In their words: VHS residents share life stories for Skilled Nursing Care Week 2024

It’s National Skilled Nursing Care Week (May 12-18)! We are spotlighting some of our VHS residents at Virginia Health Services’ seven nursing and rehabilitation centers. Our team supports our residents in living their best life as they age with us.

We appreciate their time and the time of their visiting families and friends who all were so open in telling their stories.

Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

James Genus

James Genus – or as we affectionately call him, Mr. G – has been at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center since February 2021. He never misses an activity and always waves hello.

Originally from Rockville, Maryland, Mr. G was stationed at Fort Eustis after returning from flying for the Army in Vietnam. He served as a flight engineer for seven years in the Army, leaving as an E-5 in 1966.

Coliseum resident Mr. G.

It was while he was stationed at Fort Eustis that he met his wife. Even after struggling to find a job “as a Black man” in the area, they didn’t leave.

Instead he opened his own string of businesses, including a portable cleaning service.

“I learned I could make more money doing that than something in aviation (at that time),” he says.

Mr. G’s businesses brought in a lot of money and at its peak employed 40. His janitorial and environmental services businesses spanned several states, including Delaware and North Carolina, and they had contracts with several small colleges, he said.

“I never got a big head. Because it comes but you got a partner, and that partner’s the government. … I always stayed low-key, and I teach my son the same thing. He thanks me all the time,” he says.

Mr. G’s success translated to his son, also named James, though in a far different path. His son has played bass with the Saturday Night Live Band for about 20 years, and is also a freelance musician who has toured the world with Herbie Hancock.

He lives in Connecticut with his wife and three children.

Mr. G has been to see his son perform on the set of “SNL” many times, he says, but couldn’t quite pinpoint a favorite host.

“I don’t know (who my favorite host was),” he says. “I was just there to see him.”

James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Sandra Jordan

Sandra Jordan has been at James River for almost 15 years. With little family in the area, she relies on the team at James River for support.

“They look out for me and help me,” she says.

James River resident Sandra Jordan.

Sandra originally is from New York, and moved to the area first to attend Hampton University. In her first year, she met and married her husband.

“I just stayed after that,” she says.

They divorced when their son turned 18, she says, but remained friends.

“I’ve been single ever since,” she says.

She worked as a kitchen supervisor at Sentara for 15 years and Riverside for 10 years, so “I’m particular about the food,” she says.

Sandra believes in giving a kind word to all.

She enjoys the daily activity programs. Sandra says she enjoys Bingo and the live music the most.

“It’s one day at a time,” she says.

Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Sandra Scripture

Sandra Scripture has called Lancashire home since January 2023. She moved in for the extra help – and to help ease her children’s minds.

“I’m a china doll on the wall and I have somebody here to pick me up when I fall,” she says.

The 24/7 nursing care, regular meals and housekeeping are benefits to staying at Lancashire. It’s also close to some of her children. She lived in Northumberland since 1983, but was born and raised in Caroline County.

Sandra Scripture calls Lancashire home.

Sandra is a regular in the therapy room to keep up strength in her knee, using the stationary bike and other equipment when she has the chance.

She participates in Resident Council, but prefers to skip some of the activities.

“I’ve always had to meet deadlines, I enjoy just being able to relax and think and read,” she says.

Sandra was in dentistry for 50 years. She worked for a dentist as an assistant who made her learn everything, she says, “and that was the foundation for my career. I worked for several other dentists and they all found me as knowledgeable as they were.”

There is a plaque in the division of dental health in Richmond in honor of the work she did for rural Virginia. Sandra worked for state dental health division for 15 years.

“I’m just an average person who loved people and loved the Lord and enjoyed life,” she says.

With a last name like Scripture, it was inevitable Sandra’s husband would pursue ministry. He attended seminary 20 years after graduating from Virginia Tech and working for the state in Richmond in the division of health research.

“We were late in life doing things,” Sandra says.

They fostered 14 children during their marriage, adopting a son, and have three children. Sandra says there are “a bunch of grandsons and great-grandchildren – who knows where they are, but they keep in touch!” (It’s with a smile – there are just too many locations to recall in an interview.)

They both usually held two jobs. Sandra’s husband passed in November 2022.

“He preached on Sunday and died on Tuesday,” she says.

Their youngest daughter got in the pulpit the Sunday after he passed and has been preaching at Wicomico Baptist in Remo since. Sandra says she gets there every so often for services.

“As much as we think about our future – I never wanted to go to a nursing home, but it’s actually in my mind the best thing for us older people. Gives our children peace of mind that somebody’s always watching us.

“I think we elders need to rethink the thought that I don’t ever want to go to a nursing home. It’s not home, but it’s the next best thing.”

Robert Laws

Robert Laws was the maintenance tech at Lancashire.

Robert Laws has resided at Lancashire for about four years.

His many odd jobs throughout life – where he was a cook, installed fences and “everything in the name of the world” included serving as the former maintenance foreman at Lancashire.

The Lancaster County native has a lot of family members in the area and says he gets along with everyone.

“Life is a character, it goes on and on. I love my life,” he says with a kind smile. “… I’m cool, that’s all you need to know. No more, no less than that.”

Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Charles Speller

Peninsula native Charles Speller moved to Northampton from the VA Hospital about a year ago. He served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, working aboard ships as a fireman.

Charles Speller moved into Northampton from the VA Hospital.

“It was exciting,” he says.

When he returned to dry land, he worked at the Newport News shipyard as a plumber.

“If pipes were damaged and needed fixing on ships, they would call us. I couldn’t count all the pipes on a ship,” he says.

After spending five years at the shipyard, he worked as a plumber for his uncle’s company.

At Northampton, Charles goes to as many activities as he can. Some of his favorites are live entertainment, church services, arts and crafts, Bingo and music with Mr. Teller – “the ‘Piano Man,’ he’s good,” he says.

He also appreciates the physical therapists at Northampton.

Suzanne Joyner

You get a sense of some of Suzanne Joyner’s loves when you step into her space. One the walls are photographs and paintings highlighting her joys – her family and ballroom dancing.

The former competitive ballroom dancer ran a dance studio for 27 years in Hampton.

“I never worked a day in my life,” she says of her love for dance. She also won several “best teacher” awards.

Before owning the studio, she owned a sewing machine store for 21 years. She also is devoted to her family.

Suzanne Joyner owned a ballroom dance studio in Hampton. She says she “never worked a day in my life.”

She was married for almost 60 years until he passed. They met as teenagers when he worked as a painter for her father.

“I loved him so much,” she says. “If you ever find a man you love, listen to what he says to you. You have to be friends first – be his friend.”

Suzanne has three living children, including a son who is an artist, and an adopted daughter who works for VHS Hospice and suggested Northampton. She also has six grandchildren and six great-grands – “I love them all!”

She has had two strokes, one of which “debilitated me.” She did a skilled rehabilitation stint at The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, was discharged home, and then returned more permanently to Northampton.

“I’m a determined person,” she says. “I like it (here); I’m getting used to it. … I think I get the best care they can give me.”

She participates in as many activities as she can, including Bingo, and really loves when there’s live music. She also reads and plays games on her iPad.

Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Connie Strickland

When Connie Strickland came to Walter Reed about three years ago, she was paralyzed. She could barely lift her head when someone fed her.

She did physical therapy for about a year.

Walter Reed resident Connie Strickland.

“The therapists did a fantastic job with me. I hated them. But they got me moving, and I can do everything except walk with left leg and my back is not good. Other than that, I’m fine,” she says.

Now she visits the therapy room to encourage those there that “it isn’t hopeless,” she says. “Those therapists, I call them my angels.”

She now lives across the hall from her best friend Lola, and the women on the unit have become fast friends.

“I do find I love it here,” she says. “They’re really good to me and we all have a good time.”

She participates in as many activities as she’s able – with Bingo and “all the thinking activities” being her favorites. “I stay busy,” she says.

Connie also is an active member of Resident Council.

Originally from West Virginia, where she met her husband in 11th grade, they moved to the Gloucester area to take care of members of her husband’s family before he passed.

They were married (one month shy of) 50 years.

While in West Virginia, they did a lot of camping, fishing and boating – and had a lot of dogs. Connie has portraits of them up in her room, which drew Lola to inquire about them, igniting their friendship.

Connie taught English for 35 years – “all the way from elementary to college. I loved it,” she says.

Since moving to Virginia, she made several friends she relies on, including best friends who serve as her responsible party.

“I think this is a good place for anybody,” she says. “I was meant to be here, that’s what I’ve told people. … that’s how we all look at it. We take care of each other.”

Connie and Lola, right, live across the hall from one another and are best friends at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Lola Colgan

Lola Colgan lives across the hall from her best friend at Walter Reed. She’s been a resident for about a year and a half, and struck up a conversation with hallmate Connie Strickland.

“I’m a fanatic about dogs and I talked to her about her pictures,” Lola says. “We found out we have a lot in common. We get along real well; we do everything together pretty much, but Bingo is our thing.”

She, Connie and their hallmates are all close. They sit in the hall and talk; help one another when they can.

“Of course, I would prefer to be well enough to live on my own again, but I’ve tried several facilities and this is the best one I’ve found,” she says.

It’s closer to her daughter in Mathews, who visits frequently. Lola also says she and her friends at Walter Reed feel heard. They attend Resident Council meetings and “we voice our opinions about diet and activities and personnel, and we do seem to get a voice and they to seem to listen to us and react to our comments,” she says.

While she’s lived in the Gloucester area for about 20 years, she moved with her family from Arkansas when she was 6 and Lola spent her earlier years living in Hampton and Newport News.

The Hampton High grad worked at Newport News Shipbuilding for more than 20 years. She started in the sewing department, but found she was more interested in building ventilation systems for air craft carriers and submarines.

“I enjoyed ventilation and rose in rank in that department. It was hands-on; I could see it being built,” Lola says.

That desire to use her hands translated to her out-of-office interests. She did a lot of crafts such as stenciling. She also liked gardening. When she and her husband moved into a house that wasn’t landscaped, they landscaped it, including digging a koi pond.

Lola met her husband of 21 years – “that was the keeper,” she says with a laugh – while working at the shipyard. She raised three children, and has two granddaughters and a grandson.

Woodland Scott Jr.

Woodland Scott isn’t the only one from his family at Walter Reed. A brother lives on another unit, so they are able to see one another frequently.

Mr. Scott visits his brother, who also is a resident at Walter Reed, often.

Originally from Middlesex, Woodland moved after graduating high school and worked for a utility company in Woodbridge, N.J., as an office administrator for more than 20 years. He returned to Virginia after retirement. Three brothers still live in New Jersey.

The Army veteran is a music fan, and going to shows was his favorite form of entertainment while living in New Jersey.

