Giving Residents a Voice

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When Kathryn Johnston and Quinton Thompson walk through the halls, everyone recognizes them. In addition to smiles and waves, it is not at all unusual for someone to stop them to chat about the dinner menu, a committee assignment, or the inventory at the on-site store. Surprisingly, they are not the Executive Directors or Resident Life Coordinators at Edenwald, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Towson, MD.

In fact, they are not members of the Edenwald staff at all. Mrs. Johnston is the President of the Resident Association and Mr. Thompson is the Vice President. The Resident Association is an important organization, which is made up of 23 committees that not only organize resident activities but also help maintain the residents’ quality of life. Edenwald is a community governed by its residents, and Mrs. Johnston and Mr. Thompson are the leaders that help give every resident a voice.

No stranger to volunteer service, Mrs. Johnston is a long-time member of the League of Women Voters and served on their Board of Directors. A highly motivated individual, she decided to return to college at 59 to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Goucher College. She also received a Bachelor’s in general studies from the University of Chicago, where she met her husband. The couple had two sons and eventually settled in Baltimore. After her husband passed away, Mrs. Johnston continued to live in the area-socializing with her large group of friends, volunteering in her church, and spending time with her sons and their families.

Mrs. Johnston began to consider a move to a retirement community when her oldest son moved from Baltimore to Connecticut. She explains, “After he moved, one of my sons was in Connecticut and the other was in Florida, so I didn’t have any family close by. I decided that I would plan for my own care because I knew that if I had no plan, I would eventually be moving to either Connecticut or Florida, and I really wanted to stay here where all my friends are.”

Once she had decided to move, Edenwald was an appealing option because of its location: “I lived right up the hill from the community, and my church is really close by. I already knew many of the residents here, and I visited a lot, so I knew it was the right place for me.” Mrs. Johnston has been very involved in the community since moving. “I’ll do anything to help Edenwald and the people here,” she proclaims.

Likewise, Mr. Thompson has found his service as Vice President so rewarding because of the opportunity to really help people. He explains, “The residents have a lot of opinions about the daily operation of Edenwald, and Kathryn and I have worked to set up programs to allow the residents to effectively communicate those opinions. Seeing these programs work has been really fulfilling. I think we have been very successful in reorganizing the committees to make them more efficient.”

As a former educator, board member for the Towson University Alumni Association, and award-winning fundraiser, Mr. Thompson knows how to make a difference in his community. He has been very involved in activities at Towson University since his graduation in 1942. He also taught at McDonogh Elementary School and was the Head of McDonogh Middle School. It was actually his experience at McDonogh that eventually led him to Edenwald.

Mr. Thompson’s face lights up as he explains the unique circumstances surrounding his move: “I came out here a lot to call on constituents of mine from Towson. I was in the store buying a Christmas gift one day, and I thought I recognized the clerk. She informed me that I should know her because I taught her two boys at McDonogh. I ran into her again when I was visiting a friend here, and I told her I would call her when I got back from skiing. I did, and she is my wife now.”

Moving to Edenwald was the natural choice for Mr. Thompson, since his new wife had already been living there for nine years. He remembers, “I was already considering a move, but I talked it over with my children first because it was really important to me not to ever be a burden to them. They are close by, so I still see them often, but I’ve been here for 9 years now, and I’m very happy with the decision that I made.”

Since moving, both Mr. Thompson and Mrs. Johnston have been impressed by the dedicated staff and the continuing growth of the community. There are currently plans to add a second 12-story tower to the high-rise building. The expansion will include 54 new independent living apartments; 32 assisted living suites; and a wellness center with an indoor swimming pool, an indoor walking track, and an exercise area.

The Health Center will also benefit from the expansion project through a renovation and modernization of its 48 private, comprehensive care rooms and the introduction of a 48-bed state-of-the-art memory care center. As Sal Molite, Jr., President of Edenwald, explains, “The expansion and renovation project will afford us the opportunity to better compete in an already competitive market and position our community to serve the next generation of seniors in the manner that they will require. More importantly, it will allow our residents to transition more easily throughout the continuum with comfort and dignity.”

Mr. Thompson explains what the expansion will mean to the residents, “It will provide us with many needed indoor facilities, such as larger apartments, a swimming pool, a walking track, and more parking spaces. All of the above are a definite necessity in order for Edenwald to remain competitive in the CCRC business. In addition, it will enhance our surrounding community in terms of service and environmental appeal.” The expansion project, combined with the changes that Mrs. Johnston and Mr. Thompson have helped to institute, will help make Edenwald an increasingly attractive option for prospective residents.

While the two are quick to admit that serving as officers for the Resident Association is hard work, they have both found it rewarding, and their lives have certainly improved since moving. “Moving started another life for me,” says Mr. Thompson. “I was always busy with home and lawn maintenance before, but when I got rid of the snow shovel and the lawnmower, it really opened up a new life for me. I’ve found the time to travel again!”

Nodding, Mrs. Johnston agrees, “You won’t know what you are missing out on until you move.” However, she also warns, “It is important that individuals move to a community while they are still healthy, so that they will have the opportunity to make new friends and take advantage of the available programs.”

With representatives like Kathryn Johnston and Quinton Thompson faithfully serving their resident constituents, there is no doubt that the list of available programs and amenities will continue to expand. As they approach the end of their terms, Mr. Thompson is looking forward to his upcoming term as President, which he admits will be followed by “retirement,” and Mrs. Johnston is excited about “retiring” herself. They have both certainly earned the right to relax following their successful “second careers” in public service.

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