Wake Robin Staff Participate in Everyone Eats Program

By | Blog, News

During this stressful period the Covid-19 pandemic has created, local heroes and impactful programs have worked to uplift community spirit and feed the minds and bodies of all Vermonters. One initiative, Everyone Eats, has risen to the occasion and helped families and organizations across the entire Green Mountain state.

Human Resources has done a great job facilitating the Everyone Eats program at Wake Robin

Through a grant provided by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the mission of Everyone Eats focuses on providing “nutritious meals to Vermonters in need of food assistance as well as a stabilizing source of income for restaurants, farmers, and food producers.” At least 10 percent of the ingredients for the meals use Vermont products.

Morgan Evarts, Recruiter and Workforce-Builder at Wake Robin, explained how Vermont’s Life Plan community became involved with the project. “When Everyone Eats approached us, they explained that this is a free meal for anyone affected by COVID-19. They asked us ‘do you wear a mask every day? If so, you deserve a meal.’ Our staff have worked so hard at not only continuing to come to work during the pandemic, but always having safety protocols on top of mind in their professional and social life. This is the only way to keep the  residents and their co-workers safe and they are doing an amazing job!”

Through Wake Robin’s partnership with Working Bridges of United Way Northwest Vermont, the Human Resources team was able to coordinate a six week schedule in which staff could pick up local, fresh ingredient meals right in the Community Center. And as much as the program benefits staff  and their families – they  can pick up dinners for their household members too – each meal delivered ensures $10 goes to the food provider.

CFO Missy Kelsen with local soup from Joe’s Kitchen at Screamin’ Ridge Farms

Managed by the Southeastern Vermont Community Action Agency, Everyone Eats has been a roaring success thus far. According to this ShiftMeals.org blog, more than 100 restaurants have participated and distributed meals to 130 distribution sites. The first pick up for Wake Robin occurred in the middle of November and featured homemade soups from Joe’s Kitchen at Screamin’ Ridge Farms. Evarts summed up why Everyone Eats has been a perfect fit for Wake Robin. “If we can give staff one less night to worry about making dinner, and a chance to relax with their loved ones…well, that is completely worth it!”

To learn more about the Everyone Eats program, please visit https://shiftmeals.org/everyone-eats/

Global Leader in Environmental Activism Bill McKibben Delivers Virtual Gentry Lectureship

By | Blog

Founders, board members, and residents, Stokes and MaryJane Gentry are honored through the Gentry Lectureship

On Thursday October 22nd, global leader in environmental activism Bill McKibben gave the first of two speeches for Wake Robin’s annual Gentry Lectureship. Over 175 people, 150 residents and 25 Priority Depositors, from New England to as far as Denver, Colorado, listened to his talk over Zoom. After his talk, Mr. McKibben was happy to take questions and comments from the virtual audience.

For those who are unfamiliar, The Gentry Lectureship is named after Stokes and Mary Jane Gentry for their contributions as founders, board members, and residents of Wake Robin. The program was established in 2002 and has brought prominent figures from the government and economic sectors, as well as the fields of science, education, and the arts.

This year, residents organized the 2020 Lectureship around climate change and sustainability, creating a two-part program, “Crises and Change: Building a New Future in the Age of Climate Change.” The second speaker will be Mary Powell, former CEO of Green Mountain Power, who will make her address in December.

Former CEO of Green Mountain Power Mary Powell will address the Wake Robin audience this December

Bill McKibben is an author, environmentalist, and the founder of 350.org. the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement. He has spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline and launched the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement via stopthemoneypipeline.com. His book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change; and his latest is Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

Bill McKibben spoke to the virtual Wake Robin audience

Mr. McKibben entitled his lecture, A Crisis Inside a Crisis: What COVID-19 Might Teach Us About  Dealing with Climate” and he argued “that we must do everything we possibly can right now”  and “disrupt in a large way” to combat climate change. Noting that the world has already passed certain tipping points, he maintained we must limit the global temperature increase only to 2 degrees Celsius and not let it go to 3 or 4 degrees, which would be uninhabitable for current civilizations. 

A former science journalist and current Wake Robin resident was deeply impressed. “I took a lot of notes because I felt he was giving a tremendous amount of information and educating us on critical issues. One point that really stood out was his mission to organize older Americans to advance climate change reforms.”

For its part, the Wake Robin Residents Association (WRRA) has two active groups that research, promote, and practice sustainable measures campus wide. The Greens Committee provides information on reducing energy use and works on community recycling and composting in coordination with Environment Services. Additionally,  The Wake Robin Climate Action Task Force examines electrical and water usage, and promotes ways to cut back on those and other wasteful behaviors that tax and harm resources.