“That was about all we were doing back then, going to shows. Then there was Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips … after you get a certain age, they (performer names) don’t come to you as quick,” he says with a chuckle.

He says at Walter Reed, “overall, I like it because they let you just be yourself.

“It took me adjustments when I first got here, but God brought me through it, so I’m all right.”

York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Charles Ramirez

York resident Charles Ramirez loves music. He often can be found in the activity room, listening to a variety of genres.

You can usually find Charles listening to music somewhere at York.

But his favorite song?

“I don’t know, there are so many of them,” he says. “This might sound crazy, came out in 1961, ‘Moon River’ has always been one of my favorites, written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer.”

It’s featured in the Audrey Hepburn movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which inspired a recent tea party at York that Charles enjoyed.

The community King of Valentine’s Day is also is well-versed in local history, having spent most of his time living in Hampton and the Gloucester area. On a trip to the Mariners’ Museum, he shared tidbits about local athletic pros, such as Michael Vick, Ronald Curry and Allen Iverson.

Charles is a veteran, serving in the Navy for four years during the Vietnam War. He is a jack of many trades, having worked as an insurance salesman and security guard before retiring from Canon.

Learn more about us

Virginia Health Services owns and operates seven nursing and rehabilitation centers on the Peninsula, Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck. Each offers skilled care, long-term care and respite care. Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center features an on-site Dialysis Den, operated in partnership with DaVita Kidney Care. Memory Care is available at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Learn more about our care options and employment opportunities at vahs.com.

Stephanie Johnston joins VHS team as Executive Director of Senior Living

Stephanie Johnston has joined the Virginia Health Services team as Executive Director of Senior Living. She is responsible for establishing the strategic direction to achieve operational excellence at The Hamilton & The Huntington Assisted Living and The Arbors Independent Living.

Stephanie has more than 20 years of sales and operations experience in various industries, including mortgage, residential and commercial real estate investing, telecom, and commercial lumber. She grew her passion in senior living for nearly six years in a sales leadership role, providing strategic support and training for 38 communities before joining VHS.

“It’s an honor to serve others. If you lead with a caring heart, and an open mind, you will make a difference,” she says.

Her previous experience in senior living included a lot of travel – sometimes up to 4,500 miles a month by car, plus flights – but she says it also allowed her to help the sales team and be closely connected to the operations side to help offer the best first impression and experience to residents. She also assisted with caregiver education and dementia training for team members.

Stephanie says she is excited to use the depth and breadth of her experience to help build the VHS senior living team to be the best it can be.

“Everyone has a different skill set and so it’s about taking what’s exciting for them and motivating them to grow what they currently experience day-to-day and bring in their personal passion,” she says.

Resident experience

When it comes to senior living, it’s all about providing the best experience that’s personalized to the residents. Whether it’s learning of a resident’s favorite meal that will provide comfort or a family story, Stephanie says engagement and communication for peace of mind are key.

“It’s our honor to be able to care for them and allow them to live their best life,” she says.

Solid wellness and dining and nutrition programs, engaging activities and events, and making sure residents feel independent to “continue to be who they are in their everyday life and allow their life history to flourish” factor into a well-rounded resident experience, she says.

“We want to make sure we’re impacting their health in a positive way,” she says. Having VHS Rehabilitation within the team allows a streamlined and convenient option for care.

“It’s our honor to be able to care for them and allow them to live their best life.”

Stephanie Johnston, VHS Executive Director of Senior Living

All can be achieved, she says, by helping keep familiarity for the residents. “We have to ask questions of families to help orientate a resident when they come in to provide a sense of comfort and peace. Knowing a favorite meal or type of music and offering it can set the tone to make them feel the most comfortable when they move in and call us their home.”

Utilizing monthly resident council meetings to be sure residents have a voice and input into menus, calendars, community projects and more also can help the team improve the resident experience.

Background

Stephanie graduated from ECPI with a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration and is a Certified Dementia Practitioner. The Virginia native resides in Gloucester with her husband. She has a daughter who is a Gloucester County Sheriff’s deputy. She says they enjoy “country living,” which includes spending quality time with family, exploring with her Boxer and enjoying nature. Stephanie also is new to gardening – “trying to find my green thumb,” she says.

Senior living with VHS

Virginia Health Services offers senior living options in Newport News and York County.

When the responsibilities of home ownership become too much, The Arbors Independent Living offers a maintenance-free lifestyle with private apartments, inclusive dining, events and activities, and personal transportation. Also included are valet parking, concierge service, housekeeping and linen service — all without a costly entrance fee. Schedule a tour of The Arbors.

VHS assisted living communities, The Huntington and The Hamilton, provide a safe environment when an individual needs extra assistance with their healthcare needs. A nursing team is available 24/7 to residents, and private apartments are designed for safety and ease. Dining, activities, housekeeping and more are included, without an entrance fee.

Schedule a tour of The Huntington or The Hamilton.

Thank you to our volunteer network at VHS!

Our team and communities appreciate the support of a network of volunteers who provide companionship, assistance and support to our residents, their loved ones and the staff. During National Volunteer Week, we are recognizing a few volunteers who have made a difference to our communities.

Virginia Health Services is lucky to have so many volunteers who give their time to our communities. Last year we highlighted those who provide church services at Coliseum, long-time volunteer at Walter Reed Ray Agtay, quilter and volunteer extraordinaire Gala Damato at The Hamilton Assisted Living, and Martha and Jerry Dodson at The Huntington Assisted Living, who do a craft each month with the residents.

Volunteers from Therapy Dogs International are so giving of their time, and their pets, visiting residents at several of our communities weekly. Master Gardeners from Hampton, Newport News and Walter Reed do craft sessions monthly with residents at Northampton, James River and Walter Reed.

There are many churches and individuals who host services, Bible studies and gospel music sessions across our communities.

At Northampton, Wanda has called Bingo for 32 years. She previously worked in the dietary department. “I love it,” she said.

We can’t do what we do without the kindness of our volunteers. Thank you to all who take the time!

Here are a few more volunteer stories:

THE HAMILTON ASSISTED LIVING

Dottie James

Dottie James started volunteering to lead Bible study shortly after The Hamilton opened. Her aunt had moved in and shared with Dottie she missed church and Bible study.

“God kind of tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘you can do something about that,’” Dottie said.

She had led a Bible study group at The since, with a brief hiatus at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak and to deal with a personal health issue. She has led the group in-person and virtually in that time.

“I made the decision to do this for my aunt,” Dottie said. “I will come as long as I can be here.”

She has led Bible study, written Bible studies for her church and helped teach the upcoming group of leaders. She feels called to provide Bible study to those who need it off campus.

“These women miss church. They miss the fellowship of their church circles. They miss all of that,” Dottie said. “This gives them a chance. I’ve seen community build within this group and I love that.”

Bible study leader Dottie James

She said she teaches straight from the Bible – the group picks the book they want to go through.

“I try to teach everything in context. When there are places different churches may interpret differently, we acknowledge that and I have them share ‘what’s your experience with this topic,’” she said.

One resident has been with the group since foundation.

“The people here, the residents here are wonderful. They’re a little bit invisible in the community, but they have value, worth, they’re worth knowing and spending time with, and I love that I get to do that,” Dottie said.

“It’s a very supportive, welcoming place to volunteer. Kirstie is nothing short of amazing, she has so much energy. I appreciate all the support she gives to gather the women and help them get to the activity room for Bible study.”

Dottie has lived primarily on the Peninsula, and originally is from Newport News. She attended college at Virginia Tech and taught high school math in southwestern Virginia for two years before moving back east.

Dottie also is a creative person who likes to create using paper medium. She was one of seven original founders of Blue Skies Gallery in downtown Hampton, and was involved for seven years.

“I’m very proud we created something that’s still there,” she said. While it has changed formats over the years, its main concentration is still on displaying work by local artists.

LANCASHIRE NURSING AND REHABILITATION CENTER

Joyce Taylor

The residents at Lancashire love volunteer Joyce Taylor, and the feeling is mutual.

Joyce is a daily presence at Lancashire, volunteering for just about any activity, including Bingo and wine and cheese tastings. The former Lancashire dietary team member also occasionally eats lunch with a group of residents.

If she isn’t there, the residents will request Activity Director Amber Watson call and encourage her to visit.

“She’s like family,” Amber says.

The Lancaster County native is typically at Lancashire from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. most days.

“She’s a big help with everything,” Administrator Amy Payne says.

WALTER REED NURSING AND REHABILITATION CENTER

Kristy Gust

Kristy Gust has volunteered with Walter Reed for almost three years. What started as having Bible study with a friend who was a resident has grown to weekly Bible study sessions held in the dining room.

Fishers for Men Ministries also developed about three years ago, led by Kristy and Pastor D. “It blew up. God has expanded the territory,” Kristy said.

Supported by Petsworth Baptist Church and other church partners, the ministry offers two outreach events at Walter Reed each year. The group is hosting a “yard sale” for residents, plus food from Scoot’s BBQ, sno-cones and bluegrass music, on Saturday, April 27.

Kristy said the “yard sale” items are donated by church members and are free to residents. Once everyone has shopped, the “sale” is open to Walter Reed team members.

“We want to get them outside to do something they normally wouldn’t be able to do,” Kristy said. “We love, love, love those residents. They’re precious to god and they’re precious to us. … Also, the team does such a phenomenal job taking care of the residents. I know all of them by name and it’s a joy to work with them.”

Fishers of Men Ministries also hosts a holiday party for residents, their loved ones and the Walter Reed team. Kristy and Pastor D also do Bible study at the men’s and women’s prisons in Henrico and do street ministry at the bus station in Richmond.

Following a long illness, Kristy says she was saved and born again four years ago.

“I want to do what God’s called me to do now – love God and love people,” she said, adding volunteering is “something that more people should get involved with – it’s a blessing in blessing others, and brings deep sense of fulfillment when you can help somebody else.”

During events, several others from the church volunteer at Walter Reed.

“We’re thankful to be there. It’s a privilege and honor to work with them,” she said. “I look forward to being there and look forward to these outreaches.”

YORK NURSING AND REHABILITATION CENTER

George Conway

You can find George Conway at York almost every afternoon. He visits his wife and also volunteers with the recreational therapy team to provide companionship and support for the residents.

He has a drawer of tools to do odd jobs around the activity room, including fixing bookcases. And he builds the frames for the residents’ completed puzzles to be displayed. There are several hanging on the walls of the activity room and in the dining room. Some are hung in resident rooms as well.

George Conway spends time daily at York, to visit his wife and other residents. He also builds frames for puzzles and other handyman help.

