Pines Village employee profile: Laurie Mullet, CEO
Laurie Mullet refuses to accept all the praise for what Pines Village Retirement Communities has accomplished during her tenure as chief executive officer. Credit, she emphasizes, must be given to members of her board, her management team and, most importantly, the community.
Seated at a medium-sized table in her office, Mullet shares a story that reiterates her point.
In October 2007, Pines Village initiated a five-month “Tour of Duty” campaign to take World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C., for four days, each with one guest and all expenses paid. The effort raised $165,000. Donations poured in. In fact, on the campaign's last day, a woman stopped by Pines Village to ask how much money the campaign needed to reach its goal. Learning it was $10,000, she wrote a check for that amount.
Meridian Woods resident profile: George & Mary Helen Iemmolo
George and Mary Helen Iemmolo were one of the first to call Meridian Woods home after the 39-acre retirement community was unveiled on the north side of Valparaiso. That was in 2006.
Today, life couldn't be better for the Iemmolo’s. Leaving behind Lancaster, Pa., for Valparaiso, specifically to be closer to family, George says, was one of the smartest moves they've made. A multitude of reasons exists as to why, but one rests firmly at the top of the list
The people, “Our neighbors here are very friendly,” George says. “That in and of itself was beneficial, especially as more houses were built and more people moved in. “There is a good sense of community that has brought all of us together: People caring for one another and looking out for one another.”
Pines Village employee profile: Debbie Dohner & Susan Helmecy
Spend all of 30 seconds chatting with Ed Stout, and there is no question he's a Campbell St. Cafe regular.
Seated at a table with a hot cup of coffee, he appears relaxed, at home in his surroundings. The Meridian Woods gathering spot is part of his daily ritual, and he doesn't even live in the subdivision, a Pines Village Retirement Community. He arrives each morning from Portage with plenty of time to enjoy a hearty breakfast. The eggs are his favorite. That's all he eats here, he'll tell you. Then, it is time for his workout at the café’s fitness center. His niece, Lorrie, is the senior fitness instructor and four years ago recommended it to him.
But his favorite cafe pastime? “Oh, I love to aggravate the girls,” he says, his eyes rife with mischief.
By “the girls,” he means Susan Helmecy, the cafe's cook, and Debbie Dohner, its server and program/events coordinator. And by “aggravate,” he means it rather affectionately.
Pines Village resident profile: Ruth Lemster
A smile spreads across Ruth Lemster's face as she relaxes in the north dining room at Pines Village Apartments. A staff member has just walked by, paying her a most gracious compliment.
“Ruth, you look so pretty today,” she's told. A resident seated at a nearby table nods her head. “You look lovely.” Ruth blushes. She seems uncomfortable at first with the attention.
“You know,” she later confesses, “I've never been one to be really buddy buddy with people. I am one of those quiet people who like to sit and read two newspapers every day and Forbes magazine.
“But that's what I love about living at Pines Village,” she continues, adding with a chuckle, “you can be as social or as private as you want to be.”
A Pines Village resident for the past seven years, she's become a vital presence, serving on committees and becoming involved in projects impacting the lives of those with whom she's become friends and neighbors.
Pines Village employee profile: Dean Christianson
When Chaplain Dean Christianson speaks of those he serves at Pines Village Apartments, his eyes light up when describing those whose spiritual needs he helps meet.
“When you are dealing with our residents, you are talking about older adults who might not have access to their own churches,” he says, “or maybe they moved here because they have a child in the area.
“So, we don't stress denominations here. We celebrate all denominations. I always say, it is a taste of what heaven is like.”
Pines Village is the only retirement community in the area to have a full time chaplain on its staff. Taking on the role marked an incredibly seamless transition, one that reminds him it was meant to be. He'd been the pastor for many years at Valparaiso's Washington Evangelical Free Church. As such, he'd visited residents living at Pines Village, and he'd been invited to speak on many occasions at their weekly Vesper services.
“It was always such an enjoyable experience,” he says, “I thought, this is such a great group. This would be a great place to serve.”
Pines Village Board of Directors profile: John Hardwick
John Hardwick's interest in serving on the Pines Village Retirement Communities board of directors went beyond the desire to join a worthwhile organization.
It was personal.
John's close friend, Norm Backus, lived at Pines Village Apartments. He visited him often, right until he passed away a few years ago. “I knew it would be a way to give back to Norm,” he says. “It was a way I could honor him.”
John is now in his second term on the board, which expires in 2014. He also serves as the board's vice president. Even before Norm came to stay at Pines Village, John held the retirement community in high regard.
Pines Village resident profile: Emilie & Jerry Scott and mothers Violet Scott & Rossalie Williamson
Emilie and Jerry Scott couldn’t be happier with life at Pines Village – and they don’t even live here. But they’ve been regular visitors for about four years, ever since their mothers Rosalie Williamson and Violet Scott moved into apartments within months of each other.
