What’s in a Name? The Origin Story of “Wake Robin”

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Before Wake Robin became Wake Robin, it was just an idea of two visionaries.

They may not have known it in 1983, but Wake Robin founders Stokes and Mary Jane Gentry began planting seeds that, years later, would blossom into Vermont’s only nonprofit Life Plan Community.

The story goes like this.  Stokes and Mary Jane were returning from their 30th reunion weekend at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. During their stay, they visited nearby CCRCs that were guided by Quaker principles. The Gentrys were deeply impressed, and they both agreed that it would be “wonderful to have something like this in Vermont!” So began the challenging journey toward Wake Robin.

Entrance sign to the community

Back in Vermont, Stokes and Mary Jane gathered like-minded people to form the Founding Committee. The group of 32 people began conducting research, exploring the different models of CCRCs, and sending out surveys to gauge interest.

The Committee’s hard work paid off. They generated the Founding Principles which still shape Wake Robin today. Perhaps no more important was the first principle: “Belief in the dignity, independence, and worth of each individual.”

By 1985, the Committee received 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation status from the IRS. A series of important tasks lay ahead. But before they could get ahead of themselves, they had to name the nascent community.

From the recent publication, What’s Next? The Continuing Journey of the Wake Robin Life Care Community, by Lynn Bond and Jacqueline Weinstock, the origin story is chronicled as thus: “the Founding Committee devoted great care and much thought to naming their new nonprofit corporation.” The founding members connected strongly to nature and environmental values, and so they wanted to have a place-based name that correlated to the experience of the Vermont landscape.

Why the name Wake Robin?

The founders foreshadowed the emphasis we have on active aging today. For, in keeping with a naturalist approach, they selected “Wake Robin” as the community’s name. A red variety of the trillium plant, Wake Robin are among the first wildflowers that blanket the forest floor in spring. The founders were not interested in making this a retirement community, but rather, like the trillium plant itself, as a community of new growth.

The Wake Robin trillium, first sign of spring!

Wake Robin founding member Cathy Yandell, explained the name choice this way: “[We] felt that the bond between people and plants was indeed a strong one – that the carpets of trillium, white and red, together with the name Wake Robin could carry the message of spring throughout the year.”

So even as we approach the winter months, among residents there remains a strong conviction in growth and renewal. It is the essential Wake Robin way.

Recreation Services Continue to Expand Programming for Health Center Residents

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A note from Wake Robin’s Recreation Services Manager, Andrea Longe, ACC/SMC, CDP

The Recreation Department continues to focus our efforts on customizing our cultural enrichment programs, both on and off campus. We have placed an emphasis on individualizing our practice and branching out beyond the Linden Health Center. We continue ongoing conversations with residents in Linden about their interests and develop programming based upon their response.

Many of the program additions are collaborative offerings that include the entire Wake Robin Community, because friendships should not be limited based upon the location of your home. We are very excited to offer more opportunities that include our friends in the Independent Living community and challenge the traditional health center/nursing home boundaries.

Group gathers outside historic house

Linden and IL residents touring the Hildene Lincoln Family Home

An example of these collaborative offerings is the recent trip residents took to Manchester, Vermont. We visited the Hildene Lincoln Family Home on a beautiful summer day for a guided tour and lunch. Everyone enjoyed the company and camaraderie.

So much of our well-being is based upon our social circles and our abilities to feel purpose. When facing a level of care change, the social self is often quite fragile. We see it as a necessity for us to continue to offer opportunities that stretch beyond a person’s limitations. Some of our most recent program additions have touched upon that very need, from a group of Linden residents who make sandwiches for Committee on Temporary Shelter, to a cohort who together each week take classes in The Great Courses educational art series.

A group makes sandwiches

Linden residents prepare sandwiches for COTS Burlington.

We are happy to share with anyone information about our initiatives. Please be in touch, and we look forward to speaking with you!

Andrea Longe, ACC/SMC, CDP
Recreation Services Manager
alonge@wakerobin.com (802)264-5149

Summer Fun Chronicles Part II

By | Blog, Events

Circus Smirkus Wows Linden Health Center Residents

The contortionist performers

Non-Profit Circus Arts Group Draws Oohs and Aahs

Wake Robin celebrated Carnival Day this month. The main event excited the entire Wake Robin Community, and a group of impressive young performers dazzled the resident audience. The group’s name? Circus Smirkus… and folks cannot stop talking about them!