Concluding his address, Mr. McKibben gave some hope to a community eager to play an active part in the climate change movement. “The most powerful lesson of all is that social solidarity is necessary, and our job as individuals is to be less individual. ” Wake Robin continues to demonstrate that spirit.

Following Their Curiosity: The Joy of Readers and Writers at Wake Robin

By | Blog

Wake Robin residents love being active. Physically engaged, they swim in an indoor swimming pool, bike the country lanes around campus, and practice yoga and Tai Chi. Residents also nourish their minds through lectures, Inquire – Wake Robin’s lifelong learning program – and, fundamentally, reading and writing. Wake Robin has been a center for arts and letters since the beginning.

The library has 34 volunteers making it the great place it is

Even before the Community Center was completed in 1993, a library was installed on campus. It started just as a basket of books!  The Founders then solicited incoming residents to donate books, and once the Wake Robin Residents Associated (WRRA) formed, funding for a library space became top priority.

The design and implementation of the library was a great success, primarily because a few professional librarians – who were joining Wake Robin – oversaw its progress. Today, the library is housed in a brand-new space of the Community Center, adjacent to the reading room. It features a digital center equipped with a large Mac monitor, which serves residents well because many continue independent research projects. The thousand-plus book collection reflects resident interests and includes many bestsellers from the last five years. According to the Head of the Library Committee, Pat, there is a strategy in choosing new books. “The community here is very well read. They like to read the latest books and often make suggestions,” she said.

Borrowing books on the go due to Covid precautions

Outside of the library, there are a number of groups at Wake Robin that hone the skill of writing. The Memoirs Group meets weekly and welcomes all kinds of writers – from those residents who are polishing up an autobiography, to those just beginning to write about their lives. These days the group connects through video chat and listens to one speaker who shares part of his or her memoir for fifteen minutes, and then hears feedback. The range of stories are delightful, spanning childhood memories of farm life to unique career experiences. One member, reflected on the bond of the group, said “We trust each other and very interested in what each other have to say.”

The Vermont Humanities Book Club at Wake Robin attracts the inquisitive and analytical minds on campus. Popular each year, the demand to join the book club

Vermont Humanities Council’s Reading & Discussion program has been going strong at Wake Robin for over a decade

is always so strong that two groups are needed to facilitate discussions. The statewide program offers 250 themes and Wake Robin chooses one each fall and winter semester. Within each theme, residents read one book each month for four months and convene monthly with a expert discussion leader. Last year the group selected the US Constitution as a theme and read the Bill of Rights, among other documents. “The best part of the group is the discussions,” said Pam, who’s in charge of the committee that selects the themes. “The discussions are always riveting.”

The active life here at Wake Robin takes many shapes. Residents choose which path of joy they want to choose – and there are often many. You can come here to finish your novel or memoir. Or rekindle a passion for woodworking or quilting. You can learn water coloring from scratch. The possibilities are endless. Let your imagination roam.

Family Connections at Wake Robin

By | Blog

Among the core Wake Robin values is Difference: Honoring the diverse backgrounds and worth of those who live and work at Wake Robin. Our twenty-seven-year history illustrates why so many interesting people, from various walks of life and professions, choose to call Wake Robin home. Many prospective residents learn about the community through word of mouth – from friends, colleagues, and even some from their very own brother or sister.

According to a 2015 resident-published Trillium newsletter, Wake Robin siblings made up more than five percent of the entire resident population. Five years later, the number of siblings on campus has increased and now includes an aunt-niece duo as well as a mother-daughter pair!

Wake Robin attracts families for simple, important reasons. It was founded by a grassroots organizations made up of friends and like-minded people. Furthermore, Wake Robin’s long-term health care model – which provides a continuum of care for all residents – provides a sense of security and peace of mind to residents and their extended families.

Family Values From the Beginning

The first set of siblings arrived when Wake Robin opened in 1993. An “original” resident, Ruth, who is now 102, shared a large corner apartment with her sister Frances; two more brothers moved in the year after. David, Ruth’s younger brother, was the last sibling to arrive in 2008. “My siblings took me by surprise. We put a deposit in way back with them,” David said, “and all of a sudden – whoa – everybody’s moving in!” David and his wife Dee followed in Ruth’s footsteps because they appreciated the healthcare model and culture of Wake Robin.

