The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

When shelter-in-place orders made it impossible for residents at St. Paul’s Towers to participate in the Black Lives Matter protests taking place around their Oakland community, resident Jean E. Taylor decided to share with her fellow residents an idea she had in the middle of the night. “My idea: we show support for the protesters by staging our own miniprotest.”

The idea grew. “Many of us have been feeling rather helpless, given that it is not safe for us individually to participate in protest marches,” Taylor notes. “But there has been a coalescence around the idea of a balcony protest here at SPT.”

Residents began making posters, including large letters to spell out “Black Lives Matter” to hang along one side of the high rise. On Wednesday, June 10, a number of residents gathered on their balconies on the Bay Street side of the building at 5:00 to cheer, bang pots and pans, hit gongs, and unveil their posters as well as a large BLM banner, unveiled along the top of the building.

Spring Lake Village residents also planned their own Black Lives Matter march around the perimeter of their Santa Rosa campus. Resident Council Chair John Buckstead led off the march. “The work of America’s founders and our ancestors, of Jefferson and Madison and Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King is not finished,” he told the close to 100 residents who had gathered to participate. “This is a reminder that their work is our work. We’re still here. We’re still in. You were probably doing this 50 years ago. We need to resume.”

Although protests are not a typical part of community life, the communities’ administration and Covia’s leadership recognize the resident-led efforts to exercise their rights to self-expression. “With a diversity of views in each community, it was important to consider those rights in light of Covia’s fundamental values of respect, civility in our differences, and treating one another with dignity – a difficult balancing act,” says Mary McMullin, Chief Strategy and Advancement Officer. “I believe residents were able to express their honest opinions in a respectful way.”

Along with public protests, communities also planned vigils with 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence to remember the death of George Floyd and others. At Webster House, Chaplain Lily Godsoe and Executive Director Linda Hibbs joined staff from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation who observed the time of silence as a part of their organization’s response to the tragedy. “We joined them, and then decided we wanted to do the same ritual with our staff,” Godsoe says. About 15 people participated. “It was very moving for us to gather as we did in the lobby of the Health Center to honor the collective grief we were all feeling.”

Residents at St. Paul’s Towers also requested a vigil – which was joined by residents and staff at other communities and at Support Services. SPT’s chaplain Meredith Cahn, opened the vigil, saying, “We are heart-broken, we are in pain. And, as members of the Covia community, we are not in a position to march with the marchers, as we are protecting each other from COVID-19, as members of the most vulnerable group, or staff to you. So this is one of the ways we are showing support and proclaiming that we know that Black Lives Matter.” SPT resident Patrick O’Halloran provided centering thoughts before participants entered into almost 9 minutes of silence.

St. Paul’s Towers resident Jean Taylor noted how many people were involved in these events “from helping draft emails, making and distributing flyers, making the giant letters of our vertical banner, organizing and taking pictures of people with their posters, distributing materials for posters, doing the banner unfurling, etc., etc.” Although the media has often represented Black Lives Matter as a movement primarily of young people, “We say: don’t forget us old folks,” says Taylor. “We too have energy. We also believe in what we’re doing, and we’re not going to let up either.”

As our communities shelter in place, residents are finding creative solutions for staying active to manage their mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Exercising outside is a great option. The Spring Lake Village Wellness Team has created a par course around the campus to bolster the opportunities for outdoor exercise.

“Many residents already enjoy walking the beautiful creekside path and campus perimeter. Now it will also host an opportunity for a full body workout as you walk,” says Casey Westbrook, Wellness Coordinator. The course includes 17 different stations and 36 exercises targeting all the important aspects of physical fitness for older adults: balance, strength, flexibility, coordination, agility and cardiovascular fitness.

Par courses have become increasingly popular since the first one was developed by the Swiss architect Erin Weckmenn in 1968. Par courses are exercise circuits set outdoors in a park, neighborhood or community. The exercise circuit consists of stations located in one area or spaced out along a trail, each suggesting a different exercise that can be done with little equipment. Since their invention, cities and parks around the world have developed these environmental features to promote the physical health of their communities.