What is Circus Smirkus?

Circus Smirkus is a nonprofit arts and education organization based in Greensboro, Vermont. Its mission promotes the skills, culture, and traditions of the traveling circus, and inspires youth to engage in life-changing adventures in the circus arts. Camp staff teach children of all ages (and even adults!) acrobatics, clowning, aerials, and much more.

Accordingly, participants of Circus Smirkus have a fun and unforgettable camp experience. We encourage you to view their Circus Smirkus Camp Experience video.

Juggling several batons

A Riveting Show in Wake Robin’s Juniper Garden

In the Juniper Garden on a beautiful summer morning, a troupe of youngsters performed several fantastic feats. There was juggling, flipping, dancing, and even human pyramids! The performers synchronized their every move, offered humorous dialogue, and simply delighted the crowd with their energy.

What is even more impressive, is that the road show performance is part of the summer camp series which lasts for only 3 weeks! The first half of camp is spent learning and mastering the routine while the remaining time is dedicated to area performances.


During the finale, the performers bowed to raucous applause. Each Circus Smirkus member announced where they hailed from; one teen lived close by, in Charlotte, while a couple of others grew up in Washington D.C. and Florida.

Afterward, the group of teenagers had a chance to introduce themselves and visit with residents.

Thanks to Recreation Services

Above all, Carnival Day created an atmosphere of cheer and conviviality. Both residents and staff enjoyed good company, good treats (think fried dough!), and a wonderful performance. We must thank Recreation Service Manager Andrea Longe, ACC/SMC, CDP, who coordinated the entire day.

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post about future Linden Health Center programming!


Summer Fun Chronicles Part I

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Wake Robin Residents take to Lake Champlain


Wake Robin residents insist on an active lifestyle. On land, and on sea.

As a result, Wake Robin residents gathered at the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory pier to board Melosira, UVM’s research and teaching vessel. 45-feet long and weighing 18 tons, Melosira has been uncovering the mysteries of Lake Champlain since 1987.

The Wake Robin crew 

Captain Steve Cluett steered the ship and helped the Wake Robin mariners identify the fascinating elements of the lake’s ecosystem. During the two-plus hour tour, residents took and measured water samples, saw how the boat’s computer system gathered data in real time, and examined small water species in Petri dishes.

Besides scientific endeavors, residents also enjoyed the sheer beauty of the Adirondack Mountains; the captain even directed Melosira north so the Wake Robin crew could witness the dramatic rock face at Rock Point, located in Burlington.

Perfect day to be on the water!

Along with the boat tour, Wake Robin has a slate of summer fun activities ahead. Outings to Shelburne Farms, Shelburne Museum, the Lincoln Family Hildene Estate and many others make for an adventurous time here at Wake Robin.

Stay tuned for more summer fun chronicles!








Gems of Wake Robin: Tree Marker Plaques

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Gems of Wake Robin: Tree Marker Plaques

2014 was a BIG year at Wake Robin. It marked the 20th anniversary for Vermont’s first Life Plan Community. Rightly so, residents and staff celebrated the occasion in a variety of ways.

A map of all the tree markers on campus

Five years later, one particular commemoration still lives on: tree marker plaques. Spread around our wooded campus, the tree marker plaques were put up not only to educate, but also to honor Wake Robin’s commitment to natural conservation. A total of eighteen different trees — from Vermont’s quintessential Sugar Maple, to the appropriately named Shagbark Hickory — were cataloged, described in detail by their features, and given a plaque.

How it Began

Wake Robin’s lead landscaper Peter Hausermann and resident named Mary spearheaded the project. They both wanted to identify trees that the buildings on campus were named after.

Mary remembers hatching the idea after seeing tree markers from the Audubon Society. Since Wake Robin values green living, Mary thought: why not do the same here?

The project was meticulous, taking over two years to complete. Mr. Hausermann identified the trees, while Mary and a committee researched tree information, and the Wake Robin wood shop built the backings and posts for the plaques. The Wake Robin Residents Association funded the project.

“Walk Along the Tree Trails” Celebration

The Shagbark Hickory plaque

Wake Robin hosted residents and priority depositors for a “Walk Along the Tree Trails” event as part of an ecological exhibit that toured the wooden grounds. Mr. Hausermann capped the event with a presentation on tree history and land enrichment as Wake Robin moved from year one, to year twenty.

“One of the beauties of Wake Robin is that it allows people to have close access to nature,” he said.