Brother and sister David and Libby 

Wake Robin empowers residents to be independent or engaged as much as they choose to be. David and Libby loved learning about different cultures and shared a passion for the arts. They even collaborated on a “Teaching about Inca Culture” course at the University of Vermont, where some of the students never even knew they were brother and sister! When David joined Wake Robin, he got involved right away with organizing events and participating in the chorus. Libby, on the other hand, values the community for its solitude. As a professional writer, she’s able to gain inspiration from the natural setting as she finishes working on a memoir and book of poems.

For Ginny and Betsy, Wake Robin has been the place to truly catch up. Ginny lived in Ohio for thirty years but always considered herself a Vermonter. “It was a homecoming when we came here,” she said. Her younger sister Betsy, who moved in three years after her, feels like she’s deepened her relationship with Ginny. “I love the small things about being neighbors. I make Ginny her favorite BLT sandwiches and we dine together and have a laugh when we want.”

Best Friends: Mother and Daughter Living at Wake Robin

Mom and daughter, both Wake Robin residents

The latest Wake Robin family connection formed just this summer when Jackie moved in two floors below her mom, Marjorie. They are the second mother-daughter pair in the history of Wake Robin! “She’s my best friend,” Jackie said. “Before, I attended events with her, so I got a chance to really get to know the sense of community here at Wake Robin.” The active culture resonated with both daughter and mother. They walk the trails together and both are very fond of woodworking.

Wake Robin invites all personalities and interests into the community. Joining the community means starting a special chapter in one’s life, inspiring healthy living among neighbors, friends, and as we’ve seen, even family. As another sibling Ellie stated, “it’s been absolutely the right place for us and I’m am so glad that my brother is once again a part of my neighborhood!”


Wake Robin Introduces Outdoor Summer Concert Series

By | Blog

Wake Robin has always played host to a wide variety of programming. Residents are getting accustom to more webinars and virtual presentations. Gradually, activities and events have been transitioning to outdoor spaces. The Farmers Market is a popular Thursday occasion, and residents can now practice socially-distanced yoga on the new back deck of the Community Center. Even during these nutty times, creativity continues.

The McClane musicians

One important part of Wake Robin culture – live concerts – was missing and yearned for. Now, staff and residents have collaborated to provide a safe way to enjoy musical performances. And it only took a few weeks to bring the idea to life.

Program and Events Coordinator Jena Necrason and the resident Music Committee brainstormed a solution. They designed a program called “Summer Concerts in the Park(ing Lot)!” which is set in the Community Center parking lot, affording ample space for socially-distant seating. The concerts take place every two weeks on Thursdays, with the alternate weeks serving as rain dates. The shows feature many artists that previously had to cancel indoor performances.

Steve M, a resident co-chair of the Music Committee, appreciated the community coming together to advance the project. “The WRRA (Wake Robin’s Resident Association) was crucial for making this happen, and they were very generous with their support,” he said.

With seatting appropriately spaced and audience members masked, pianist Annemieke Spoelstra McClane and accordionist Jeremiah McClane gave the first concert on July 16th to much acclaim. “People are really enjoying the shows,” said Steve M.

Health Center Residents enjoying the concert

More concerts are lined up for the rest of the summer. Necrason has partnered with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra to bring two VSO affiliated shows to campus; then the Craftsbury Chamber players perform, and a Dulcimer and Harp duo round out the series, which finishes on September 10th.

The second performance

The concerts are a breath of fresh air.  Necrason, who independent of Wake Robin also runs the Vermont Shakespeare Festival,  reflected on programming in time of Covid-19.

“It is a refreshing return to live events and the community-driven culture of Wake Robin.  With physical distancing and safety protocols in place we can still enjoy time together and a live arts event.  Seeing the residents smiling and relaxing in the beautiful evening sunset of Vermont summer, all while listening to professional musicians play, is a joyous thing!”

Staff Honor Residents in Campus-Wide Parade

By | Blog, Events

Wake Robin is a grass roots organization. The community is “resident powered” which means residents participate in what Wake Robin does and how it operates. For instance, Maple sugaring was started by a few passionate individuals, and now it is a major part of Wake Robin’s culture.

That same grass roots attitude can be applied to staff as well. From all departments, staff are encouraged to share ideas and practices that reflect Wake Robin’s mission to create a “sustainable dynamic community.”

It’s no wonder then that a brainstorm from an Environmental Services employee blossomed into a full-on parade. A Housekeeper named Carrie hatched a plan to connect with residents. Some services normally provided on a routine basis, like housekeeping, are currently suspended due to Covid-19 precautions. “So, we wanted to find a way to stay to show our support,” Carrie said. “At first it started with wanting to make a banner telling the residents ‘We Miss You.’ Then the idea grew and grew, and it turned into a parade!”