“I was here and I like working with people, being around people – and they needed some help in here,” he says of volunteering at York. “Just trying to make life more comfortable for (the residents). They don’t have anywhere else to be, why not make it more comfortable for them.”

No stranger to volunteering, George spent 32 years with Odyssey of the Mind as a judge and problem-solver (ending his run as state problem-solver). He was pulled out of retirement this year to be a judge. He also was a docent at Virginia Air and Space Center for about seven years and volunteered at Animal Aid Society no-kill shelter in Hampton for 10 years.

Fort Monroe was the final assignment for the retired Army lieutenant colonel – who did tours in Vietnam and Korea. He and his wife settled their family in York County because he was done moving around.

“People need people – and a lot of these folks don’t have anybody,” he said. “I try to come in and make them smile. I don’t stay very long, but I’m here every day for a couple of hours.”

VHS HOSPICE

Our VHS Hospice team is recruiting volunteers to help provide comfort and compassion to the individuals in their care and their loved ones.

“It’s really a privilege to work with these individuals,” says Julie, who has volunteered with Hospice for about six years.

VHS Hospice social worker and volunteer coordinator Ariane Minette says the team provides all training, including study guides and discussion of scenarios. Volunteering is about 90% companionship, she says.

“Volunteers should have empathy and commitment to the individuals and their families. We’re looking for people who want to engage with others,” she says.

Hospice is recruiting in all communities across the Peninsula, Williamsburg, York County and the Gloucester area. There are also opportunities to volunteer in the Hospice office, answering phones and responding to emails.

“We are very grateful for whatever time can be given,” Ariane says.

If being a volunteer with VHS Hospice is of interest to you, visit vahs.com/hospice-volunteer to learn more.

Volunteer with VHS

All of Virginia Health Services’ communities are happy to accept volunteers.

Church and youth groups, school service organizations, Greek life and other college organizations, and individuals are needed to help facilitate activities and provide social interaction and support to Residents.

VHS Hospice also is looking for volunteers interested in assisting those in end-of-life care and their caregivers.

Contact the community nearest you to apply and discuss options with our team.

Volunteer locations

Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 305 Marcella Road, Hampton, Virginia 23666

Phone: 757-827-8953

Contact: Shawn Hill, Activities Director

The Hamilton Assisted Living

Address: 113 Battle Road, Yorktown, Virginia 23692

Phone number: 757-243-8559

Contact: Kirstie Saunders, Activities Director

The Huntington Assisted Living

Address: 11143 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, Virginia 23601

Phone: 757-223-0888

Contact: Devyn Hotop, Activity Director

James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 540 Aberthaw Ave., Newport News, Virginia 23601

Phone: 757-595-2273

Contact: Shawn Hanberry, Activity Director

Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 287 School St., Kilmarnock, Virginia 22482

Phone: 804-435-1684

Contact: Amber Watson, Activity Director

The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 11141 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, Virginia 23601

Phone: 757-595-3733

Contact: Jamel DeCosta, Activity Director

Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 1028 Topping Lane, Hampton, Virginia 23666

Phone: 757-826-4922

Contact: Erica Donaldson, Activity Director

Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 7602 Meredith Drive, Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia 23061

Phone: 804-693-6503

Contact: Julie Boothe, Activity Director

York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 113 Battle Road, Yorktown, Virginia 23692

Phone: 757-898-1491

Contact: Mary Garrity, Activity Director

VHS Hospice

Phone: 757-663-6276.

Contact: Ariane Minette, social work and volunteer coordinator

Meet our recreational therapy team during Activity Professionals Week

We are celebrating National Activity Professionals Week (Jan. 22-26) by spotlighting our Activity Directors at Virginia Health Services senior living communities and nursing and rehabilitation centers.

Activity directors run recreation programs that are resident-focused. Events and activities cater to residents’ tastes and activity directors receive residents’ input. The programs help residents exercise their cognitive, sensory and motor skills, and provide social settings for engagement multiple times a day.

Activity directors also drive employee engagement within their communities, helping with team-centered events and activities to bolster morale and provide stress relief.

It’s not just fun and games! As our Activity Directors describe in their Q&As below, they are an integral part of care planning for residents, with charting and assessments as part of their daily duties.

Meet our Activity Directors:

The Hamilton Assisted Living

Kirstie Saunders | Activity Director

The Hamilton activity director Kirstie Saunders.
Hamilton activity director Kirstie Saunders.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 2 years in March.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? As a teen I attended church camp in Lynchburg. We had to choose somewhere to volunteer in the community and I chose the nursing home and loved it! I also have family in healthcare who helped guide me along the way and support me in my career.

How do you support the community’s team and residents? I like to help make it feel like home. I listen to resident and team ideas and brainstorm to make things come to life. The motto “Love where you live and love where you work” is what I strive for, both for the residents and our team.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? That I drive the bus!

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? First and foremost, the residents. They enjoy trying new things so I enjoy brainstorming with other professionals, finding ideas from Pinterest and Instagram, and implementing them into our community.

What types of activities do your residents enjoy most? Our residents enjoy quilting class, trips (including virtual), tea parties and live entertainment.

Personal details: I have been married for 19 years and have a son and two Australian Shepard dogs. I enjoy boating, beaching and fishing with my family.


The Huntington Assisted Living

Devyn Hotop | Activity Director

The Huntington activity director Devyn Hotop.
Huntington activity director Devyn Hotop.

Years with Virginia Health Services: About two years. (I started as a CNA with VHS from the apprenticeship program.)

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? During my time as a CAN, one of my favorite things to do was watch the residents engage in the various activities that were provided. I loved seeing the residents happy and I knew this position would be the perfect way to express my creativity while helping others!

How do you support the community’s team and residents? I am always helping out staff members whenever I can! I also make sure the residents know that I am here for them, and that my office is always open if they just want to hang out or want someone to talk to. 

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The versatility of the job. I drive the bus, do manicures, lead exercises, referee games, teach crafts, host socials. There is a lot that goes into this job.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? I rely on Pinterest and Facebook groups to find inspiration. I am always finding unique and fun things to do with the residents. I also bring up activity ideas to residents to get their opinion on it, and I let them have the opportunity to make their own suggestions.

What types of activities do your residents enjoy most? They love activities that keep their minds busy. Bingo is the most popular, and they recently have taken to new card games I have introduced to them.

Personal details: I like to stay busy inside and outside of work! In my free time I like to thrift, paint, fish and visit parks with my adorable (and very spoiled) Australian Shepherd.


Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Shawntez Hill | Activity Director

Coliseum activity director Shawn Hill.
Coliseum activity director Shawn Hill.

I have been the activity director at Coliseum since June 2023, and I have been with VHS for two years starting in the CNA apprenticeship program. I always had a great passion for helping seniors because I started out in home health care in 2016 and worked with private clients over the years. That’s what make me join the team as a CNA in April 2022. I became the Apprentice of the Year and joined the recreational therapy team in November 2022.

We have a good time at Coliseum! I believe if you have breath and strength in your body, that’s all that counts! I always tell our residents to look at each day as if it’s a party and they love it. It keeps them going with a smile on their face. The most important activity is Bingo, they take that game very seriously and you better have their prize at the end or you won’t hear the end. It’s just a blessing to see how little things can make them happy.

Other things I do outside of work is an annual Back to School Drive (for the past seven years) and a holiday help drive at Christmas to help families in need. Thanks to Virginia Health Services for helping me the last two years; I greatly appreciate it. My goal is to let each resident live their best life and be happy with no regrets.

Aida Davila | Assistant Activity Director

Coliseum assistant activity director Aida Davila
Coliseum assistant activity director Aida Davila

I started my career as a recreation therapy assistant/supervisor at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington in Maryland, where I worked for 6.5 years before transferring to front desk security. When I moved to Virginia to live with my mother younger sister passed away, recreation therapy was the career path I wanted to continue. I enjoy providing activities for the residents and fellow team members. I love to see the smiles on my residents’ faces when they enjoy a program. Our residents at Coliseum really enjoy the parties Shawn and I throw, trivia and “you be the judge.” It exercises their minds and often triggers nostalgic memories.


James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Shawn Hanberry | Activity Director

James River activity director Shawn Hanberry.
James River activity director Shawn Hanberry.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 7 years, 9 months.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? My mother, a retired LPN who worked in long-term care for 35 years, encouraged me and I have been connected to it since my years of volunteering at Bayside of Poquoson and Dominion Village of Poquoson.

How do you support the community’s team and residents? Through respect, high energy and positive attitude.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The amount of charting that includes progress notes, care plans, participation records and various assessments.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? My residents and their ideas.

What types of activities do your residents enjoy most? Our residents enjoy Bingo, Jackpot, Car Racing, Main Street Market and parties.

Personal details: I am a native of the Peninsula, mainly in Poquoson where I grew up and currently live. I enjoy road trips, trying new foods and visiting historical places and towns.


Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Amber Watson | Activity Director

Lancashire activity director Amber Watson.
Lancashire activity director Amber Watson.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 1 year, 3 months.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I have always had a big heart for the elderly. I became a CNA and worked private cases and in nursing homes for six years until the pandemic. At that time, I decided to stay home with my kids. When my kids returned to school, I returned to work, searching for activity director openings. I thought, “how cool and fun it would be to do fun things with the aging population and keep them active?”

How do you support the community’s team and residents? I love supporting my Team Members! I always lend a hand to my work family to help in any way, shape or form.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The amount of paperwork and daily charting.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? I have five kids and they love to help with activity ideas for the Residents. I also get ideas from activity connection, Pinterest, and from the Residents themselves.

What types of activities do your residents enjoy most? My residents are very hands on! Any activity that involves everyone having a good time, enjoying themselves, best believe they will be there. They really love arts and crafts, and socials.

Personal details: I am 31 years old. My husband and I have been together for almost 15 years and we have five beautiful kids (three girls and two boys, ages 2, 6, 8, 11 and 14). We have a 1-year old lab named Milo, who keeps us on our toes. We have lived in the Topping area for almost two years.


The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Jamel DeCosta | Activity Director

The Newport activity director Jamel DeCosta

Years with Virginia Health Services: 3 years.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I’ve always enjoyed the elderly. I guess it’s due to being raised by my grandmother.

How do you support the community’s team and residents? Pitching in where ever needed.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The relationships between the staff and residents.

What types of activities do your residents enjoy most? Bingo, painting and cornhole.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? Friends and family, especially my 10-year-old grandson.

Personal details: I am a mother of two and grandmother of four. I enjoy entertaining, crafting, decorating and shopping.


Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Erica Donaldson | Activity Director

Northampton activity director Erica Donaldson started the position this month. She was a CNA at Northampton for 23 years.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 23 years (as a CNA until this transition to activity director in January).

