Family Nurse Practitioner with Doctorate Degree Joins Gifford

Christina Harlow

Christina Harlow

A nurse practitioner with advanced degrees and diverse experience has joined Gifford Health Care’s family practice in Randolph.

Family nurse practitioner Christina Harlow holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Colorado Mesa University, a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson and a doctor of nursing practice degree from the same institution.

She is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a member of the American Nurses Association, and has experience in emergency medicine, psychiatrics and more.

A native of Wisconsin, Harlow’s first career was as a mountain bike guide and a river guide in Utah and West Virginia. During that time, however, Harlow lost a brother to mental illness. Looking to her future, she knew she needed a more stable career. The loss of her brother struck an interest in better understanding depression and anxiety.

She went to nursing school and worked internationally as a volunteer in Honduras and Northern India and in the United States as a psychiatric registered nurse, then in specialty and inpatient care and finally in an emergency room. “I wanted to be more well-rounded, because psych is everywhere,” she says of her diverse experience.

She went on to nurse practitioner school and then took the extra step to earn her doctorate in the field.

She worked as an emergency department nurse practitioner in Colorado and as an adjunct professor at Adam’s State University, before deciding to move to Vermont with her family.

Her husband, Dr. Nathaniel Harlow, grew up in Vermont and wanted to be closer to family here.

The couple both joined Gifford – him as a sports medicine provider at the Sharon Health Center and her as a family medicine nurse practitioner in Randolph, where she is looking forward to getting to know her patients and providing well-rounded care.

“I wanted more than just a passing relationship with my patients,” she notes of her emergency department work. “I am really interested in continuity of care.”

In Harlow, patients will find a highly-educated, compassionate caregiver and open communicator.

“Being a nurse first, I have open communication with my patients. I nurse to my patients,” she says. “I like to focus on health. Your health is your wealth.”

“I also really embrace a holistic perspective,” she says, noting she considers a patient’s emotional and spiritual well-being in addition to more common inquiries about diet and exercise.

Harlow’s specific clinical interests include preventative care, women’s health, holistic care and mental illness. As a family nurse practitioner, she treats all ages as well as both men and women.

In her free time, Harlow – a competitive mountain biker, road cyclist, adventure racer, distance runner and climber – enjoys travel and the outdoors. She and her husband are currently living in Brookfield with their young daughter, Juliana, 1.

Harlow is seeing new patients. Call Gifford’s central scheduling line at 728-2777 to make an appointment with Harlow.

Fellowship-trained Sports Medicine Doctor Joins Sharon Health Center

Dr. Nathaniel HarlowDr. Nathaniel “Nat” Harlow grew up in Vermont, in Underhill, so when it came time to put his newly earned sports medicine fellowship to work, he looked to the Green Mountains of his childhood.

Dr. Harlow has joined Gifford Medical Center’s renowned sports medicine practice in Sharon.

A graduate of Brown University in Providence, R.I., he went on to medical school at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine.

Interested in rural medicine, he completed a family medicine residency at St. Mary’s Family Medicine Residency in Grand Junction, Colo., and went on to work at a Critical Access Hospital in Del Norte, Colo., as an emergency department physician and director of emergency medicine for three years.

An avid climber, skier and mountain biker, Dr. Harlow had considered a sports medicine fellowship out of residency, but the program wasn’t yet developed.

Through his emergency physician role and through work with ski area clinics, he saw many skiing traumas and acute orthopedic injuries. The interest was sparked once more, and by now the fellowship program was developed.

He completed a primary care sports medicine fellowship at Rocky Mountain Orthopedics through St. Mary’s Family Medicine Residency in Grand Junction, Colo.

Already board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, he went on to earn an additional Certificate of Added Qualification in sports medicine from the same board.

“I believe strongly in providing health care in rural, underserved areas,” says Dr. Harlow, and “I really wanted to come back to Vermont.”

He found just what he was looking for – rural medicine with a sports medicine focus at the Sharon Health Center.