As soon as Carrie shared the idea, many jumped on board to help. Weekly meetings were held to plan logistics, and a date was set. Costumes and props were encouraged, and staff came out in all sorts of colors! A Marketing Associate was amazed how the swift coordination streamlined into a delightful event. She described the procession as “fun, joyful, and community-oriented.”

Staff wanted to reach as many residents as possible, so the parade was mapped out to include the whole campus. Employees from Dining, Environmental Services, Health Services, and Administration gathered at the bottom of Wake Robin Drive to decorate their cars with messages of support and to get into costumes.

There was quite a variety! A staff member from Environmental Services wore colonial garb, a staff member from Administration wore butterfly wings, and a group from Dining Services dressed up as bananas and strawberries! To elevate the parade procession, an amplifier was attached to a car and played upbeat tunes and crowd-pleasers like “Hear Comes the Sun” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”

The audience of residents came prepared, too. Many lined the sidewalks banging pots and pans and waved their hats high in salute.

One resident summed it up perfectly: “An absolute spectacular show of appreciation. The staff was having so much fun creating this and pulling it off for us. We are so lucky to have a staff that is happy and willing to pitch in wherever and whenever, beyond their call of duty. It’s always with a smile, a kind word, and with dignity!”

Program and Events take Innovative Approaches During Time of Covid-19

By | Blog

Staying at home doesn’t mean you have to confine your curiosity.

As Wake Robin has followed Governor Scott’s “stay home, stay safe” orders, Program and Events Coordinator Jena Necrason has been creatively engaging residents and providing high-quality content.

It starts by casting a wide net. Necrason probes the internet for offerings from the world’s most esteemed institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum and the Lincoln Center, and each week she provides links for residents to access virtual tours and shows. Popular cultural resources have included performances from the English National Ballet, conversations from the Tribeca Film Festival, and a Great Courses Class on the history of France.

“It’s all about creative pivoting into virtual offerings,” Necrason says. “The possibilities are endless. Just this past week we hosted a webinar for residents and depositors with award winning journalist and best selling author Garrett M. Graff.  This one webinar allowed the viewers not only to virtually attend an interesting lecture on his book The Only Plane in the Sky; An Oral History of 9/11, but also allowed for participation in an engaging discussion with Graff himself.”

Necrason also works with the Resident Association to provide footage for Wake Robin’s community channel, broadcasting films recommended by the Movie Committee, and archival footage from performances and lectures at Wake Robin in the past.

Staying Connected

Connection is key, and it prompted Necrason and Resident Services Coordinator, Gretchen Roberge, to create “Coffee Connections”, a weekly virtual chat with residents where conversation is open ended and pleasantly unpredictable. For example, during a recent session, a long-time resident discovered a connection with a new resident’s grandmother.  Consequently, they both were founding residents back in 1993!

Added Motivation to Get Outside

As spring fully blossoms, residents are encouraged to get out doors and explore the wooded acres of the campus. To that end, Necrason has started a fun competition: The Spring/Summer 2020 Walking Challenge…Walk to Niagara Falls! Not literally of course, but until the end of August residents record their steps taken and those who go the distance and hit 375 miles – the distance to Niagara – are then entered in a drawing to win some wonderful prizes. Already, 50 residents have signed up for the challenge, and a mantra has been circulating around the Wake Robin campus: “Win at health.”

Wake Robin leadership is being very mindful of how to safely and appropriately ease restrictions during this difficult time allowing for outdoor opportunities such as yoga and small group wellness classes.  As one resident mentioned, “we always look forward to discovering what creative programming alternatives are in store for us…on an individual basis and the community as a whole.”

Update from Health & Resident Services Director Meagan Buckley

By | Blog, News

Dear Friends of Wake Robin,

From the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, Wake Robin has been focused on creating and implementing a fluid plan of prevention for our community. We have moved forward while consistently gathering information from multiple resources to review, revise and implement future planning with the objective of keeping this community safe and sound. I am pleased to say that as of this writing there are no cases on campus. We feel very fortunate, yet realize, we must continue our vigilance for the well-being of our campus. 

Health Services show their love for the residents.

Communication of our plan has been key. Our regular updates that go out to residents and their families offer an inside look of what is happening in the community as we respond to any new developments.

During this past month, there have certainly been difficult times … after all, who would have thought the campus would ever need to be secured with programing, events and even dining temporarily halted. However, it is amazing to witness the strength of each individual, who call Wake Robin home, meet to this challenge.