“Par courses provide many health benefits,” says Westbrook. “It is already known that exercise promotes good physical, mental and emotional health, and being outside provides additional health benefits. Studies show that exercising outdoors boosts mood and reduces depression through increased Vitamin D production. Just five minutes of low to moderate intensity outdoor exercise can provide increased self-esteem. Furthermore, exercising outside enhances our connection to nature which can be especially important when we have limited access to the outdoors.”

The Spring Lake Village Par Course starts on the creekside path just outside of the Village Center, and progresses counter-clockwise around campus. Starting at the first station, residents progress by heading towards the Dell to the second station and so on. Most stations are on the often-walked perimeter trail of the campus; however, some take short detours off the trail. 

“Par courses are wonderful in that each person can make the exercises their own,” says Westbrook. Residents can start at any point. The numbers are for reference, but not a requirement for the order in which exercises must be performed. They can do the entire circuit at once, skip the stations that don’t work for them, or break up the course into pieces that can be done over a few different walks.  

With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting our communities, Westbrook offers a few health and safety tips for using the par course whether at Spring Lake Village or in other locations:

*This post was originally published in the Spring Lake Village newsletter.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Covia is dedicated to supporting team members as they provide essential care throughout our communities. Part of this support is the ‘Essential Support’ program, which was put into effect on April 29th. This program includes financial support to help with unexpected costs, time off, choice of a fun “family time” membership, and merit increases.

As Covia CEO Kevin Gerber noted in a letter to employees with the announcement of the program, “We are so proud of the work our employees have been doing under difficult circumstances to make sure that our residents are safe and well cared for. The Essential Support program offers more support to all of our employees who are providing essential services for life and safety.”

The Essential Support program began as a survey, when Covia leadership reached out to employees throughout the organization to gauge how best to provide support during this time. Based on survey responses from over 600 employees and in the spirit of Covia’s Guiding Principles, the program provides assistance in areas where staff showed interest and need. These benefits fall into different categories including merit increases, help with expenses, time off, paid leave, and protective equipment.  

The Essential Support Program

As part of the Essential Support program, beginning in May, all employees at Covia communities who joined Covia before January 2020 will receive a merit increase. This is paired with up to $500 to go toward essential expenses such as groceries and childcare.

On top of monetary benefits, the program also includes the ability to earn up to 1 floating holiday per month to use as needed and a commitment that employees will not lose wages due to COVID-19. If a Covia employee contracts COVID-19 or is waiting on test results, the organization will ensure that team members are properly compensated. This includes coordinating with State Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits and ensuring staff have enough paid time off or paid sick leave for wages not covered by SDI.

In addition to the personal protective equipment (PPE) that is in use at the communities, Covia is also supplying cloth masks to employees that they can take home to their families. The Essential Support program also offers a benefit employees can share with their family. They can choose between a Disney+ membership, a Netflix membership, an Amazon Prime membership, or a Costco Goldstar membership, which can be utilized now for shopping or entertainment, or a Fandango Movie Card that can be used after the crisis is over.

“In creating this program, we started with a simple goal – support our team members holistically,” says Prab Brinton, Vice President of HR. “We understood the financial strain COVID-19 had caused and were committed to providing support to help ease the financial burden – and, we wanted to do more. We wanted to provide the gift of time to rest and recharge.  Time to share with their children, spouses, and loved ones – even if it was something as simple as watching movies on Netflix, enjoying the classics on Disney +, or shopping on Amazon for some home essentials. Our team members are more than a financial transaction, they are what make Covia a unique place to work.”

Thank you to all Covia employees who are ensuring residents are receiving the best care during this difficult time. Covia employees who are interested in learning more about the Essential Support program, please reach out to your HR representative. And if you are interested in joining the Covia team, please visit our careers site!

The shelter-in-place order means that many of us are adapting to new schedules and finding new ways to keep ourselves busy. Webster House residents, including one feline resident, are sharing their new routines and how they have adapted.

Dick S.

My two-room cave with balcony has several activity centers.

Dining Table: Read morning NY Times (2 hrs.) and magazines, open and discard mail, seating area for TV, eating.