“I’m very excited to be part of the practice. It’s such a strong team environment. It’s a unique practice setting for sports medicine,” he says.

In Sharon, Dr. Harlow is working alongside podiatrists, chiropractors, another sports medicine doctor, an athletic trainer and physical therapists.

Dr. Harlow practices full-spectrum primary care sports medicine including non-operative orthopedics care, as well as the medical aspects of sports medicine, such as care of concussions, sports pre-screenings for heart health, people with asthma and diabetics. He has strong interests in combining sports and wilderness medicine to care for the mountain athlete, using exercise as medicine for non-athletes to help treat and prevent chronic conditions, and osteopathic manipulation.

Friendly and approachable, Dr. Harlow listens to his patients and works with athletes and non-athletes alike to help them reach or return to fitness goals.

Dr. Harlow is a member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, American Academy of Family Physicians and the Wilderness Medical Society.

Now living in Brookfield with his wife and fellow Gifford health care provider, family nurse practitioner Christina Harlow, and their 1-year-old daughter, Juliana, Dr. Harlow enjoys fly fishing and playing guitar in addition to mountain sports. He is also an avid volunteer, both at home and internationally. In fact, he hopes to reach out to area high schools and colleges to provide expertise in concussion management, for example.

To schedule an appointment or learn more, call him at the Sharon Health Center at 763-8000.

Ob/Gyn Dr. Melissa Scalera Joins Gifford Team

Dr. Melissa Scalera

Dr. Melissa Scalera

On her road to becoming an ob/gyn, Dr. Melissa Scalera flirted with Vermont. First there was her undergraduate studies at Williams College just three miles south of the Vermont border in Massachusetts. She crossed the border for Chinese food, antiques, and skiing. Later her residency was at Albany Medical Center in nearby New York.

Now she and her ski enthusiast family are thrilled to be calling Vermont home.

Dr. Scalera has joined Gifford Ob/Gyn & Midwifery in Randolph.

Originally from New Jersey, Dr. Scalera was the first person in her immediate family to attend college.

Her mother made a list of “academically acceptable” schools, starting with Harvard, that her daughter would be “allowed” to attend, Dr. Scalera recalls. Williams was on it. Scalera loved the school and everything about learning. Initially she thought that she’d major in Spanish literature or art history. “Choose something else” was her dad’s reply.

She graduated with a degree in psychology in the middle of a recession and applied for any and every job she could find. She took a position with a direct marketing company that made and sold leather bound books.

Hunched over a budget report one night at 10 p.m. at that long-ago job, she had an epiphany.

Unhappy stuck in a cubical all day, she wanted to be more active, look at fewer spreadsheets, see the sun, and talk to people.

About the same time, she had seen an ob/gyn for a routine exam and blood work. The exam went well, but the follow-up appointment to go over the results of the blood work with a different doctor was less than stellar. He was cranky, didn’t listen, and she left thinking “I can do better than that.”

Twenty-one and full of confidence, she called her mom and said, “I want to be a doctor.” She quit her job, moved in with her parents, and did two years of post-baccalaureate studies in the pre-medical curriculum at nearby Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.

She went on to the New Jersey School of Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark, earning her doctor of medicine degree in 1997. A four-year ob/gyn residency followed at Albany Medical Center in New York.

She spent the next 14 years working as an ob/gyn physician in the United States, in Washington, Texas, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, and in New Zealand.

Her work in New Zealand was meant to be a six-month adventure. She liked it so much she stayed seven years. Her role in New Zealand was that of a specialist. Midwives in New Zealand provide complete obstetric care for low-risk births. General practitioners’ offices provide Pap smears and routine gynecologic care. Dr. Scalera consequently handled high-risk maternity cases, colposcopy or abnormal Pap smears, and gynecologic surgeries.

“I basically backed up every mid-wife in town.”

“I think Gifford and Vermont are the closest to New Zealand that I’m going to get and still be in the continental U.S.,” says Dr. Scalera, who returned to the States to be near family but looked north for snow.