Residents are engaged in a variety of ways. In the Linden Health Center, just this past week, the residents have recorded over 16 hours of video chatting with their families. Equally important, residents are interacting and having fun in creative ways. We have music in the courtyard, virtual meetings for committee work and over 60 residents are participating in an Independent Living-Health Center Pen Pal program.

I am also happy to share that residents feel well cared for and have expressed to me that they consistently witness staff doing everything they possibly can for the residents’ well-being. The staff are all fully aware that this is a group effort and they continue to be mindful of how to help and support the residents as well as each other.

Around the community there are all kinds of encouraging signs.

I can’t thank staff enough. They show up every day with courage, spirit, and humor, and they are working in ways like never before, collaborating with other departments and rising to each and every occasion. It’s remarkable to witness. I am proud to be able to work alongside them and be part of their team.  

Stay safe….stay well!


Meagan Buckley, LNHA

Director of Health and Resident Services

Staying Positive During Isolation and Social Distancing

By | Blog, News

A resident and her teddy bear video chat with a grandnephew from Maryland

A blog post by Wake Robin Physical Therapist Alexis Mittelstadt

The isolation precautions from the Coronavirus pandemic have certainly changed our daily routines and many experts warn of the risk of feeling isolated and lonely. The widely accepted guidelines for decreasing stress from isolation involve taking care of yourself and putting your wellness first. This means: practicing mindfulness via meditation or prayer; exercising; and regularly keeping in touch with friends and family.

Wake Robin is a community full of creative and innovative minds so I thought I might enter in a few of my own “offbeat” ideas and you can all take it from there!


  • If you have a balcony or patio, take a note from the Italians for an impromptu outdoor concert or performance!
  • Have a Facetime/Facebook/Skype/speakerphone “happy hour” with a friend or family member.
  • Call 3 people you haven’t talked to in a “LONG” time. I did this and reconnected with 2 people I hadn’t talked to in years! Yes, it was a little awkward at first, but we got through it and it was great to catch up!
  • Make signs of encouragement, funny quotes, funny messages, etc. out of found objects (paper/fabric/compostable containers/etc.) to hang in your window for passersby to enjoy.
  • Call the kids and grand kids…most of them are probably home.
  • If you have a grand kids, ask what they are learning that day. Perhaps you will learn something new!
  • Pet the cat or dog a little longer…some say it can lower stress and anxiety. Probably depends a little onyour pet’s personality ?.


A resident doing in-home yoga with a campus-wide broadcast

Whatever the right fit is for you…find it! We’ll all be eager to reconnect once this is over!


Wellness Philosophy and Active Aging at Wake Robin

By | Blog, News

By Program and Events Coordinator Jena Necrason

This quote by playwright George Bernard Shaw expresses something deeply connected to the joy we find in living and inspires us to keep our spirit of play as we move through the stages of our lives.

We hope that we can inhabit our body with an energetic mind that helps us fulfill our true potential. We hope to give our mind the gift of a body that is strong and resilient.  The synergy of mind and body helps us continue to embrace wellness, even when the going gets tough.

Working as Program and Events Coordinator here at Wake Robin has taught me many new things about active aging.  As part of the team who oversees all wellness programs and fitness spaces on campus, we keep asking two questions:

Is this an innovative way of looking at things?

How can we continue to push ourselves to embrace new and engaging trends in active aging wellness?

people exercising on gym machines

Residents working out on the new Keiser training machines

In December of 2019, Wake Robin opened a new Fitness Center.  Our new space offers diverse options for residents to have their Wellness needs met right here on our beautiful campus. Our Strength Studio is full of state-of-the-art Keiser Strength Training equipment.  Our Cardio Area includes numerous machines ranging from a NordicTrack Spin Bike with technology that connects the user to online workout sessions both at gyms and in spectacular outdoor locations around the globe, to recumbent bikes that support a more rehabilitation-focused workout or a low-impact exercise session.

We look for ways to offer continuing education opportunities as part of our wellness program. Interactive workshops that demonstrate equipment use, ideas for progression of exercises, and how to use newer-trend handheld equipment are a fun way to encourage confidence and motivate residents to use the new space. This initiative is key to offering residents the opportunity to see themselves as active participants, break down barriers, and find community around wellness.  Our goal is to demystify the conversation, so our residents feel included and curious to know more.

Residents are excited to find, or re-connect with, their most-healthy self and this can lead to increased fitness levels, sharper brain health, and a boost in social engagement. Empowered by knowledge and basic building blocks, residents start to envision the Fitness Center as part of who they are.

This is an exciting time for Wake Robin. We are ready to meet the future in health and happiness and just as importantly, with a continuous spirit of play.