Randolph Artist Erica Sears Brings Unique Talent to Hometown Hospital

Randolph artist Erica Sears

“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.

Concerts Conclude with Jeanne & The Hi-Tops, Randolph Center Fire Department Barbecue

Randolph Center fire truck

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.

Last Mile Ride Raises $60,000

Last Mile Ride

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.

Last Mile Ride

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.

Last Mile Ride

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.

Last Mile Ride

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 Ride

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.

Last Mile Ride

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/.

Last Mile Ride

Smiling motorcyclist

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.

Last Mile Ride

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.

‘A Labor of Love’

Sue Schoolcraft

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

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.

Sue 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.

Sue Schoolcraft

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.”

Sue Schoolcraft

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.

Sue Schoolcraft

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.

July 29 Dave Keller Concert Features Barbecue by Stagecoach

Stagecoach community barbecueGifford 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.

Employee Anniversaries

The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.

employee awards banquetAt 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.)

5 years
Jenell Archer
Angela Bailey
Christie Blodgett
Elizabeth Britch
Sheri Brown
Kristine Day
Peggy Eaccarino
Kate Fellows
Angela Fletcher
Ginny Giles
Jan Giles
Cindy Gurdak
Vera Jones
Brittany Kelton
Sarah Larmie
Laura Larrabee
Peter Loescher
Heidi McClellan
Melinda Mercier
Jamie Miller
Kim Nelson
Shane Parks
Kathleen Riley
Fern Rogers
Brian Sargent
Megan Sault
Joel Schumacher
Jackie Sprague
Melissa Thayer
Scott Warren
Lisa Woods

10 years
Julie Arms
Gail Bourassa
Patrice Conard
Cindy Duval
James Kirkpatrick
Judy Libby
Terry MacDougal
Joe Pelletier
Dan Pritchard
Rob Rinaldi
Sandi Standish

15 years
Kim Connolly
Donna Ferris
Tara Fitzpatrick
Ronda Flaherty
Tina Grant
Beryl McPhetres
Michele Packard
Kim Summers

20 years
Tom Carter
Darlene Doyle
Marc Fournier
Rosalie Knowles
Kevin McNamara
Deanna Mitchell
Sue Molinario
Melanie Munyon
Bonnie Pettit
Karen Sargent
Starr Strong

25 years
Bonnie Hervieux-Woodbury
Kathy MacAskill
Pam Overstrom
Gail Proctor
Laudell Slack

35 years
Marcia Eaton
Karen Lagro

40 years
Maureen Heyder

Gifford Midwifery Team Holding Open House

Gifford midwifery team

Gifford’s 24-hour midwifery team includes, from left, certified nurse-midwives Meghan Sperry, Maggie Gardner, April Vanderveer and Kathryn Saunders. (Photo provided)

Gifford’s renowned midwifery team is holding an open house to introduce its recently expanded team to the community and offer some free health advice.

Gifford’s certified nurse-midwives, Kathryn Saunders, Meghan Sperry, Maggie Gardner and April Vanderveer, will hold an open house on Thursday, July 24 from 4-7 p.m. in The Family Center beside Gifford Ob/Gyn and Midwifery off South Main Street in Randolph.

All are welcome, especially those expecting a baby, thinking of planning a family or interested in women’s health.

The open house will be an opportunity to meet the midwives, tour the Birthing Center (if it is not too full with new babies and families) and receive expert advice. In addition to the midwives, lactation consultant and childbirth educator Nancy Clark will be on hand to talk breastfeeding, child development and more. And, for those who are expecting, Gifford Vice President of Patient Care Services (and photographer) Alison White will be offering belly photos.

There will also be balloons for the kids, giveaways, refreshments and door prizes, including a belly casting kit, baby product basket, a yoga gift certificate generously donated by Fusion Studio of Montpelier and a one-hour massage generously donated Massages Professionals of Randolph.

“We’re enthusiastic for this support from Fusion Studio and Massage Professionals of Randolph, and we’re excited to introduce our team to the community. We are like-minded caregivers committed to offering women and families an experience that meets their desires and goals, while also resulting in safe and healthy pregnancies and babies,” said Sperry.

Stop by to meet the midwives and to learn more about women’s health. Call Gifford Ob/Gyn and Midwifery at 728-2401 to learn more.