Balcony:  Portable camping barbecue, occasional steaks or salmon.

Computer Desk: Check email, compose responses, delete spam, read Microsoft News, look at cartoons, open abstracts more detail, review financial data, color edit old travel slides (default activity).

Garden Room (low bench at bay window): Some 22 miniature orchids live in a vivarium (plastic storage box), grow-lights above and algae sludge swamp pond below.  A daily mist spray and checking for flowers takes about ten minutes a day. On the bench, in room conditions, is an African vine with a new 8-inch growth tendril, seeking a twig to wind around. Before it finds its twig, a hair clip will attach it to a circular frame – a very occasional event for this.

J. A.

Quiet. Staying at home is peaceful, with time to think, to meditate even. No need to be sociable, or to go to meetings. No need to dress appropriately. But visiting my little balcony is no substitute for walking freely outside. I miss our exercise classes, and swimming.

By the time we are released from sheltering-in-place, I will most likely have had more than enough of this nice quiet. For now, I am enjoying rereading the first two of Hilary Mantel’s books on Thomas Cromwell and looking forward to starting her recently published final volume.

Judy & Dave C.

We’re reading posts from our grand dog.

Jean B.

I am doing fine and determined not to get depressed. Rainstorm was needed and welcome, and now the sunshine is pouring in my window and I’m listening to my jazz station. A good lunch in the apartment, thanks to our great cooks and servers.

Joan U.

The view from our apartments is a huge help in combatting “I’m trapped” syndrome – trees and sky in an ever-changing panorama. I loved last night’s rolling bar.

Also, I’ve been walking.  One Palo Alto walk near Webster House is:

San Francisquito Creek

San Francisquito Creek is the dividing line between Palo Alto and Menlo Park – a placid little trickle of water until it occasionally goes wild and inundates whole neighborhoods, causing a great deal of property damage.  Walking up Palo Alto Avenue you will find several small grassy clearings where you can peer through the undergrowth and see the creek meandering over rocks between sandbagged banks.  Where Palo Alto Ave. joins Alma Street at the rail crossing there is a small park with a footpath that leads to a pedestrian bridge over the creek and into Menlo Park.  Follow the path to read signage about the history and ecology of the creek, the wildlife that is being restored, the people who lived here before us and El Palo Alto, the redwood tree that our city is named for. Crossing over the creek, you can turn right onto East Creek Drive and walk back along the creek through a neighborhood of older ranch homes with pretty gardens and whimsical sculptures. Continue right onto Willow Road toward Middlefield.  Look for the signs for the pedestrian bridge that will take you back across the creek close to Waverley Street. Don’t miss the owl box suspended over the bridge, and the pig sculpture at the corner of Waverley and Ruthven!  Turn right on Cowper and you will find yourself in front of Colette.  At this writing they are still doing take-out.

 

Magnus the Magnificat graciously agreed to record his impressions of containment:

“Life for me is pretty good. My human has to stay home so there are many opportunities for pets, cuddles, scritches, and lots of snacks. I need yowl but once to prompt my lowly handmaiden to hop up and accede to my every whim. I still get to go outside on my patio any time I care to. Finally, I am getting my due.”


During this time as we shelter-in-place, it can be helpful to remember all of the things we can be thankful for and the positives that surround us. Sunshine coming in the windows. Rain that is nourishing the spring flowers. A good book. Technology that allows us to connect to loved ones even as we stay home. What small things are brightening your day and bringing you joy?

Happy Employee Appreciation Day! We are so excited to celebrate all of the amazing people who help Covia support older adults around the Bay Area and beyond. In honor of this holiday, we were inspired to share stories about our incredible employees from throughout the organization.

Community Services

Lizette Suarez, Well Connected Español Program Manager

Lizette came to WCE without having ever worked with older adults, but her humor, energy, dedication, passion, and skills leave me believing that she was the only person for the job.  As a one-woman team for the first year, she made our fantasy of diversifying Well Connected a robust reality and has successfully created a virtual community for nearly 100 older adults living across 5 states!

