generosity of the Red Sox and Froggy 100.9. Mongeur won four tickets to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway to see the Sylvania 300 thanks to the generosity of the Loudon, N.H., organization.
Many other prizes were given out, thanks to the generosity of local and regional businesses. The event also received record sponsorship support, including from major sponsors The Frankenburg Agency, Froggy 100.9, Lucky’s Trailer Sales, Northfield Savings Bank and Wilkins Harley-Davidson.
The 10th annual Last Mile Ride will be Aug. 14 and 15, 2015.
Sue Schoolcraft poses outside of her Randolph Center home with her latest Menig quilt and her sewing machine, which she even packs on vacations so Menig Extended Care Facility residents get their quilts as soon as possible. It takes her between two days to a month to create each quilt.
The Last Mile Ride this Friday and Saturday at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph is a lot of things to a lot of people.
For the residents of the Menig Extended Care Facility, it is a splash of color and warmth during the last years of life.
Sue Schoolcraft’s mother always sewed. She made Schoolcraft and her twin brothers’ clothes and winter wear on a tiny, portable General Electric machine. “Until I was married, she made clothes for me,” says Schoolcraft, who was born at the start of World War II and amid the Great Depression.
Sue Schoolcraft, who makes quilts for Menig residents thanks to funds raised each year at the Last Mile Ride, demonstrates a stitch.
Schoolcraft’s interest in quilting was born in high school in her native New York.
“I started probably right after high school. We had a history teacher and he would take us to museums and living history museums, and I saw all these quilts,” she says, recalling watching women quilting and then seeing a striking image of a Baltimore Album quilt in a magazine.
“It was beautiful. It just appealed to me,” says Schoolcraft.
A quilting book tops a small stack of reading materials in Sue Schoolcraft’s living room.
Her mom helped her get started and she worked on that quilt, her first, for years – through marriage, children and moves to Swanton, Vt., Sheldon Springs, Randolph, Fairfax and Braintree Hill before finally moving to Randolph Center more than 40 years ago.
In Vermont, Schoolcraft found a quilting community. She joined an East Bethel hand crafters group, made a second quilt for her daughter and eventually sold at craft fairs.
Menig resident Barb Reynolds’ quilt features bright greens. “I like the color of it and all the hard work that’s in it.” It is Barb’s first ever quilt, she says.
She was teaching a quilting class at her church in Randolph Center, the First Congregational Church of Randolph, when she saw an ad in the paper from the Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph looking for quilts for its 30 nursing home residents.
Schoolcraft, a stay-at-home mom and avid sewer, responded and put her four students to work.
“They had just opened up the new Menig center,” Schoolcraft recalls. “We suddenly needed 30 quilts. I was teaching a quilt class at the time and we started making quilts.
“And I just loved it and kept on.”
Menig resident Jean “Terry” Wilson loves her quilt’s colors, particularly the pink.
Today when a new resident moves in to Menig, 75-year-old Schoolcraft talks to the resident about his or her interests and likes, or receives this information from Menig staff, and gets to work herself making a personalized quilt.
One such quilt stands out in Schoolcraft’s memory. Her mother – that mother who taught her to sew – Dorothy Morack, lived at Menig during her final years.
“She wanted butterflies. So I found material,” Schoolcraft says. “It just made me happy to know that I was able to do something special for her after all the things she had done for me.”
A more recent quilt featured tractors, trees and a gambrel roof barn for a male resident.
Mertie Seymour likes flowers, so that is what her quilt at Menig features.
While each is different – be it butterflies or barns – there is one constant to the quilts that neatly adorn each resident’s bed. “I try to do quilts in bright and cheerful colors, especially with our long winters,” says Schoolcraft, who hopes to uplift the residents during what for most are their final years.
The work is supported by the Last Mile Ride, Gifford’s annual charity motorcycle ride, cycle ride, 5K and 1-mile walk, which raises money for free services for people in advanced illness or at the end-of-life.
For Schoolcraft, the work is “a labor of love.” Occasionally, she gets thank you notes and relishes in residents’ reactions. “’Look what I got! Look what I got!’” said one. “’This is for me?’ Did you make this for me?’” inquired another.
“It just brings me happiness and joy to do this. It has many different aspects. It’s giving back to the community that has been so good to us,” she says of herself and husband Ron. “It connects us to people.”
The Last Mile Ride 5K run and one-mile walk is Friday. A 38-mile cycle ride and 79-mile motorcycle ride is being held on Saturday. The events raise money for special services for those in life’s last mile. Those services include alternative therapies such as massage and music therapy; food for families staying in Gifford’s Garden Room for end-of-life patients; professional family photos; family grants; gas cards to doctors’ appointments; and special family requests, such as a family trip to a Red Sox game, a flight to be at a loved one’s side, a handicapped ramp, or other small home improvements.
Log on to www.giffordmed.org or call 728-2284 to learn more. Participants can register on the day of the event.
Gifford Medical Center and the White River Valley Chamber of Commerce have been partnering all summer to offer a free Tuesday concert series to the community.
On July 29 Stagecoach Transportation Services Inc. joins the effort with a special community barbecue to accompany music by the renowned Dave Keller Band, a Vermont blues and soul group followed around the region and beyond.
Both the barbecue and free concert start at 6 p.m. The barbecue is “by donation” and Stagecoach’s thank you to the community for its support.
Stagecoach recently completed a $40,000 fund-raising campaign to meet its fiscal year 2014 budget.
“We are so appreciative of this community’s generosity in helping us end the year in the black as well as their ongoing support,” said Stagecoach Executive Director Jim Moulton. “This gathering will be a wonderful time to celebrate community spirit.”
Donations from the July 29 barbecue will go toward Stagecoach’s new fiscal year budgetary goals. Stagecoach staff and volunteer board members will be on hand to share information about the local non-profit community transportation provider and its services. A bus will also be onsite for community members to climb aboard and view.
The celebration also includes the concert series’ weekly farmers’ market.
Spectators are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or picnic blanket, and family and friends.
The concerts continue Tuesdays at 6 p.m. with bluegrass from The Trail Blaizers on Aug. 5 and then Two for the Show & Company on Aug. 12 playing song standards and classics.
Now in its third year, the 2014 Community Concert Series is sponsored by Gillespie Fuels and Propane, the Frankenburg Agency and the Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary.
The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.
At this year’s annual Employee Awards Banquet, the following employees were honored for their years of dedication and service to Gifford and its patients.
(Employees are honored on their 5-, 10-, 15-, etc., year anniversaries.)