3rd Annual Community Concert Series Starts July 8 at Gifford

South Royalton Band

The South Royalton Band plays in the Gifford park in 2012.

Gifford Medical Center and the White River Valley Chamber of Commerce once again are partnering – with the help of area sponsors – to offer a summer concert series for six consecutive weeks.

Held each Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Gifford park on Route 12 south of the downtown, the 3rd Annual Community Concert Series will begin on July 8 with the South Royalton Band. The series continues on July 15 with Jeanne & The Hi-Tops performing old time rock and roll, on July 22 with Jennings & McComber offering Green Mountain indie folk and on July 29 with blues and soul from The Dave Keller Band.

South Royalton Band

The South Royalton Band opened the very first concert in 2012 in Gifford’s then-new park.

In August will be The Trail Blaizers, a bluegrass band, and Two for the Show and Company singing song standards and classics.

This year’s concert series features a couple of new elements. A farmers’ market will be held each week with farm products, crafts, handmade goods and more. And on July 29 Stagecoach will host a barbecue fund-raiser as part of the evening’s events.

All concerts are generously brought to the community for free thanks to sponsorships from Gillespie Fuels & Propane Inc., the Frankenburg Agency Inc. and the Gifford Auxiliary.

Everyone is welcome to attend. Participants are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, picnic blankets, family and friends.

The concerts are weather dependent and may be canceled or rescheduled in the event of rain. Look for updates on Gifford’s and the Chamber’s Web sites and their Facebook pages. Cancellations will also be noted with signage near the park.

Call 728-2339 to learn more, including how to become a vendor. There is no vendor fee. Vendors may come when they’re able or all summer long during the concerts.

South Royalton Band

This season, the South Royalton Band opens the 3rd Annual Community Concert Series.

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.”

Bethel Artist Janet Hayward Burnham Coming to Gifford Gallery

Bethel acrylic artist Janet Hayward Burnham

“Long May She Wave” is one of Bethel acrylic artist Janet Hayward Burnham’s pieces in the Gifford Medical Center art gallery in Randolph from May 28 through June 25.

Artist and author Janet Hayward Burnham brings her acrylic and pen and ink works to the Gifford Medical Center art gallery from May 28 through June 25.

Burnham, now of Bethel, was born in Indiana, but never lived there. She went on to live in nine other states, attending 14 schools from kindergarten through college.

Burnham came to Vermont in 1968 with her husband and four children. They bought a farm in the Champlain Valley in Orwell, where Burnham taught art for a number of years and also wrote for Vermont Life.

Burnham was 42 when she graduated with a bachelor’s in fine arts from Castleton State College in 1979. “ … my two teenaged daughters – seated in the crowd – made me grin when they cheered as my name was called out at the graduation ceremonies,” Burnham recalls.

Art was Burnham’s first love.

“I think I’ve loved the art of making art since I picked up my first crayon,” she says. “Art was always my favorite class, bar none … even better than recess.”

She added the written word to her list of loves, and talents, in college.

Castleton was Burnham’s third college. Earlier at Columbia University in New York City in the late 1950s, while married and pregnant, an English professor first brought to light Burnham’s talent. He tasked the class with a first writing assignment. “When he passed the papers back two weeks later, he said we had all done fairly well, but there was one that was so outstanding, he was going to read it to the class. When he began reading, I was absolutely dumbfounded. It was mine. In all those schools I had attended – and some were excellent private schools – nobody ever told me I had a gift for working with words,” Burnham recalls.

“I now had two creative loves – art and the art of words.”

A poetry book Burnham wrote and illustrated, “A Week Ago Cat,” is the combination of those two loves.

Her show features illustrations and poems from the children’s book as well as other more adult pieces, and the book will be for sale in Gifford’s Gift Shop.

In addition to her book of poems, Burnham has been published in Yankee, Grit, The Boston Globe, The New York Daily News, Country Journal, Instructor, The Rutland Business Journal, The Herald of Randolph, and Woman’s World. She also penned two novels published in the United Kingdom that went on to editions in Sweden, Norway and the United States.

More recently, she helped research and was the lone writer of a book for The Bethel Historical Society titled “Vermont’s Elusive Architect George H. Guernsey.”

See Burnham’s unique art in the Gifford Galley. The show is free and open to the public. The Gifford Gallery is just inside the main entrance of the Randolph hospital at 44 S. Main St. Call Gifford at (802) 728-2324 for more information.