Amber Carrol, Director of Well Connected

Rita Mukhsinova, Ruth’s Table Manager

Rita implements gallery exhibits and events of incredibly high quality, which challenges preconceptions of senior living communities. A Bethany Center resident recently commented that a gallery lecture, “was so intellectual and stimulating. Sometimes people think that just because you’re older you won’t get it. The whole gallery and its programming is so intriguing.”

Katie Wade, Director of Social Call

Resident Service Coordination

Kristy Huang, Resident Wellness Director at Casa De Los Amigos

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Kristy Huang, Resident Wellness Director at Casa De Los Amigos in Redondo Beach for her hard work and dedication. Kristy went above and beyond with coordinating IWISH (Integrated Wellness in Supportive Housing) programs by herself after her partner RWD moved to another site. In spite of the difficult situation, Kristy has been doing an awesome job balancing health presentations, exercise programs, social workshops, art therapy classes and more while managing it all on her own. She kept her professionalism and still manages to serve residents with a great smile.  I am grateful and appreciate her willingness to go the extra miles.

Sarah Choi, Lead Resident Service Coordinator

Covia Communities

Elvyra Abare, Canterbury Woods Executive Director, and Wei Chang, Canterbury Woods Transportation Manager

The incident/accident I experienced on January 21st on the way to a Covia meeting in Walnut Creek re-affirmed the correct decision I made about entering the Canterbury Woods community. Elvyra, the CW Director, finding me bleeding profusely, took charge and her calm voice and clear directions soothed my state of mind and prevented me from over-reacting. She treated me like I was her mother and that had a profound effect on my perspective of the situation. Where could I find such support in a moment of distress? Canterbury Woods of course…

And Wei, the transportation manager, who had to revise his driving plans because I did not heed to his rules about getting in the limousine, and who understands so well the flaws of human nature. Wei is a master at decision-making, is a compassionate human being and surprised me when I came out of E.R. Wei was there waiting for me and worried about my nutritional needs. Wei easily combined his responsibilities with the CW group he was driving to the Covia meeting and giving me his caring attention. Wei is a multi-tasking man with a heart. Thank you both, Elvyra and Wei.

Canterbury Woods Resident

San Francisco Towers Staff

Thank you! We have just been through an ordeal that I would have had difficulty managing if not for our staff at the SFTowers.

One morning, I heard my husband calling for me. I found him lying in a pool of blood in our hallway near the front door. I called Security and when someone arrived he wisely called our 2nd floor. Two Skilled Nursing staff took my husband’s vitals and called for an ambulance. At the hospital, we found he had dislocated his shoulder.

When we arrived back at SFT, our front desk called for a wheelchair to get us to our apartment. Almost immediately Grace Tom from Resident Health Services, an angel, arrived and took over. She organized everything, meals delivered that day, assistance, doctors orders to the PT people, and for our new doctor to make a house call. Dr. Aissatou Haman came to our apartment and scheduled my husband to see an orthopedic doc and have x-rays done.

While the above was happening, Troy Stewart, Housekeeping Manager, sent someone up to clean up the blood residue I had missed on the floor and the walls. Thank you to our staff for everything. We are most grateful for the care and attention we received in our hour of need. Everyone here knew what to do and did it.

San Francisco Towers Resident

Support Services

Accounts Payable Team

In our Finance Department, Accounts Payable is responsible for making sure that every invoice gets paid, and Deanna Garcia and Stephanie Canady are an amazing team. Every once in a while you get lucky and find an employee that is a quiet constant, always comes to work on time, hardly every misses a day of work and is dedicated to doing a great job.  Deanna is that person! Stephanie is one of those people that is dedicated to not only doing her job well, but she also makes work fun!  I really appreciate her quick witted humor!  She makes me laugh and smile no matter what problem we are trying to solve.

Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources

Grant Edelstone, Senior Director of Risk Management, Compliance & Risk

Grant is one of those people that you can always count on.  He always gives solid, well thought-out advice and is never too busy to lend a hand. I appreciate his calm, professional approach.

Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources

The stories mentioned display only a fraction of the hard work and dedication that Covia employees bring to their job every single day. Thank you to everyone who supports our organization. You are a valued part of our team! 