“It’s given us tremendous peace of mind,” Jerry says. “We know that they’re well, they get good food, they have all kinds of activities to participate in.”
As much as Jerry appreciates Pines Village, he knows Violet does even more. “My mother absolutely loves it here, she just loves it,” he says.
Pines Village employee profile: Cherylene Brennecke
As she heads to Pines Village every morning, Resident Life Director Cherylene Brennecke glances at commuters in cars around her. And she wonders if they look forward to the day the way she does.
“Our mission is to celebrate life,” Cherylene says. “I love that, because where else can you go to work where you celebrate life?”
The way Cherylene sees it, the key to the Pines Village difference lies in the fact it is a not-for-profit organization. Being a non-profit, she says, boosts employees’ dedication to serving seniors. It’s not just a job. For her, residents come foremost in her thinking.
As resident life director, Cherylene oversees all programs and events on the Pines campus, at Meridian Woods and at the city’s Village Park Enrichment Center for seniors.
Pines Village Board of Directors profile: Kristen Mauk
Pines Village residents will be getting a lot of company in coming years.
That’s the assessment of Valparaiso University nursing professor Dr. Kristen Mauk, who serves on Pines Village’s Board of Directors.
With the Baby Boom generation aging, nursing represents a growth industry and Pines Village represents the model they will gravitate towards, Kris says.
“Gerontological nursing is the place to be” for at least the next three decades, Kris predicts. “One thing we know: there will be a lot more older people.”
And to serve that population, the country will need a robust, educated geriatrics field, Kris says.
Pines Village resident profile: Phyllis & Charles Sederberg
For Charles and Phyllis Sederberg, life at Pines Village Retirement Communities is a busy one. The couple, who moved in less than a year ago, find their days active and fun-filled, with opportunities for meeting new people one of the best aspects.
"Since we've been here, we haven't met a single person we don't love, and the staff is absolutely friendly and helpful," Phyllis says. "If you ask me, that's extraordinary!"
After Charles retired from real estate and Phyllis left her longtime post as office manager for a pediatric medical office, they assumed they'd enjoy the new scenery in Florida. Like many, they hoped a warmer climate and a change of view would be invigorating. What they learned after the move, says Phyllis, is that no new place can fill the hole created when you miss family and friends.
Pines Village board of directors profile: John Freyek
Long before joining the board of directors of Pines Village Retirement Communities, John Freyek earned a history degree from Purdue Calumet. Today, he works as a banker. But his interest in history has never waned, and he sees in the people who reside at Pines Village a living, continuing sense of history that has value and wisdom.
"I have an affinity for older people who have lived so much history and have so much to offer," John explains. "I'd like to see this country adopt more of a Japanese model, where older members of the community are honored, not pushed aside."
John brings a wealth of experience in banking and investments to the work of the board of directors. First Vice President and a Senior Relationship Manager for Citizens Financial Bank, he has more than 15 years of banking industry experience, managing multi-faceted client relationships and providing lending and deposit solutions for a plethora of industries.
Pines Village resident profile: Irene Malasto
If you ask Irene Malasto to describe herself, the first thing she will say is, “I’m an open book.” It’s no mystery book – but it certainly is a romance, a thriller, and a heartwarming history.
Born Irene Karlawsky in Detroit, Michigan, she was just nine months old when her parents moved to Decatur, Illinois. An only child, Irene had the complete attention of Mom and Dad, took piano lessons, studied ballet, and always did her homework. By the time she was sixteen, Irene became interested in something new.
“Well, about that age you notice boys,” Irene says with a laugh. “And I did.”
Pines Village family profile: Greg & Carol Costakis
A wise man once said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." While some residents of Pines Village Retirement Communities come from as few as five miles away, it is a journey nonetheless -- for the families, as well as the resident.
And what a journey it is -- a logistical, psychological, familial voyage that must cover a lot of terrain. The journey often begins with the realization that home ownership has lost its appeal or its financial sense (often both), or that social life is lacking, or that burdens on family are cumbersome and impractical.
"It is definitely a process," admits Greg Costakis, whose mother Dorothy moved to Pines Village in 2010. "It’s not an overnight decision."
Pines Village board of directors profile: Erica Passauer
Erica Passauer wears many hats. A mother, a lender, and a community volunteer, she leads a busy life. But even though it is one more responsibility for her, Erica relishes her role as a board member of Pines Village Retirement Communities.
Like many who visit Pines Village years before they'll enjoy retirement, Erica admits her first reaction was, "Hey, I want to live here!"
"Pines Village has the tag line "We Celebrate Life." And it's true. It's a beautiful place and people really do come here to live, to stay active, to enjoy new pursuits and meet new people."
Pines Village resident profile: Maxine Philips
“I have to feel like I’m contributing,” says the energetic septuagenarian whose families have contributed so much to the Valparaiso area.