Dr. Scalera and her family, including her husband of 20 years, Bob Pressey, son Michael, 11, and daughter Catherine, 5, are living in Randolph, where they are loving the community and the school system. They hope to find an older home to buy within walking distance of Gifford.

“I think people are really, really nice, and already kids are coming over to ask if my son would like to come out and play,” says Dr. Scalera, remembering her own childhood of neighborhood children at play and wanting that for her family.

Dr. Scalera is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

She describes her bedside manner as “friendly.” “I like people and I love to talk,” she says. Her clinical interests include general obstetrics and gynecology.

“Gifford,” she says, is “a really fantastic match for me.”

Dr. Scalera is accepting new patients. Call her at Gifford Ob/Gyn & Midwifery at (802) 728-2401.

Ob/gyn Dr. Sean Tubens Joins Gifford in Randolph

Dr. Sean Tubens

Dr. Sean Tubens

Dr. Sean Tubens’ path to becoming an ob/gyn physician was anything but direct.

The Baltimore native joined the U.S. Marines out of high school and spent four years as an aviation electrician working on F18s and serving during Operation Desert Storm.

He returned home to Baltimore unsure what he would do next. The idea of becoming a lawyer or psychologist appealed to him but the years of school seemed daunting. His father was a hairdresser and although his first instinct was “no way,” he took up his father’s trade.

“It ended up being a lot of fun, and I was actually really good at it,” he recalls, noting he worked as a hair stylist for 12 years and even owned his own salon.

And then the unthinkable happened. His parents died. Both of them.

His mother was diagnosed with cancer on Dec. 1, 1996. She died that same month on Dec. 31. His father had a lung transplant that same year. He had pulmonary fibrosis. Despite the transplant, he died on Aug. 31, 1997 – exactly eight months after his spouse.

An only child, Dr. Tubens found himself at a crossroads and asking the question “Am I happy with the direction of my life?”

“I just didn’t feel I was making a contribution to other people in a way I was capable of,” he said.

After years of avoiding school, “I decided maybe I wanted to be a surgeon.”

At age 31, he hired a tutor to get through his college entrance exams. “I had no college experience whatsoever.”

He attended Towson University in his native Baltimore, graduating magna cum laude in just three years while still working full-time at his salon. He was accepted to and attended Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica in the West Indies and New Jersey.

Obstetrics and gynecology wasn’t his first choice when it came to medicine – until he assisted with a birth from beginning to end. “It was from that moment that I realized what an honor and a privilege it is to be involved in this process, and that that was what I wanted to do.”

Dr. Tubens went on to complete his obstetrics and gynecology residency at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., working exclusively on high risk pregnancies and performing gynecologic surgeries. “I love gynecologic surgery, specifically laparoscopic procedures,” he says.

His work at Bayfront earned him recognitions for excellence in laparoscopic surgery, excellence in reproductive endocrinology and as outstanding resident teacher of the year.

When it came time to look for a job, Dr. Tubens looked for a warm and friendly community where he and his wife could settle with their two huskies.

He has found that in Vermont and at Gifford.

“People are so welcoming. They smile. That’s very attractive,” said Dr. Tubens. “We hope we can spend the rest of our lives here.”

He and his wife, physician assistant Susan Post-Tubens, have bought a home in Bethel.

They have three grown children and in their free-time enjoy golf, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, travel and reading.

For the region, Dr. Tubens, a physician with a calming demeanor who collaborates with patients to improve quality of life, is a new resource for more complicated pregnancies and surgery. His clinical interests include high-risk pregnancies, office gynecologic procedures as well as gynecologic surgery, especially laparoscopic surgery.

His greatest priority is patient safety and care, notes the physician who is a member of both the American College of Physicians and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. “The most important thing is the patient. That is the number one priority.”

Dr. Tubens is working full-time at Gifford Ob/Gyn & Midwifery in Randolph. Call him at (802) 728-2401.