* Some of these stories have been edited to protect resident’s privacy.

In the United States, 40 percent of all food grown, produced, packaged and sold is thrown in a landfill. This food waste comes from growers, markets, restaurants, and resident homes and is predominantly leftovers, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat, and packaging. We are all responsible.

There are no better ambassadors to inspire us to reduce food waste than chefs. Chefs know more about how to fully utilize every leaf, root, bone, stem, and rind.

Morrison Living, who provide culinary services at Covia’s Life Plan communities, initiated a Waste Not program in early 2018 to actively curb the amount of food waste produced by their kitchens. Since then the chefs and cooks in the Spring Lake Village kitchen have become experts at reducing food waste.

What is Waste Not? “It is accounting for every item that comes into the kitchen, using the most of every item, using food before expiration dates, measuring food waste, composting and tracking our results,” says Spring Lake Village Executive Chef Ion Aguinagalde. Production Manager John MacDonald assures that all the onion and celery trimmings go into the daily simmering of fresh broth. He also makes sure all the cooks are instructed on how to carefully pare and prepare ingredients to create the least amount of waste.

Sous Chef John Child is responsible for keeping track of the weekly Waste Not tally and logging it on the computer. Daily logs are maintained by the kitchen and dining staff. “I report over-production waste, production waste (scraps), and unused or out of date inventory,” says Sous Chef John. “Everything is accounted for and evaluated.” The whole dining staff knows the drill, “how can we cut waste?”

The Spring Lake Village culinary team are always looking for new ways to reduce food waste and use more of what they have in the kitchen. The ‘Waste Not’ program has been a great opportunity to incorporate new strategies and move toward a kitchen that creates as little food waste as possible.

* A version of this article was originally published in the Spring Lake Village resident newsletter

In early January, St. Paul’s Towers honored Eric Hubert with a Lifetime Achievement Award for 50 years of service. Both as a former staff member as well as a long-time resident, Hubert’s impact on the Towers’ can be felt to this day.

Originally from Orange, Texas, Hubert was working as an administrator at an Episcopal Church in Oklahoma when he first learned about St. Paul’s Towers. During a visit to Los Angeles to introduce then-Governor Ronald Reagan on behalf of the National Association of Church Business Administrators, Hubert met Father Darby Betts. Betts, who co-founded Covia (then called the Episcopal Homes Foundation), invited Hubert up to Oakland to see the retirement community that he was building, St. Paul’s Towers.

After introducing Hubert to Oakland and his new community, Betts invited Hubert to become the administrator for St. Paul’s Towers as well as St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the parish next door –starting the very next day! Hubert said “of course,” a decision that would bring him permanently to Oakland, the city he still calls home.

During his first few months on the job, Hubert lived with the Betts family in their home in Piedmont while he searched for an apartment. It was the start of a lifelong friendship with Betts. “We became brothers,” Hubert notes. “Working with Dr. Betts was the greatest experience.”

As the administrator for St. Paul’s Towers, Hubert helped create the groundwork for what flourishes to this day. He hired the first 100 employees across all five departments, interviewing each to make sure that they were a good fit for the community and would fully support the residents. During his time as administrator, Hubert also spoke about St. Paul’s Towers to raise awareness for the community and planned programming.

The programs that Hubert is proudest of are the music concerts held every Monday night. As with all of the programming that he brought to the community, he worked hard to make sure that he was bringing in experienced professionals to share their craft. Now, as a resident, he enjoys the same quality of music that he helped usher into the community at its start.

As a founding member of St. Paul’s Towers, Hubert not only interviewed staff interested in working in the community, but met with prospective residents as well. The aspect that Hubert always stressed to people considering the community is that St. Paul’s Towers is a place where “residents don’t lose their independence.” In his work as an administrator, working on staffing, programming, and more, Hubert made sure that the community was a space where residents could live with the same level of independence as they had experienced living in their own homes.  