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? This is something different after my years as a CNA and an opportunity to challenge myself.

How do you support the community’s team and residents? I bring new ideas to the table.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? More energetic to the facility for residents and team members.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? From former activity director Charlene Craig (now a Resident Navigator at Northampton), other team members and Pinterest.

What types of activities do your Residents enjoy most? Bingo, Get Fit class, and church.

Personal details: I have two sons (one who lives in Pittsburgh). I am a Steelers fan! I have four grandchildren and a new person in my life. I’m staying positive and enjoying life!


Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Julie Boothe | Activity Director

Walter Reed activity director Julie Boothe
Walter Reed activity director Julie Boothe.

I have been in the activity field for 29 years and had the pleasure of spending those years with Virginia Health Services. I accepted a job after spending three years volunteering with a local elementary school. Thanks to having a caring soul, I feel right in to this career. I love outdoor activities of most kinds and taking care of my animals and pets at home. I am truly blessed to have my husband for 43 years, sons, daughter, mother, sisters, grandchildren and friends. They all mean the world to me.

Walter Reed has a fantastic volunteer base and community that helps meet the needs of our residents through the activity department. We provide daily activities for the residents and make sure they have the materials they need for independent activities. Our residents tell us what they like to do and we make it happen. This includes entertainment coming into the facility and us going out in the community.  We love all our volunteers. They are very special people.

Activity directors work 24/7. Many times, we have to drop what they are doing to attend to something else and pick up where we left off later. We definitely have to multitask and be very organized. A big part of the job is finding activities (which can pop in your head any time of the day), scheduling activities, individualizing a program for each resident and being there to listen when need be. A big thanks to my assistants for all their hard work and dedication. Activity and other staff build tight bonds with residents and care for them dearly.

Activity ideas come from a lot of places. The resident requests are the first, then we use Internet, TV, magazines and imagination. Activities are provided to give them the opportunity to have fun, laugh, feel good and fill their phyco-social needs. They love bingo, pet therapy, Wii games, church, bible studies, crafts, music, in the kitchen, outings and more. There is nothing like dunking your administrator in a dunk booth.  The residents had a blast.  Thank you for participating, Bryant. We have a great team here.

On a personal note, I wish to thanks all the staff, volunteers, and VHS growing with me for year to year. It takes a team to meet the needs of over 100 people. Thank you for your understanding, caring and support. Working here is not a job but an extended family.

Jennifer Caldwell | Assistant Activity Director

Walter Reed assistant activity director Jennifer Caldwell.
Walter Reed assistant activity director Jennifer Caldwell.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 1 year.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I’ve always enjoyed the elderly, and being able to plan activities. Putting a smile on residents’ faces daily is something I knew I would be good at.

How do you support the community’s team and Residents?  By always being attentive to my residents and team.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The relationships between the residents and staff.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? Pinterest and Residents. I am always asking residents for suggestions – it might be something we have done before that they enjoyed or something new they want to do.

What types of activities do your Residents enjoy most? Bingo, music and any food activity. 

Personal details: I enjoy being with family, friends and going on vacations. I love going on cruises.

Stephanie Williams | Assistant Activity Director (Memory Care)

Walter Reed assistant activity director for memory care Stephanie Williams.
Walter Reed assistant activity director for memory care Stephanie Williams.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 1 year, 9 months.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I started doing activities voluntarily at my previous job and thoroughly enjoyed working with the residents and seeing them enjoy it also.

How do you support the community’s team and Residents? I help anyway I can that they need.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? Working on a memory care unit you have a wide range of cognitive abilities to balance out, especially to offer an activity that is inclusive. A lot of people don’t know how to deal with somebody with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and really it’s just a little patience and getting to see what their interests are.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? Research but also seeing what they like to do or new things that work. I can put together different activities based on those.

What types of activities do your Residents enjoy most? They like the physical activities but they also like to read and love to listen to music, and dance and sing.

Personal details: I enjoy coming in and spending the day with my residents every day. Outside of the busy work day I spend a lot of time with my family and three animals.


York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Mary Garrity | Activity Director

York activity director Mary Garrity
York activity director Mary Garrity.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 7 years (in March).

What drew you to a career in recreation services in long-term care? The elderly always had a place in my heart. I started my career at a senior center 20-plus years ago and have worked in several long-term facilities. I love to see the Residents happy and smiling, I love to challenge the residents with word games and trivia, and I love to see the residents dancing and singing.

How do you support the center’s team and residents? I support the team by helping wherever I can, having dress-down days, games and contests for the staff and Residents. We have become family and do whatever they need or want.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? Of all the many hats we wear, we help by serving meals, getting water for the residents, being a good listener … all the little things that residents need, including decorating for Christmas and other holidays.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? From the residents’ likes and dislikes. Every facility is different and has different cultures. I use online resources like Activity Connection and share ideas with other activity professionals.

Personal details: I love going to the beach, reading, interior decorating and furniture restoration.


The Arbors Independent Living

Quianna | Life Enrichment Director

Years with Virginia Health Services: 1 year.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I was always interested in being around seniors. It wasn’t until two years ago while I was in California, I was filling in for our activity director and I just thought her job was so fun and exciting. Being able to plan and execute daily activities for residents was definitely something I knew I would be great at doing.

How do you support the community’s team and residents? By always being attentive to my team and residents, and always being a team player.

Where do you find ideas/inspirations for activities? First and foremost, from my residents. If you just sit and talk with them for a little, you will discover a lot from them. I also get inspirations from Facebook groups and Pinterest.

What type of activities do your residents enjoy the most? My residents really enjoy crafting, painting, trivia and Bingo!

Personal details: Being an activity director and being able to implement programs on the calendar is more than just that. I am up close and personal with the residents. They confide in me and they count on me to do a great job in making their lives more enjoyable and fun. The bonds that I have created while being in this position is more than I could ask for. The smiles and joy on my residents’ faces after a program, the “thank you” and the “great job Quianna” makes everything I do worth it.


Help the team

Our activity directors are always in need of volunteers to assist with events and activities or provide entertainment and social interaction. Visit vahs.com to submit a request to volunteer.

Senior Living Week Resident Spotlights

In honor of National Assisted Living Week (Sept. 10-16), we are spotlighting residents at our Huntington and Hamilton Assisted Living communities. We also are spotlighting residents at The Arbors Independent Living in Port Warwick as part of an all-encompassing Senior Living Week celebration.

Care of our residents is the heart of what we do. Our team works to support these individuals to live their best life. We are thankful they chose to call Virginia Health Services senior living communities home.

The Arbors

‘A lot of fun’

Porter and Marshall Booker have called The Arbors Independent Living home since March.

“Our children got together and chose places for us to look at, and this one of them,” Marshall said. “This had the advantage of no entrance fee. We liked what we saw and this apartment was available. We liked everything about it.”

Portrait of Marshall and Porter Booker
Marshall and Porter Booker started calling The Arbors home in March. They celebrated their 60th anniversary in June.

Marshall is a social person, Porter said, and had given up driving, so moving into a community like The Arbors was the right fit for their lifestyle.

“And I was looking for someone to cook some of my food,” she said. “I was tired of fixing all the meals. … This has worked out fine.”

Portrait of Marshall, Joyce and Sally, who all went to school together growing up.
These three have known one another since youth. Now they are neighbors.

Marshall attended school with two other residents.

“I’m sure our yearbook has been around,” he said with a grin.

The Bookers have been married for 60 years. They met one summer while working at the Commissioner of Revenue’s office in Newport News.

“We worked together one summer and it all worked out,” Marshall said.

“It really led to something,” Porter said with a laugh.

They lived in Poquoson for a long while after moving back to the Peninsula. Marshall taught economics – and briefly was a dean of academics – at Christopher Newport University. He previously taught at Salem College and Old Dominion.

They have four children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Their daughters live nearby and their son is in the Baltimore area.

The Arbors life

“We made a point to try to know everyone’s first name,” Porter said. “We find most people outgoing …”

“And willing to help,” Marshall added. “I like sitting outside; chatting with people as they come and go.”

He utilizes VHS Rehabilitation outpatient services, which is just downstairs from their home.

“It’s great. He can just walk down to it,” Porter said.

“I like the people,” Marshall said of the rehab team. “They worked with me so I could get up the stairs to my grandson’s rehearsal dinner.”

The Bookers enjoy the dining room choices – “there’s always something to chose from,” Marshall said. “And the desserts are tasty too.”

They also enjoy the activities, like happy hour, bingo, exercise classes, Saturday game nights and “we go down to most of the functions that the (Life Enrichment Director) does,” Porter said.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Marshall said.

Porter added, “We enjoy the laughter.”

Friends here

Sally moved into The Arbors over the spring. She is recently widowed and said she knew she couldn’t keep up her “big home on the river.”

Portrait of Sally

She wanted to stay close to where she lived.

“I’m still grieving, but I like The Arbors,” she said. “And I have some friends here.”

Sally also has family members who live nearby. One son lives in York County, another in Virginia Beach, and her daughter is 2 miles away in Newport News. Several of her nine grandchildren also live in Newport News.

One of her sons stops by for lunch on Wednesdays. He continues to work at the environmental testing lab his parents launched in Newport News.

Sally’s husband was a chemist. They met in college – she at Longwood, he at Hampden-Sydney. He originally was from Newport News, and once they were married, they moved back, opening the lab in the 1980s on then-Middle Ground Boulevard (now City Center). Sally was the accountant and bookkeeper for the lab.

They would have celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary Sept. 1. Her grandson brought her a dozen red roses on the day because “that’s what Papaw would have given you if he was here.”

Life at The Arbors

Sally says she enjoys activities, such as happy hour and musical entertainers, and Chef Akira’s menu at The Arbors. She likes enjoying her big meal of the day in the dining room, citing a recent special of fried chicken with white gravy as a highlight.

She loves to paint. She also uses rubber stamps to create greeting cards. A room in her apartment is dedicated to her art. She has a gallery wall of previous and recent paintings.

Friends at The Arbors include two childhood classmates. She graduated high school with fellow resident Joyce, and her grandson is married to Joyce’s granddaughter.

“She’s been very helpful to me since I’ve been here,” Sally said of Joyce.

She also likes to read and watch TV. She is a fan of “Virgin River” on Netflix.

The Hamilton

Early Resident

Lassie Crawford says she was the 11th resident to move into The Hamilton Assisted Living in York County.

Lassie Crawford is an early resident of The Hamilton.

“It was a brand-new apartment, clean. I wanted a window with a nice view,” she says. “This suited me just fine.”

She put down her deposit after first seeing it.

Lassie says she was familiar with the location – her husband was at York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for about two years until he passed.

“I was happy with how they took care of him,” she says. “So when it came time for me to find a place, I checked this out.”