Next time you go for a stroll take a moment to notice all the different trees you are passing. There is always so much to learn, and so many to see here at Wake Robin.


Annual Strawberry Social Rings in Summer 2019

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Our Beloved Annual Strawberry Social – A Hit Once Again!

Residents & staff ate up every last strawberry!

On Wednesday, June 26th, residents and staff alike descended on the newly renovated dining room for a long-standing tradition, the annual Strawberry Social, an event that celebrates the local fruit harvest, the onset of summer, and the deep ties of the Wake Robin community. Members of the Social Committee served ice cream, short bread and whipped cream – the last two of which were homemade by a highly-skilled resident baker – to pair with an endless supply of ripe and juicy strawberries.

Per Wake Robin’s commitment to local and healthy food sourcing, the strawberries were brought in locally from Full Belly Farm out of Hinesburg, Vermont. Over 50 quarts of strawberries were harvested for Wake Robin at this peak time of the year!

Locally sourced and hand picked strawberries from Full Belly Farm!

The afternoon event was a wonderful opportunity for Priority Depositors to visit and feel the true sense of Wake Robin. CEO Patrick McKee welcomed those who were excited to explore and learn more about Vermont’s first Life Plan Community.

Needless to say, there were no strawberries left over!

From all of us at Wake Robin, Happy Fourth of July!

Shelburne fireworks…right at our doorstep!

This year, we celebrate the progress and expansion of our campus, all to promote a richer community, more sustainable practices, and exceptional care that residents have come to expect and love. While residents relax and join the company of friends and family, we are grateful for this 26th celebration of Fourth of July here at Wake Robin, and we look forward to many, many more!

From our family to yours, Happy Independence Day! Wishing you a wonderful holiday and summer full of cheer, good will, and plenty of laughter.

What is Inquire at Wake Robin and What Have We Been Up To?

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Jena Necrason, Program & Events Coordinator

By Jena Necrason, Program and Events Coordinator

Now in its ninth year, Inquire is Wake Robin’s lifelong learning program that selects a series of topics, often resident suggested, and explores them over a series of lectures and events. Inquire has offered courses on 20th-century education, Canadian history, American history, brain science, literature, Vermont agriculture, conservation, gardening, Lake Champlain, computer technology, performing arts, economics, government, energy, food systems, and more. Inquire has collaborated with universities and colleges from all over the northeast, as well as area businesses, non-profits, and top-notch regional arts organizations.

Here is what we were up to for the past couple of months:

The Future of Work Lecture Series

Enormous advances in technology will transform the workplace of the future in unimaginable ways.  Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and the “gig economy” will result in a workplace unlike what any of us have experienced.  This three-part series offered an overview of what the workplace of the future will look like, and what skills will be needed to succeed.

Confronting the Challenge of Climate Change Lecture Series

Climate change may be the most critical issue facing humanity and the natural world in the 21st century.  This series helped us gain a broader and deeper understanding of the significance of this central issue, with the opportunity to examine the climate situation in the Northeast and Vermont, explore public opinion, and explore what we can do to make a positive difference.

We had two intergenerational workshops

Local high school students spent Sunday afternoons with a group of our residents teaching them about new technology and mobile device use/trends.  And we had a group of residents take part in the nationally acclaimed Sages and Seekers Program, a collaboration with the Lake Champlain Waldorf School.

We were also treated to a lecture by author Bill Mares on Beekeeping in Vermont and enjoyed weekly Ukulele lessons with local musician Clare Innes from Ukulele Shenanigans.

 Things have been busy in our lifelong learning program this spring!

Grand Opening of the Maple Leaf Dining Room

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Wake Robin residents and staff are celebrating the grand opening of the newly renovated Maple Leaf Dining Room. Maple Leaf boasts an open kitchen concept, beautiful new furnishings, two fieldstone fireplaces as well as special lighting and acoustical finishes to add to diners’ enjoyment.

Dining Director, Kate Hays

People have the option of dining with friends with tableside service or choosing a counter seat opposite the evening chefs to enjoy an up-close dining experience.  Every meal is prepared to order using fresh and local ingredients.   Wake Robin is a part of the Vermont Fresh Network and works closely with local farms and vendors who bring fresh, organic, and locally sourced food to our kitchens. All menus are rotated seasonally with special dining events scattered throughout the year.

Recently opened Maple Leaf is just one of the three dining venues planned for Wake Robin and is truly a welcome and exciting addition to the community.