After 23 years as an administrator for the St. Paul’s parish and the St. Paul’s Towers community, Hubert retired from the position. Looking back, Hubert says, “I loved every moment of those 23 years.” In honor of all of his hard work and all he had done for the community, as a retirement gift, St. Paul’s Towers raised the money to send him on a month long trip to Europe to say thank you. He spent most of his trip in London though he did sneak over to Paris, where he had previously spent time while in the army as Secretary to the Signal Officer.

The trip brought back memories of this previous time in Europe, including when he sold Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein a pack of cigarettes for $30 at a lecture. “I never went out without cigarettes, soap, and a bar of chocolate,” Hubert says. Though he never smoked, he would sell the cigarettes so he could buy tickets to the opera.  

Hubert’s love of art and culture extended into his impact on the wider Bay Area community. He served as a trustee for Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and the Oakland Museum of California as well as supporting the symphony and other cultural institutions. His work across these organizations is invaluable and something that he looks back on fondly. In both his time at St. Paul’s Towers and the wider community, Hubert notes, “anything that I could get involved in, I was. Seeing where I could give my talents and leadership.”

After retiring, Hubert returned to St. Paul’s Towers as a resident because he “wanted to be in the best place.” “We tried to make St. Paul’s Church and St. Paul’s Towers exemplary” he says, and he believes “the same philosophy and policies hold today.” His hard work and dedication are clear within the community, from the enduring programming to Hubert’s favorite part of the community, “the caring staff.”

The first Friday of February is National Wear Red Day, a holiday devoted to raising awareness of women’s heart health. The holiday, which falls on February 7th this year, is put on by the American Heart Association as a reminder of the threat of heart disease and stroke. It corresponds with February as National Heart Health Month.  

In honor of the holiday, we’re sharing some simple tips that can make a difference for heart health as well as highlighting how Spring Lake Village is celebrating on February 7th.

Heart Health Tips

Improving heart health may sound like a daunting task but there are a number of easy to adopt changes that can have a positive impact on the heart.

One way to increase heart health and decrease risk of cardiovascular disease is to seek out social connections. Loneliness and isolation can directly contribute to cardiovascular disease so it’s important to regularly connect with family and friends. This can be as easy as going out to coffee with a good friend or connecting over the phone with someone you care about.

Programs like Well Connected and Social Call provide great options to stay connected. Connect with people who share a mutual interest through Well Connected’s variety of weekly sessions or find a new acquaintance to connect with in person or over the phone through Social Call. These programs have the added benefit that they can help forge new connections all while being easily accessed from your home.

Stress has a direct impact on heart health, which means it is important to find the ways to manage stress that work best for you. This could be engaging in calming activities like journaling and meditation or talking through your stress with a mental health professional or spiritual leader. Staying active can be another great way to manage stress as well as directly contributing to heart health in and of itself.

On top of its abilities to mitigate stress, exercise and movement can also strengthen the heart and cardiovascular system. The key is finding the type of movement that brings you joy. Running, taking walks, or participating in a sport are the most commonly acknowledged ways to move, but other hobbies like gardening or birdwatching also keep you active. Think about what hobbies bring you joy that also keep your body active and make the choice to incorporate them more often into your daily life.  

On top of moving, managing your stress, and staying connected, being in touch with your body and knowing the signs of a heart attack are crucial to staying healthy. Consult with your doctor so that you are aware of your own heart health and any chronic conditions that may affect your heart. It’s also important to review the signs of a heart attack and keep in mind that warning signs can differ between men and women. 

Keeping these tips in mind can be the start to prioritizing heart health as well as possibly leading to a new friend or learning about an exciting new hobby.

National Wear Red Day at Spring Lake Village

Spring Lake Village “promotes heart healthy living on an ongoing basis by promoting healthy eating, managing stress, exercising” and more, notes Director of Wellness Diane Waltz. National Wear Red Day provides the perfect opportunity to put special emphasis on how this is done. In honor of the holiday, many Friday classes and events incorporate heart health topics and residents and staff are encouraged to wear red around the community.

During morning exercise classes on February 7th, residents reflected on heart healthy lifestyle choices and heart attack symptoms as part of their brain fitness challenge. They also spelled National Wear Red Day backwards and discussed how knowing the warning signs of a heart attack is helpful not only for self-identification but also so they can recognize the signs in others and directly administer help.