It’s also near her son and his family in Gloucester. She had lived on her own for about nine years before moving into the assisted living community.

“They take good care of us,” she says. “I miss my home. That’s something you never get completely away from. They do make you feel very much at home, that this is your home now. I’ve liked it from the beginning.”

Her son retired from working at the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station. Lassie has three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren who all live relatively close by, save for a granddaughter in Tampa, Florida.

She says she wanted a place that would be convenient for her family to visit. She says they’re very attentive.

Lassie originally is from North Carolina. Her husband was in the Army. They lived together in Panama on assignment before selecting to come to Fort Eustis in Newport News.

“We lived in Newport News for a number of years,” she says. “He was on a lot of assignments I couldn’t join him on.”

They were married 63 years before he passed.

“We had a good marriage. We were happy,” she says. “A lot of times, I would have liked to have him home more. You manage to do what you have to do. It taught me a lot – there were a lot of things I had to do on my own. … After he passed, I stayed in my home along for about 9 years by myself. I did OK.”

Her husband retired after 33 years in the service, then did volunteer work at Fort Eustis. The Crawfords volunteered for Meals on Wheels.

“He enjoyed people. I drove. I could depend on him to be a few minutes – he’d help with other chores they needed help with,” she says.

She enjoyed needlework and sewing, which she translates to quilting classes each month at The Hamilton with Gala.

“She’s good, she’s really good,” Lassie says. “One thing with the activities we have here – some I really enjoy, but we can pick and choose. They keep us pretty busy.”

She enjoys going to the teas.

“Those can be so much fun. Kirstie has a real knack for decorating things and it’s fun just to go see what the theme is.”

Lassie also enjoys the therapy dog visits, Mr. Hamilton (the resident rabbit), art with Emily, musical entertainment and the library drop-off and pick-up in the lobby.

“I feel fortunate I’ve had pretty good health overall,” she says.

The team at The Hamilton made sure she was using her walker to avoid falls.

“They’re really good about helping us take care of ourselves. They want us to do what’s safe. When you need to change, you don’t always take it seriously. I know I didn’t … didn’t take much for me to lose my balance and fall. I needed more help with things.

“I’ve been happy here.”

York County is home

Patricia Foretich has called The Hamilton home for about two years.

She was receiving rehabilitation at York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for a fractured tailbone before transitioning to assisted living.

Portrait of Patricia Foretich
Pat started at the York and now calls The Hamilton home.

“You just have to wait it out,” she said of waiting out the fracture. “My back has been bothering me for years. I have osteoporosis. But you know, I’m kicking. Not very high. That’s what my mom says.”

She moved to York County when she was 18. She turned 85 this year and has two children who graduated Tabb High School. Her son recently retired from NASA.

Her pride and joy are her five grandsons – she can’t keep the smile off her face when sharing their accomplishments.

“I’m proud of them,” she said. “They worked hard to get where they are.”

She says her family is happy they don’t have to worry about her anymore. Her sister is also a resident, living in an apartment upstairs.

“The Hamilton is great,” she said. “We all look forward to the food. The nursing is wonderful.”

A family friend helps her once a week to run errands, get her nails done and they go out to lunch.

“The activities are great. You can choose. It’s always something,” she said. “The therapy dogs are wonderful, everyone looks forward to them when they come.”

She’s also an avid reader and appreciates the library drop-off and pickup.

“If you want help, all you have to do is ask, and they will gladly help you,” she says.

She spent her career, mostly as a secretary, she said, and tried to stay home as often as possible as her children were growing up. It took slight prying to learn she worked through the Aerospace Education Project for NASA, working at the NASA Langley Visitors Center in Hampton.

“That was great … it was a great place to work,” she said.

She riffled through a box of old photos, pulling out a signed picture from Sally Ride. She traveled to several NASA campuses, including Houston; Cape Canaveral, Florida; and Oklahoma.

“I flew quite a bit,” she said. “I have some good memories … years go by fast.”

The Huntington

Centurion

Muriel Baker has called The Huntington Assisted Living in Newport News home for about two years.

Portrait of Muriel Baker
Muriel turned 100 earlier this year.

She’s a Detroit, Michigan, native and has lived in states coast to coast. Her granddaughter and her family live on the Peninsula, which is how she found herself at The Huntington. Her grandson lives with his family internationally; they teach in American schools overseas. She has four great-grandchildren.

Muriel was a nurse, doctors’ offices, hospitals and in public health. “Once a nurse, always a nurse,” she says. Her mother wanted to be a nurse, but there were fewer training opportunities at that time.

“I enjoyed it all,” she says. “You meet all kinds of people; have to deal with all kinds of people. … I learned to deal with the public.”

Her life has spanned memorable events, including the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Her husband was a pastor, who she met at her family’s church in Michigan. When they were married, he was called to California, where they did Skywatch, reporting on the directions of airplanes coming and going. It was a civilian group, Ground Observer Corps, that was created in WWII and re-established during the Cold War. They also moved Florida. “He was an older man; he was a great man,” she says. “It’s been an interesting life.”

Muriel turned 100 this year. She was surrounded by her friends at The Huntington.

“The people at The Huntington are nice. The food is good. They take good care of us here,” she says. “They keep us busy here; they try to keep us out of mischief.”

She likes Bingo, games like UNO, crafts and, “everybody likes Hoppy (the rabbit).”

“At my age, I’m supposed to be wise. They say wisdom comes with age, but I’m not sure about that,” she says with a smile.

“It’s been an interesting life.”

Find your community

Learn more about our senior living options with Virginia Health Services at vahs.com/seniorliving. We offer independent and assisted living communities to help meet your needs. Schedule a tour today!

Location and security mattered most in selecting The Arbors as home

Fae Mungo and her husband Jeff have called The Arbors Independent Living home since 2019.

They chose The Arbors for the location and transportation options, like valet.

“It’s close to things we enjoy,” Fae says. “The weekly housekeeping is great. I believe the food here is absolutely wonderful.”

She enjoys the events that include music and crafting. She says she appreciates the outings even if she doesn’t always attend them.

Arbors resident Fae shows off her patriotic nails
Arbors resident Fae shows off her patriotic nails

Family life

She and Jeff have been married for more than 60 years. She’s “Bull Isle born and bred.” The Poquoson native has lived on the Peninsula her entire life.

She and Jeff met at Buckroe at the then-drive-in. He served in the Air Force for 36 years and she worked for the Air Force as a civilian, starting part-time during summers.

Their oldest son is in Ecuador and the youngest son is in southwest Virginia. Jeff’s family is in North Carolina.  They have a granddaughter and two great-granddaughters in Fayetteville, N.C., who come to visit.

“They come up here – the kids love to play in the park. We love to have them here,” she says.

One of their deciding factors to choose The Arbors was because their family is so spread out.

“We felt as though there wouldn’t be anyone here to help us,” she said. They gain that security at The Arbors.

Civilian career

While working for Langley Air Force Base, Fae said she was the first woman to do certain jobs.

She was a manager in the aircraft maintenance program and loves logistics.

“I was a resource adviser,” she says. “I handled the money for all the logistics. No other woman had done that.”

In logistics, her hands were in several areas like contracting, planning and budgeting for aircraft maintenance transportation.

“We were their support on the ground. It was very analytical work; I loved finding the solutions,” she says. “It was so much fun to watch them grow – I loved the rapport we built with the troops.”

She says it was rare at that time – in the 1970s – for women to do work outside of clerical or teaching.

“I pushed my way up,” she says.

She had encouraging bosses and the encouragement and support of her husband.

“I’ve had a lot of help along the way,” she says.

She visited nearly every state’s Air Force base, Panama, Europe and other countries while working. She made a lot of friends, who are scattered across the country.

“I’m very proud of my career,” she says. “It was a very good career for me. I was always happy to help women along the way and tried to be fair to everyone.”

She retired in 1996 – “I just felt like my time had come,” she says. She started to have some health issues. Jeff retired in 1995.

She loved doing aquatics and played golf. She and Jeff traveled in retirement.

Call The Arbors home

A move to The Arbors Independent Living might be what you need when the demands of home ownership become overwhelming. Visit vahs.com/thearbors to schedule a tour of our community and see for yourself why our residents love to call The Arbors home.

In their words: VHS residents share life stories for Skilled Nursing Care Week

It’s National Skilled Nursing Care Week (May 14-20)! We are spotlighting some of our VHS Residents at Virginia Health Services’ seven nursing and rehabilitation centers. Our team supports our Residents in living their best life as they age with us.

We appreciate their time and the time of their visiting families and friends who all were so open in telling their stories.

Coliseum

James Genus – or as we like to call him, Mr. G – has been at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center since February 2021. He never misses an activity and always waves hello.

James Genus
Mr. G’s son plays in the SNL Band.

Originally from Rockville, Maryland, Mr. G was stationed at Fort Eustis after returning from flying for the Army in Vietnam. He served as a flight engineer for seven years in the Army, leaving as an E-5 in 1966.

It was while he was stationed at Fort Eustis that he met his wife. Even after struggling to find a job “as a Black man” in the area, they didn’t leave.

Instead he opened his own string of businesses, including a portable cleaning service.

“I learned I could make more money doing that than something in aviation (at that time),” he says.

Mr. G’s businesses brought in a lot of money and at its peak employed 40. His janitorial and environmental services businesses spanned several states, including Delaware and North Carolina, and they had contracts with several small colleges, he said.

“I never got a big head. Because it comes but you got a partner, and that partner’s the government. … I always stayed low-key, and I teach my son the same thing. He thanks me all the time,” he says.

Mr. G’s success translated to his son, also named James, though in a far different path. His son has played bass with the Saturday Night Live Band for about 20 years, and is also a freelance musician who has toured the world with Herbie Hancock.

He lives in Connecticut with his wife and three children. Also in Connecticut is Mr. G’s wife of 57 years, being cared for in a nursing home there following a stroke.

Mr. G has been to see his son perform on the set of “SNL” many times, he says, but couldn’t quite pinpoint a favorite host.

“I don’t know (who my favorite host was),” he says. “I was just there to see him.”

Making move from Middlesex to Hampton

Until Rosaline Burrell moved into Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in August 2022, the only place she lived was Middlesex County.

Rosaline Burrell and her daughter Patricia
Rosaline Burrell and her daughter Patricia

She is now closer to her daughter, who lives in Hampton and comes to visit her daily.

She is 94 years old and has survived her husband and three of five children. One of her sons who passed away was her caregiver.

Rosaline and her husband were together for more than 70 years. He passed away in 2011 at age 93. She has three grandchildren. She worked alongside her husband, handling the finances of their landscape business for about 65 years before either retired.