Orthopedist Dr. Kenyatta Norman Makes Gifford Position Permanent

Dr. Kenyatta Norman

Dr. Kenyatta Norman

Skilled surgeon to stay on in Randolph

When orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kenyatta Norman first came to Gifford Medical Center in January it was meant to be temporary. She was what the industry calls a locum tenens physician. In simple terms, a locum tenens doctor fills in when a hospital has an opening, hasn’t filled it but doesn’t want patients to have to go without care.

Dr. Norman has spent her career working across the country as a locum. That is, until now.

In Gifford and the region, Dr. Norman has found a place where she wants to continue to work and a community where she wants to live and raise a family.

“I am excited to be here. The people are so warm, friendly and nice. That was part of the reason I decided to stay. This area seems perfect as I will be able to be involved with my future children and continue to give excellent care to my patients,” said Dr. Norman.

A native of Indiana, Dr. Norman pursued medicine in part because someone told her she couldn’t.

“I think somebody told me I couldn’t be a doctor (an older gentleman), and I thought ‘Really? Wow.’ I think that cemented it there,” she said, demonstrating the competitive spirit required to become a great surgeon.

She was a child at the time but becoming a physician became her goal.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Indiana University in Bloomington with a minor in sociology. She went on to medical school at Indiana University School of Medicine.

“I was initially interested in primary care, but after a rotation in general surgery I realized I liked the OR and working with my hands,” she recalled.

And then she did a rotation in orthopedics. “I was enamored after my first orthopedic surgery as a medical student.”

Dr. Norman went on to an orthopedic residency was at Howard University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and then continued onto an orthopedic oncology fellowship at Mount Clemens Medical Regional Center in Michigan.

Since, she has worked at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Hampton, Va., and Martinsburg, W. Va., and at hospitals and health centers in Kentucky, New Mexico, Illinois and Virginia. The New Mexico post was at Indian Health Services.

“I have worked in many different settings,” Dr. Norman said of her career, “and Gifford is definitely at the top!”

At Gifford, Dr. Norman provides general orthopedics care, help for fractures, arthroscopic surgery and more. Her subspecialty is orthopedic oncology.

A good-natured caregiver who is quick to laugh, Dr. Norman says, “I try to make everyone feel at home and I try to make sure everyone understands his or her health problem, and I really try to treat every patient like a member of my family.”

Dr. Norman is a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

She is practicing full-time at Gifford in Randolph with physician assistant Brad Salzmann. Previously from St. Louis, she and her husband have made the community their home.

“I am ready to be part of the Gifford team and become a Vermonter. I may even learn to snowboard,” Dr. Norman said.

Call her at Gifford at (802) 728-2455. Appointments can be made by calling central scheduled at (802) 728-2777.

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.

Another Labor of Love

Betsy Dawn quilt

Betsy Hannah, left, and Dawn DeCoff and her daughter, Hayley DeCoff, 10, right, pose with the beautiful quilt they made as an annual raffle item for the Last Mile Ride.

Each year the Last Mile Ride also features a quilt made by Gifford’s nursing staff and raffled off as part of the ride.

This year’s gorgeous queen-size scrappy star quilt is made by licensed practical nurse Betsy Hannah and licensed nursing assistant Dawn DeCoff as well as DeCoff’s young daughter, Hayley.

The elaborate quilt took the trio about two months to complete, and the machine quilting was donated by Piece of Mind Quilting in Canaan, N.H.

DeCoff has helped make a quilt for the ride since its inception and Hannah has helped the last several years. Both also donate quilts to other community causes.

“I love sewing. It relaxes me. It’s one of my many past-times,” says Hannah. “It’s great to be able to give things (to the community).”

This year’s quilt took on extra special meaning after her husband, Jim, died in November and Hannah received Last Mile Ride funds.

For DeCoff, it is also the cause that motivates her. As a part of Gifford’s inpatient care team, she sees the funds help families firsthand.

Tickets for the quilt – along with a new bicycle from Green Mountain Bikes in Rochester and a new Harley from Wilkins Harley-Davidson in Barre – are on sale at the hospital Gift Shop and in the Marketing Department and will be for sale at the ride.

‘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.