Holiday Pastries from the Wake Robin Kitchen

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Holidays mean connected with family – usually over food. Jesse Lauer, Wake Robin Pastry Chef, shares some of his favorite holiday baking recipes that are sure to bring family to the table.

Panettone (Traditional Italian Holiday Bread)

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
Just a pinch of 1 packet of active dry yeast (save the rest for later in the recipe)
1/3 c. room temperature water

– Combine everything in a small bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it hang out in a cool place to rest overnight (at least 8 hours).

starter (from above)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
remaining yeast from yesterday’s packet
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. warm water
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
4 Tb. butter (1/2 stick), softened
2 cups of dried fruits (larger dried fruits should be chopped to about raisin size)
zest of 1 lemon & 1 orange

– Combine the flour, yeast, sugar & salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
– Add the water, eggs, vanilla and yesterday’s starter.
– With the dough hook attachment, mix until the ingredients have formed a shaggy dough.
– Add the butter and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and soft.
– Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof until the dough has doubled in size.
– Punch down the risen dough and knead in the zests and dried fruits.
– Transfer to a well-oiled panettone pan (or any pan with straight sides), cover, and allow to proof once again until the dough has just crested the top of the pan.
– While the dough is making its final rise, preheat your oven to 400°.
– Bake the panettone at 400° for 10 minutes.
– Drop the oven temperature to 375° and bake for another 10 minutes.
– Drop the oven to 350° and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, tenting the top of the bread with aluminum foil if the crust is becoming too dark.
– When the bread is done is should be dark brown, sound hollow when tapped and the center of the bread should register 190° on a digital thermometer.
– Allow the bread to cool completely before removing from the pan.
– Slice & Enjoy!

Sufganiyot (Israeli Jelly Donuts):


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup warm milk
2 Tb. butter
4-6 cups canola oil (for frying)
any flavor jam (for the filling)
powdered sugar (for dusting)

– Combine the flour, sugar, yeast, & salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
– Add the yolks, milk, & butter and, with the dough hook attachment, mix the dough until smooth and elastic.
– Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof until the dough has doubled in size.
– Transfer the risen dough to a lightly-floured work surface. Lightly flour the top, and roll out the dough to 1/4″ thick.
– With a 2″ round cookie cutter stamp out circles of dough and transfer to a greased cookie sheet. Discard the remaining scraps of dough (Donuts made from re-rolled dough scraps will be tough and disappointing).
– Cover dough and allow to proof until 1/2″ thick.
– Heat oil in a large pot to 350°.
– Using a spatula, transfer the donuts to the hot oil and fry for 1-2 minutes per side or until puffed and golden brown.  Transfer donuts to a paper towel-lined baking tray to cool.
– Poke a hole in the side of the donuts with a paring knife.
– Fill a piping bag with jam and gently fill the donuts (There will likely be a couple jammy blowouts before you get a feel for it)
– Dust with powdered sugar.
– Enjoy!


Wake Robin wishes everyone a very happy holiday season! If you make one of these recipes – send us a picture! We’d love to see your masterpieces!

Holiday Music at Wake Robin

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Music is an integral part of the Wake Robin Community. No greater example of that can be seen than during the holiday season. The Wake Robin Chorus and the Wake Robin Handbell Chorus that have been diligently practicing all semester, finally had the opportunity to perform for their friends and family.

The chorus concert was held on December 5th at All Souls Interfaith Gathering here in Shelburne. It features approximately thirty Wake Robin Residents. Directed by Rufus Patrick who is not only the founder and director of the Hinesburg Artist Series – he also conducts for the South County Chorus, the Hinesburg United Church Choir, All Souls Interfaith Gathering Choir in Shelburne, and the Waffle Tones (among others!). The holiday program included holiday classics like “Deck the Halls” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” but also classic compositions such as, “Down by the Riverside”.

The Wake Robin Handbell Concert was on held on December 13th. There were two performances (an early and late show) in the Wake Robin Meeting Room. The handbell choir is composed of eleven resident members and is directed by Jerilyn Bergdahl. This musical program featured holiday favorites like, “Hark the Herald Angel Sing” and “Welsh Christmas Lullaby” as well as an audience sing-along to “Jolly Old St. Nicholas.”

These musical groups add another layer of community to Wake Robin. Walking past the meeting room while the chorus and handbell group are practicing always brings a smile to residents and staff. We are so happy to ring in the New Year with such great performances and to hear what they have in store for 2019!