“This was a big transition for her to leave her home and come here,” says her daughter Patricia. “We’ve not been back (to the Middlesex house).”

Rosaline enjoys the activities at Coliseum – she was looking forward to manicures this particular afternoon – and gets along well with her current roommate. She also enjoys watching TV – her favorite program is “Little House on the Prairie.”

She says “the help of the Lord” keeps her going.

Family life

Rosaline and Patricia know loss. Rosaline’s oldest son went missing without a trace from West Point 45 years ago.

Two sons passed away within months of one another.

“I wasn’t able to be there. (Patricia) took on everything about what was going on. She by both their sides when they died,” Rosaline said.

“God give her strength to do what she’s doing for me now.”

In addition to visits from Patricia, Rosaline has family who keep up with her, including a younger sister. She has frequent visitors and folks who keep in touch with her, including from the church in Middlesex.

James River

Doris Scott has been in long-term care at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for about 20 years.

Doris Scott has been at James River for about 20 years.
Doris Scott has been at James River for about 20 years.

“I’ve enjoyed myself so far. Not a dull moment,” she says, citing the robust activities calendar for keeping her active.

“You don’t do the same thing every day. It’s up to you if you want to enjoy it.”

She likes the church services, flower club on Fridays where the Residents arrange flowers with the Newport News Master Gardeners, and bingo. She has seek-and-find puzzles she enjoys doing between activities.

Doris was born and raised in Newport News, in the Newsome Park area. She and her mother moved farther north and she graduated from Carver High School.

“This is my home and this always will be my home,” she says.

She has a sister in Hanover who visits every other month. Occasionally Doris will spend a weekend with her “in the country.”

Lancashire

Patricia Davenport became a Resident of Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in August 2022, when she could no longer live independently.

“I like the people here,” she says, “but I miss my apartment and my cat. She’ll be 16 in October.”

She had a series of falls and hospital stays that have left her in physical therapy at Lancashire gaining her steadiness and ability to walk without a walker or wheelchair.

“They do very good here; I have no complaints,” she says.

Patricia Davenport has a stuffed kitty on her bed.
Patricia Davenport has a stuffed kitty on her bed.

Patricia has family who lives nearby, including two sisters. Another sister lives in Louisa.

She has a step-daughter in Florida, who is raising her step-great-granddaughters, and a stepson who lives in Texas. One of her sisters and brother-in-law are looking after her treasured cat Buttercup.

“I wouldn’t give her away to just anybody,” Patricia says with a smile. “I haven’t seen my cat since July of last year. I miss her so much.”

She keeps a stuffed kitty named Bella on her bed, and there are several photos of Buttercup in her room.

Lancaster County native

Patricia and her family are from Lancaster County, growing up in Bertrand.

Before moving to Richmond following her first marriage, Patricia worked in housekeeping at Lancashire. She returned to Kilmarnock to care for her mother in 2010 and stayed with her until her passing in 2018.

“When mom passed, the house was too big for me to live there by myself,” she says. She moved into an apartment that fall; her sister’s family and Buttercup occupy the family home now.

“I loved my apartment; I didn’t want to leave it.”

She worked in department stores, including Kmart and Kohl’s, and in a warehouse assembling hospital equipment, before returning to Kilmarnock where she worked in a now-closed department store’s catalog department.

“I enjoyed being around people. I loved in the catalog what to do. The people I worked for were real good to me,” she says. “I loved all the jobs I’ve had.”

Stylist living life at Lancashire

Ray Meyers moved to Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center about eight months ago. His sight is worsening due to a previous trauma and macular degeneration. Ray said he could no longer care for his Kilmarnock home alone, so he sold it and most of his possessions, gave away his dog and cat and moved to Lancashire, which is near his sister and her family.

Ray Meyers took as much of his life as would fit in his room when he moved to Lancashire about eight months ago.
Ray Meyers took as much of his life as would fit in his room when he moved to Lancashire about eight months ago.

“You bring what you can and sell the rest,” he says. “Overall, I’ve got three hots and a cot. The people here are fair.”

He enjoys the people at Lancashire and likes to kid around with the team to get them smiling and laughing.

“I don’t know of anybody who has lived a more fun life than I have,” Ray says.

Living the life

Since 1964 until his sight started to go, Ray cut hair.

“I was pretty good. I had the first unisex hair styling salon in Virginia. … I stole the idea. Guy (in Pennsylvania) had a great idea and didn’t know how to promote it,” he says.

He learned how to shampoo, cut and style hair, massage the scalp and be a nail technician. He trained his in entire team wherever he set up shop, which included northern Virginia.

“I went through quite a few dollars learning how to do a Farrah Fawcett haircut, a Dorothy Hamill haircut. We had to go through a lot of training to do these styles,” he says.

Ray also was a drummer.

He was married once for five years and engaged “four times with one ring.”

“I dated a lot of girls … but it was never so much about the catch as it was about the chase,” he says with a smile.

He lived in Alexandria while Vietnam was going on.

“I was prepared to go. My father was in the Marines, stepfather was in the Battle of the Bulge and brother was Army special forces, but as an asthmatic, they wouldn’t take me,” he says.

He moved to Kilmarnock in 2004 and started a business cutting hair. He’s originally from Shenandoah.

A trauma while he was robbed at gunpoint in his home led to some of the onset of his blindness.

He enjoyed hunting and fishing once he moved to Northern Neck.

Northampton

Marie Collins, who will be 99 in August, has been a Resident at Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center since February 2020. She’s comfortable, happy with the team members and rehab therapists, and pleased to not have to worry about grocery shopping, cooking or cleaning her space (though she does keep it tidy and dusts).

Marie Collins
Marie Collins was a senior model.

“I love it here,” she says. “I like the nurses. What more could we want?”

She has even acquiesced to play Bingo, which she says she didn’t enjoy before coming to Northampton.

Marie says it’s been difficult to outlive her friends. But, “here is where my life is now. But I just have acquaintances.”

She spent nearly 45 years of her life as a secretary, and then another 20 as a senior model in several campaigns and with community fashion shows. She spent much of her career in the U.S. Civil Service, retiring in 1986.

Her husband Jim was transferred to Ramstein Air Base in Germany after they met in Texas. She eventually traveled there and they were wed in Germany in 1956. Eventually, he was transferred back to Texas.

She tried to find a job, but was turned away because “you’re an Air Force wife. As soon as I train you, you’ll have to leave. So, I showed them. I joined the Civil Service.”

They were transferred to Hampton, and she took a job at Langley Air Force Base. The couple spent two years in Istanbul, Turkey.

“I loved it, but my husband didn’t. He was in JAG, working with the local police,” she says.

They returned stateside in 1968. Jim had two heart attacks. He was discharged from the Air Force, and the couple returned to Virginia.

Even after he passed in 1970, Marie stayed in Hampton. She spent the last 18 years of her Civil Service career at Langley.

“I never went back to Pennsylvania,” she says.

When her parents passed, she sold her half of the family farm in Hesston, Pennsylvania, back to her sister. Marie’s nephew and his wife live there now, and come visit about once a month when she goes to the doctor. They’re her remaining living family.

Her right knee started giving her trouble at 95. “Mother Nature decided it was time to slow me down.”

She wasn’t interested in getting a knee replacement at that age. After a bout with COVID, she moved into Northampton. It’s home now.

“If you’re going to live here, you’re going to make the most of it,” she said of decorating her single room as comfortable as possible.

Walter Reed

The energy from Andre Hughes’ room radiates down the hall. Walter Reed team members and Residents wave or stop in to chat when they walk by.

She maintains several plants and has brightly patterned quilts on the walls.

“I enjoy taking care of them,” Andre says of the plants. “They’re good for me – they’re good for everyone. Plants are therapy for me. They are full of life and there’s so much darkness these days, I can watch these grow and thrive.”

Andre Hughes

Andre has been a Resident of Walter Reed for about 7 years. She’s found love and marriage while there. She’s made friends. And she’s recovered from the fall that landed her here, learning to walk and write again.

“These people are my family and this is my home,” she says. “I knew eventually I’d end up here. … And I think the Lord wants me here. I still have a lot of work to do.

“There are folks in here, where all you have to do is hold their hand and their face lights up. That’s a blessing for me. So the Lord is helping me help others … My faith has carried me.”

Born in France

“I am a product of World War II,” she says.

Andre was born in France. Her father, an American, had been stationed there and met her mother, whose family owned a café in which she worked. They were married and when he resettled in the U.S., Andre, her mother and two siblings joined him.

She was a physical therapy aide – “that was my last job. When I was very young, I worked for a radio station and the telephone company.”

Wedding at Walter Reed

While a series of events have left her without family, she has made a home at Walter Reed, including meeting her late husband.

“I’m friendly with everyone,” she says. “I met a wonderful man in here. We were married in here. They had the ceremony in the dining room – it looked like a winter wonderland.

“I knew he was very ill, but we wanted to be married in the eyes of the Lord. A minister performed the ceremony. The team and volunteers pooled money to get out marriage license. It was a joyous occasion. He’s in heaven now, waiting on me.”

They were married nine weeks. James passed away five years ago.

“He blessed me so much by putting James in my life. In here. I get blessed and I get blessed,” she says.

Love where you live

She is thankful for the team at Walter Reed, not only for helping plan a lovely wedding, but also for keeping the Residents active and engaged.

“I have an abundance of friends. (Recreational directors) Julie and Jennifer are the ones that hold this place together. They go shopping for us each week. They’ll help me find something to order online. They’re absolutely gifted in their personalities,” Andre says.

“It’s a good place to be. Right now, I can’t complain about my life because I know the Lord is leading me and guiding me.”

‘From the ashes, you can rise’

Mona Dennis started calling Walter Reed home since August 2022. She had to move from the assisted living she was at when the complex changed its business model.

She remembered how well she liked being at Walter Reed during a skilled stint in 2021 after having back surgery.

Mona Dennis

“I liked it very much. The nursing staff, everybody was so nice. I took an opportunity to come over here and here I am!” she says.

She had a very positive rehab experience at Walter Reed. But she says not much can be done for her back – she has spinal stenosis.

Mona has a walker that better fits her tall frame.

“It’s nice for tall people without having to bend over. It enables you to stand up straight. For me, it’s nice because as soon as I take hold, the pain stops,” she says. “It supports the spine and is a great relief for avoiding the pain.”

Loving her new home

“I’m 77 years old – I still have so much left,” Mona says.

Since she’s able to get around the facility with the help of her walker, she visits with fellow Residents. She also is a fan of the community pets – particularly the rabbit and the fish.

“You’re going to find people in all stages here. … Try to talk with people, let them know somebody cares. They look lonesome sometimes. Mostly, they just want someone to sit there and listen. I’ll do that; I’ll stop and see people. They like to see the lady with the tall walker.”