Beyond promoting heart health and raising awareness, the holiday hits close to home for some residents and staff who choose to participate to honor family and friends’ struggles with heart related conditions.

Human Resources Director Dee Ann Hyatt wears red for her great niece Alexandria who “was born in 2013 with a rare and complex congenital heart defect. Her doctors said that if she was born just ten years ago, she probably wouldn’t be here today.” Alexandria has gone through open heart surgery as well as multiple procedures but today she is a vibrant, active, and smart 1st grader who “is so full of life.” Hyatt participates in National Wear Red Day for her niece and families who have received a devastating diagnosis with the hope that they know “that they are not alone.”

No matter the reason to celebrate, National Wear Red Day creates a visual reminder that heart health is important and that by making simple, informed decisions, we can make a difference each day. Check out the Spring Lake Village Facebook page for more examples of heart healthy activities and visit the American Heart Association website to learn more about heart health, tips and tricks, and National Wear Red Day.

* Heart health tips pulled from Casey Westbrook’s Spring Lake Village Newsletter article “Wellness Matters: Heart Health Month”

For twelve years, the San Francisco Towers’ Pet Club has been meeting to provide a forum for the community’s pet owners to find support and make positive change for their furry friends.

The Pet Club began in 2007, spearheaded by SFT resident Adrienne Jonas, so that residents with pets could connect and support one another. The club’s activities include maintaining an accurate list of the pets that live within the community, having backups in place to take care of pets should anything happen to a resident, advocating for pets’ needs within the community, and creating a space to discuss mutual interests and ideas connected to pets.

Jonas believes that “the best part of pet owners getting together is the support we give each other and the exchange of ideas and information.” All residents with pets are invited to attend Pet Club and a portion of the club is also made up of ‘pet pals,’ residents who don’t have pets but enjoy animals and help take care of other residents’ pets if they are unable.   

One of the main goals of the Pet Club is to support residents and their pets if a situation arises where the resident cannot take care of their pet. This is handled in two ways. First: all pet owners are required to have at least two people on file that can take care of a pet, should the resident be unable to provide that care. Second: the Pet Club coordinates support for a resident’s pet in any emergency or unforeseen circumstances. This gives pet owners at SFT the peace of mind that their furry friends will always be taken care of. 

The Pet Club supports not only residents who own pets but anyone at SFT who might encounter a pet. This is done through their Pet Policy that was put in place “to protect both the pet owners and non-pet owners, and to ensure that the animals themselves receive responsible care.” The policy ensures that everyone at SFT can live comfortably within the community through general policies such as that “cats and dog must be on a leash or carried at all times when in public areas” as well as more community-specific policies like “refraining from washing pet bedding in the common washing machines.”

The Pet Club has made real change within the community, not only with their policies but also with their advocacy. Many SFT residents were wary about taking their pet out for walks in unpleasant weather or at night. The Pet Club addressed this issue by advocating to SFT management for an enclosed dog run. Their work was successful and residents now have access to ‘The Dog Park,’ an AstroTurf dog run located off of the lobby. Residents can make sure that their pets can take care of their business whatever the weather or if it’s after dark.

Beyond making sure that residents and their pets are well supported, the Pet Club also puts on fun events, such as hosting the Pet Club Holiday Party. In December, Pet Club members, their pets, and interested San Francisco Towers residents gather to celebrate the season.

In December 2019, many dogs and one cat accompanied their owners to the event, where they played together in a safe environment where everyone could enjoy them. The event exemplified Jonas’ favorite part of the club “meeting all of the dogs and cats.” Both residents and their pets sampled special refreshments and residents were given a raffle ticket that they could place in one of three bags labelled dog, cat, or other. Everyone who attended the party received a prize and the bags helped the Pet Club distribute prizes that were appropriate for each resident’s pet. Resident’s without a pet could select ‘other’ for a non-pet related prize.

The San Francisco Towers Pet Club meets on the third Tuesday of every other month. San Francisco Towers residents, both those who have pets and those who love pets, are invited to attend.