Mona says the team at Walter Reed goes out of its way to plan activities and keep people smiling.

“One day they brought a horse in here! It was so exciting to see that little horse. … Also, I’m not a bingo lover, but I think it’s a good way to get out and see people. Go make somebody smile. That makes my day,” she says.

“I like to spread joy. And in here, it’s important. Just the human touch! What it does for people is amazing.”

Journey to Walter Reed

Mona’s husband passed away in 2016. While they didn’t have children, she has several nieces and nephews.

For a while, they didn’t know where she was. But once they did, they call her regularly.

Mona Dennis' tall walker
Mona Dennis loves her tall walker.

“My nephew called and said, ‘I want you to know that from this day on, we’ve got your back.’ … He said Aunt Mona, you were the best aunt anyone could imagine having. … I was as bad as they were! I would take them for the weekend and I’d take them roller skating or to an ice cream parlor. I guess those memories stick with you. So, he said, ‘now it’s our turn to take care of you.’”

“It just made me feel so warm. I gave them all my love because I didn’t have my own. I had a wonderful time with those kids.”

She is originally from New York. She met her second husband while in California with her father. Mona went to school to be a medical assistant.

“I was just coming out of a divorce and looking for what to do with my life and felt that was good for me. I like people. I like helping people, so it was good for me.”

She worked in doctors’ offices and in a hospital in Anaheim as an EKG tech in the emergency room.

“That was exciting work,” she says.

Now she looks out the window at the “majestic trees” and spreads joy to others at Walter Reed.

“I’m at the end of a long journey, I’m enjoying the hell out of myself!” she says.

“From the ashes, you can rise.”

York residents Alvera Sommers and Robert Owens
York residents Alvera Sommers and Robert Owens.

York

Sometimes you can find a forever friend even when you are 92.

Alvera Sommers and Robert Owens became fast friends after being introduced to one another through a social worker at York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center about two years ago.

Alvera was in an independent living community until she fell and fractured her hip about two years ago. She came to York for rehab around Christmas 2021.

She then injured her other hip, also rehabbing at York. It was then she met Bob, and as her daughter Pam tells it, “a spark flew and I couldn’t get her out of here.”

Bob was in therapy and was spending his first Christmas at York when Alvera moved in.

They both like living at York. The activities keep them going – and they’re always found together. They’ll occasionally dine together.

The two just smile at one another and keep each other in good spirits, laughing frequently when they are in a room together.

Pennsylvania native

Alvera and her family are from the Allentown area of Pennsylvania. They vacationed at Wildwood on the Jersey Shore.

Alvera was twice married with two children. Her son, who was in the Army, passed away.

Daughter Pam spent 12 years in the Air Force. She and her husband moved from Hawaii to Newport News when he was transferred to Fort Eustis. She was a nurse and retired as a civil servant from Eustis.

Alvera’s husband built her a beauty shop in their home, and she owned one in the town where they lived for years. She was a nurse and beautician.

Alvera and her late husband traveled extensively, seeing much of Europe, Israel and Egypt. They visited Pam while she was stationed in Greece.

“Isn’t she brave?” Alvera said of Pam’s service. “We were so proud when she said she wanted to go into the military.”

Pam and her husband have been married for 31 years. They have two children, a daughter who lives in Baltimore and a son who lives nearby and visits his grandmother frequently.

Alvera has a sister who lives in Pennsylvania who is 86. She occasionally visits her sister with Pam.

She likes adult coloring books, and Pam keeps her with a good supply. Pam visits her mother frequently, often volunteering during events at York.

Bob and Alvera with her daughter Pam at an art activity at York.
Bob and Alvera with her daughter Pam at an art activity at York.
Best friend

Bob has Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s and other ailments. He has been a bus driver, bookstore manager and worked at Walmart for 15 years. He found that keeping a few part-time jobs was better for his chronic disease management.

Bob is originally from Greensboro, N.C., finding his way to the area by way of northern Virginia, where he managed the student bookstore at J. Sargent Community College.

Thank you to our volunteers at Virginia Health Services!

We’re celebrating National Volunteer Week by highlighting our communities’ volunteers! Virginia Health Services thanks our volunteers for their time and dedication in supporting our team members and the individuals in our care to live their best life.

Coliseum

In any given month, Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center may host five or more church groups to provide services to the Residents. We’re highlighting two during National Volunteer Week.

Ebenezer Baptist Church has been coming to Coliseum for about 20 years, according to Deacon Charles Stevens Jr. Minister Tracey DeBrew with Restoration & Faith Kingdom Builders non-denominational organization also comes once a month. They both conduct services at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, in addition to others in the VHS family.

Members of the Ebenezer Baptist Church Missionary Outreach Ministry, including Deacon Charles Stevens Jr. (far right).
Members of the Ebenezer Baptist Church Missionary Outreach Ministry, including Deacon Charles Stevens Jr. (far right).

Deacon Charles joined Ebenezer in 1995 after retiring from the Air Force at Langley. He uses his military logistics background to coordinate the Missionary Outreach Ministry for the church. The group visits four nursing homes consistently each month. Sometimes the dance or puppet ministries also join them.

“This entire ministry just loves something that God has put on our hearts to do. No stopping now,” he says. “We’re doing what God has told us to do. We must go outside the church walls and carry the gospel to wherever we can go and be accepted. We’re really accepted at the nursing homes. A lot of the Residents are drawn to a church service.”

Minister Tracey was ordained in November.

Minister Tracey DeBrew visits Residents at Coliseum once a month and sometimes just stops by to chat with them.
Minister Tracey DeBrew visits Residents at Coliseum once a month and sometimes just stops by to chat with them.

“I felt I was to go out in the community,” she says. “I find it very heart-warming to be able to come out and talk to the Residents. A lot of them were constant churchgoers before they came here. … It’s a blessing, not only for me, but for them.”

She says she provides her phone number in case something happens or they need one-on-one prayer time.

“I will come and pray with the family, no matter the time of night, when someone is transitioning,” she says. “I will travel wherever it is needed.”

They both said Residents are receptive to services.

“I come in with a lot of energy and I have three other people with me. We put on music, we dance, we move. It gets exciting, it gets fun,” Minister Tracey says. “I love the Residents. Sometimes I’ll just come and visit them throughout the week. I listen to them. I’m accessible. I learn so much from these people.”

Adds Deacon Charles, “We get our enjoyment when God manifests in this place.”

Lancashire

Lancashire volunteer Joyce Taylor and two Residents enjoy a morning craft.
Lancashire volunteer Joyce Taylor and two Residents enjoy a morning craft.

Joyce Taylor couldn’t stop coming in to work. After spending 14 years in the dietary department at Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, she still can be found at the facility volunteering several times a week. She lives across the street and joins the Residents for activities such as crafts, Bingo and outings.

“I just love being with the Residents,” she says.

The Residents love having her nearby too.

The Hamilton

Gala Damato and her friend (and neighbor) Pam visit The Hamilton monthly to do a quilting activity with the Residents.
Gala Damato and her friend (and neighbor) Pam visit The Hamilton monthly to do a quilting activity with the Residents.

Gala Damato loves to quilt. And for the past year, she has been sharing her skill and time with the Residents at The Hamilton Assisted Living.

Pam and Gala work with the Residents on designing placemats in blues and greens.
Pam and Gala work with the Residents on designing placemats in blues and greens.

She comes from a family of quilters, including her mother and grandmother, and is in two guilds. She is the service project co-coordinator in one of the guilds.

“Quilters like to give back. … We just find places that will take them. A few of these ladies are quilters or were quilters,” she says.

She and her friend Pam come monthly and work with the Residents on different projects. It’s one of the best attended activities. The first time she visited, she says she brought a few quilts to talk about. It was so popular, activity director Kirstie Saunders suggested more hands-on visits.

The Residents designed placemats for their rooms as the March project. Some fabrics will help spur memories; other fabrics are colored themed to season, Gala says.

“If you have a talent to share, here’s the place,” Gala says. “My mother was in an assisted living in Oklahoma; she would have loved something like this.”

She and her husband moved to Hampton about 20 years when he was in the Air Force. He retired from Langley AFB in 2007. Gala says she substitute teaches and got serious about quilting in 2011.

The Huntington

Martha and Jerry Dodson have been fixtures in the volunteer community for more than 40 years.
Martha and Jerry Dodson have been fixtures in the volunteer community for more than 40 years.

Jerry and Martha Dodson volunteer almost daily in the community. One Monday a month, you’ll find them doing crafts with the Residents at The Huntington Assisted Living.

The Dodsons are no strangers to volunteering. They have been active in several organizations, including with Virginia Health Services communities, for more than 40 years.

They deliver Meals on Wheels and volunteer with their church, the Women’s Club of Hilton Village (Jerry’s an honorary member), an art studio, and on Saturdays are at the farmers market in Hilton Village handing out juice and crafts for kids.

During the holidays, they visit nursing homes and senior living communities dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, distributing gifts and cards to the Residents. (Jerry also can be found in the spring as the Easter Bunny.)

Martha and Jerry Dodson help Huntington Residents with a spring craft during their April visit.
Martha and Jerry Dodson help Huntington Residents with a spring craft during their April visit.

They say volunteering gives them purpose.

“Volunteering doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of time or money,” Martha said.

There are all kinds of ways you can volunteer, whether it’s by creating a card, volunteering to help with a craft project, or making a phone call.

“We fill in the gaps,” Jerry said. “We have so many relatives – and that’s OK, we don’t have any children – because Residents thought we were family.”

Martha added, “You just develop relationships and connect with folks.”

Walter Reed

Ray Agtay has been a volunteer at Walter Reed for nearly 20 years.
Ray Agtay has been a volunteer at Walter Reed for nearly 20 years.
Ray Agtay helps Residents get around the facility for meals and activities.

Ray Agtay has been volunteering at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for almost 20 years – beginning shortly after he and his mother moved to Gloucester. A recognizable face around the facility, he completely has embraced the role of a team member in a volunteer capacity, coming three days a week.

“I just like helping people,” he says. “I like spending quality time with them.”

He helps mostly with activities and helping Residents get to and from their rooms around the facility. He helps with crafts and set up an audio/visual cart for Bingo so all the Residents can see and hear what’s being called.

“I love the people here,” he says. “The Residents and staff always commend me on my positivity and outlook. I don’t get paid, but I consider myself part of the staffing.”

Volunteer with VHS

All of Virginia Health Services’ communities are happy to accept volunteers.

Church and youth groups, school service organizations, Greek life and other college organizations, and individuals are needed to help facilitate activities and provide social interaction and support to Residents.

VHS Hospice also is looking for volunteers interested in assisting those in end-of-life care and their caregivers.

Contact the community nearest you to apply and discuss options with our team.

Volunteer locations

Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 305 Marcella Road, Hampton, Virginia 23666

Phone: 757-827-8953

Contact: Shawn Hill, Activities Director

The Hamilton Assisted Living

Address: 113 Battle Road, Yorktown, Virginia 23692

Phone number: 757-243-8559

Contact: Kirstie Saunders, Activities Director

The Huntington Assisted Living

Address: 11143 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, Virginia 23601

Phone: 757-223-0888

Contact: Devyn Hotop, Activity Director

James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 540 Aberthaw Ave., Newport News, Virginia 23601

Phone: 757-595-2273

Contact: Shawn Hanberry, Activity Director

Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 287 School St., Kilmarnock, Virginia 22482

Phone: 804-435-1684

Contact: Amber Watson, Activity Director

The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 11141 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, Virginia 23601

Phone: 757-595-3733

Contact: Jamel DeCosta, Activity Director

Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 1028 Topping Lane, Hampton, Virginia 23666

Phone: 757-826-4922

Contact: Charlene Craig, Activity Director

Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 7602 Meredith Drive, Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia 23061

Phone: 804-693-6503

Contact: Julie Boothe, Activity Director

York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 113 Battle Road, Yorktown, Virginia 23692

Phone: 757-898-1491

Contact: Mary Garrity, Activity Director

VHS Hospice

Phone: 757-663-6276.

Contact: Ariane Minette, social work and volunteer coordinator

Hamilton hosts dietetic interns for food service rotation

Two students enrolled in dietetics programs are completing necessary internship rotations with Virginia Health Services. Their goal is to graduate this spring and be Registered Dietitians.

Ella Bowen, a student with Virginia Tech, and Sarah Cuffee, a student with Virginia State University, are doing their food service management rotations at The Hamilton Assistant Living with dining services manager Nicole Freeman. They had to complete a special project, with a catering focus, during the rotation.

Both cook and do other work in the kitchen during their rotation, serving Hamilton and York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Residents. They work with Nicole on their competencies, which they’ll need to complete as part of their program.

The program

Ella cooks eggs during a Friday special breakfast at The Hamilton.
Ella cooks eggs during a Friday special breakfast at The Hamilton.

Nicole had several ideas for dining programs at The Hamilton that Ella and Sarah could plan and execute.

“Nicole is the mastermind,” Sarah said.

They catered lunch for a meeting of the VHS leadership team and Board members. They hosted a reception – a “Captain’s Feast” – at the Residents’ request for Assistant Administrator Joel Batista, who recently joined The Hamilton team.

And on Friday, they had a Fried Egg Competition and cooked eggs to order during a special breakfast for the Residents. Activity Director Kirstie Saunders said the event even drew out Residents who don’t usually come to the dining room for the meal.

Ella and Sarah collaborated with Nicole on menus, ideas and presentation.

“This has been a good experience here,” Ella said. “Nicole has been very supportive and helpful.”

Ella

Ella serves a Resident at The Hamilton breakfast.
Ella serves a Resident at The Hamilton breakfast.

In addition to frying up eggs and serving them Friday, Ella made a berry breakfast cobbler from scratch for the special breakfast. She is a diet tech with Virginia Health Services, joining the team in September.

Her next rotation will be her elective, clinical care, which she will complete with VHS Director of Dining and Nutrition Viki Reynolds. Ella will learn to do care plans, interview patients, perform weight checks and do assessments.

She is interested in continuing in long-term care once she graduates and passes the certification to be a Registered Dietitian.

“Several members of my family have had diabetes,” she said. “I eventually want to be a diabetes educator and work with those with cardiovascular disease and obesity.”

Hamilton Activity Director Kirstie Saunders introduces Sarah and Ella during the Captain's Feast on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2022.
Hamilton Activity Director Kirstie Saunders introduces Sarah and Ella during the Captain’s Feast on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2022.

Sarah

The Norfolk native felt drawn to being a Registered Dietitian because of her family’s history with diabetes and other illnesses.

“I don’t feel like the public knows the how your health is affected by your diet. I want to work in education, likely diabetes education in an outpatient setting,” she said.

Join our Team

We have openings on our dietary team for aides, cooks, a dietary manager and a registered dietitian. To apply, visit vahs.com/careers. VHS helps its team members live their best life, offering competitive wages and benefits in a supportive community that focuses on continuing education of its workforce.

Arbors resident an original Port Warwick homeowner

Faye Satterthwaite knows Port Warwick, maybe better than any Resident at The Arbors Independent Living. She and her husband were some of the first to own a home in the residential Newport News neighborhood when it broke ground in the early 2000s.

The Arbors was still under construction when the Satterthwaites moved into their home, which they designed to Faye’s specifications with a library, beautiful kitchen and large sunroom.

“We were able to design the house we wanted, within certain constraints,” she says.

It was going to be their home until they could no longer keep it up.

“We had always talked about The Arbors one day; we lived behind it,” she says.

She sold the Edith Wharton Square home after her husband passed away in February 2019. After living with a son and her family in northern Virginia during the pandemic, she moved back to where she considers home: The Peninsula. She has been at The Arbors for about a year.

“The house wasn’t the same after my husband died. It no longer felt like a home. It’s very appropriate I’m here now. I know he’d be happy I’m here,” she says.

Life in Port Warwick

She feels at home again living at The Arbors with her sister.

“I love it here. It’s a little different. I feel at home here. I know the neighborhood, I know it’s safe. I know the roads,” she says.

Some of her old friends are still in the area and her church is five minutes away from The Arbors. Her doctors are nearby.

“Kathy and I are very happy here,” she says. “My husband would be happy I am here.”

While not every social activity is her cup of tea, she enjoys the dining and events offered at The Arbors. The staff is very accommodating, she says.

Port Warwick itself is different from the neighborhood she and her husband called home 20 years ago.

They were tight-knit community in the early days of Port Warwick. Families would get together for dinner, take walks on the square and support the local businesses that were springing up. In those early days, there was a bookshop, pharmacy and wine shop. They picnicked on the square, bonded as a ladies’ group and enjoyed the pottery at Starving Artist.

Faye and Kathy eating lunch at The Arbors.
Faye and her sister Kathy enjoy lunch at The Arbors dining room.

Faye says she really enjoyed that European/English village vibe Port Warwick set out to achieve in developer Bobby Freeman’s vision. She and her husband moved into their townhome before construction of The Arbors was complete.

“We made friends with the people moving in,” she says. “It was a fun place to live. This was home to me.”

She has a daughter in Norge, but in moving back to the area chose to live again in Newport News.

Her sister was also living alone at the time, and Faye asked if she would like to share an apartment at The Arbors. The answer was yes. (They debated moving to Northern Virginia, but chose the Peninsula instead.)

“My sister called and said, ‘I found the perfect place. The Arbors.’ That was it for me,” she says. “My kids all said I should spend my money how I want to.”

Family life

Faye has lived on the Peninsula (off and on) since she was 8 years old. She grew up in Hampton and attended Hampton High School.

She was divorced with two young sons in Hampton when she met who would eventually be her second husband.

“I wasn’t planning to marry again,” she says with a shrug and a smile.

Bob worked at NASA Langley in Hampton. They went to lunch on their first date at the end of July that year. They were engaged by November and married Feb. 4. He also had two children from a previous marriage, and they took in both full time after his former wife passed away.

Faye and Bob also had a son together. They were living in a two-bedroom townhome when their family suddenly went from four to six, with another on the way. They scrambled to find a larger home.

“He took care of me and my boys,” she says. “He raised them just as they were his.”

Bob was an aeronautical engineer for 40-plus years with various divisions of NASA. He worked with wind tunnels and aviation work, and supported the space program. He was at Langley as they were building out the space program with the Mercury 7 astronauts. He also worked at NASA headquarters in DC for a time, and worked on the initial plans in Houston for the International Space Station.

They eventually lived in Williamsburg for many years before moving to the Kiln Creek neighborhood when they were empty nesters. They were there briefly before putting down a deposit to build their Port Warwick home.

Their career paths brought them both to work at NASA Langley before retiring. They were able to retire around the same time and travel.

“He was such a good man and a wonderful father. We had a wonderful life with these children,” she said.

He passed away near their 47th wedding anniversary.

“We had a wonderful life here; it’s appropriate I’m at The Arbors,” she says.

Faye sits and writes at a table, with another resident beside her.
Faye, front, works on a prompt during a memoir-writing class at The Arbors. She and other Residents are working with an instructor to create a memoir of their lives for publication.

After Bob passed away, Faye moved into her youngest’s son’s home with his family in northern Virginia. It was right before the pandemic – she sold her home in Port Warwick in 2 weeks. Her son had a 5-year-old and a newborn when she moved in.

“It was a wonderful experience to have my 5-year-old grandson want to spend every day with me,” she says.

Faye moved with her son’s family to another area of northern Virginia during the pandemic and found it difficult to make friends.

As pandemic-related restrictions loosened, her grandson was back in school and the baby was in daycare.

“I was home by myself all day, and it got lonely,” she says. “I need friendship; I need to see people.”

It was then she called her sister about changing her living situation – and what brought her home to The Arbors.

Career

She has had career stints (as a civilian) with nearly every branch of the military.

Faye was in the Army recruiting command when she met her husband. She also spent 10 years at the Newport News shipyard with the Navy in administrative roles, TRADOC at Fort Monroe and the Army civilian personnel office in northern Virginia.

She also was working for Eagle Engineering, which supported NASA’s work in Houston, during one of the most tragic moments in NASA’s history.

“I had to tell my coworkers the Challenger exploded,” she says. “Seeing those guys, the tears in their eyes … They worked on that shuttle.”

She was a secretary at Langley Air Force Base when the family moved back to Williamsburg. She was a secretary in the superintendent’s office for Williamsburg-James City County Schools, and also worked in real estate for a stint.

In 1989, Faye joined NASA Langley as a temporary secretary of a branch head, then was made permanent.

“My boss there was really good and he really helped me get ahead,” she says. “I had a great career and even though I’ve been all around, I’ve worked at all of these neat places.”

She was a secretary of the office of the director at NASA Langley and an administrative officer for personnel. She then handled the training branch budgets and was program analyst. She took a buyout at NASA before turning 60.

“I never regretted any of it – the job at NASA was the best,” she says.

She’s 78 now. In retirement she also opened a photography studio, served on the Board of Directors for the Yorktown Arts Festival and the Newport News Friends of the Library and managed a gallery.

Be our neighbor

The Arbors has a move-in special running through the holiday season. Join us for a tour and experience our community! Visit vahs.com/thearbors for details and to schedule a tour.

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