Her great, great grandfather served in the American Revolution which spurred Maxine to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, where she is now serving as regent for the local Chapter.
While serving as president of the Porter County Council of Church Women, Maxine’s mother, Mary E. Bartz, helped found Whispering Pines Health Care Center. Because the endeavor to create such a nursing care facility in Valparaiso was so important to her mother, Maxine today serves as treasurer for the Porter County Council of Church Women.
Pines Village employee profile: Rita Duncan
Many Pines Village residents never see one of their community’s most important employees.
And for her part, when Rita Duncan sees residents, it’s often in a much different light from other staff members.
Rita works overnight, taking charge of a range of maintenance jobs and providing security for the Pines Village complex while residents sleep. Because she is the first responder to problems or emergencies residents may face in the wee hours, she often encounters them without the make-up and clothing – even the wigs and dentures – they would normally wear during the day.
But even though she may not later recognize the residents she has helped with a concern, she feels a closeness to them that makes her ready to respond to any situation at a moment’s notice.
Pines Village board of directors profile: Sharon Mortensen - Treasurer
Quick quiz: How is accounting like serving on the Pines Village Board of Directors?
For Sharon Mortensen, both came to her in roundabout ways and quickly became things she loves.
Sharon, a certified public accountant in Valparaiso, as well as Pines Village board treasurer, originally wanted to be an attorney. But before ever getting to law school, she earned a degree in accounting at Valparaiso University and became hooked.
“I love what I do,” Sharon says. “I am one of the lucky people.”
Pines Village resident profile: Ellen Silberman
At least twice in her life, Ellen Silberman has piped up about community problems in need of solving. And sure enough, as reward for her effort, she was the one picked to implement a solution. Both times, her involvement has helped improve the health of her community.
In the late 1960s as the mother of three in Baldwin, New York, Ellen voiced her concern about the growing teen drug problem in the Long Island community. Other parents sent her to a conference on the issue and she soon found herself a co-founder and executive director of the Baldwin Council Against Drug Abuse.
Pines Village employee profile: Lorrie Ward
Pines Village senior fitness instructor Lorrie Ward arrives at the Campbell Street Cafe each morning at half past six to find a crowd waiting for her.
The early arrivals, residents of Meridian Woods neighborhood, are eager to get to work in the cafe's fitness center and Lorrie is eager to get them moving.
"I love to see people be active," says Lorrie, who leads fitness initiatives at Pines Village, Meridian Woods and for the city's senior community at Village Park Enrichment Center.
Meridian Woods resident profile: Judy Bornstein
Joy is Judy Bornstein’s favorite word. And as far as joy is concerned, it’s clear she gives as good as she gets.
Judy describes herself as almost 75 going on seven, “because I have so much fun in life. It’s like I’m at recess all the time.”
The Meridian Woods resident is up at four-thirty each morning to enjoy the quiet promise of a new day, ready to bound enthusiastically from one activity to another. Her primary passion is singing. "I dearly love to sing," she says. “I would rather sing than eat – and I love to eat!"
Pines Village volunteer profile: Sharon Costas
Twice a week, Pines Village residents get a little extra treat with dinner.
Live piano music.
And it’s not just any music. Volunteer Sharon Costas presents favorites from the 1920s to the ‘40s. The standards, she says.
Although the songs are relatively new to her repertoire, they’re not new to her appreciative listeners.
Pines Village board of directors profile: Dee Haklin - Vice President
Before Henry Ford and the Model T, there was the Brush Runabout.
Though it was built long before her time, Dee Haklin has fond memories of an early-1900s Brush her grandfather acquired as barter during the Great Depression. A home heating oil deliveryman in Iowa, he had accepted the old motor car as payment from a farmer who didn’t have the money to pay his bill.
Some of her fondest memories, Dee says, are of riding with her grandparents in that long-lived automobile in parades and at county fairs. Her grandfather even took the Brush to the Iowa State Fair one year.
Pines Village resident profile: Dick Brauer
For Dick Brauer, advancing years mean new adventures. “I’ve never been 83 before,” the newly minted 83-year-old says with a note of excitement in his voice.
Freed of what he calls “the heavy lifting” of cooking, cleaning and other home maintenance, the new transplant to Pines Village sees a host of new opportunities to learn and grow with a community of like-minded seniors.
As the retired founding director of the Valparaiso University art museum that bears his name, Dick is glad that many of his new opportunities at Pines Village touch upon the arts.
Pines Village employee profile: Tracy Huyvaert
Tracy Huyvaert laughs when she recalls the doubters who questioned whether Pines Village could raise the money needed to pull off its ambitious Tour of Duty in 2007.
Failing to raise the money for the trip to the World War II Memorial and other sites in Washington, D.C. – a “thank you” to local veterans – was simply not an option, she says.
For Tracy, Pines Village’s chief operations officer for resident services, the successful fundraising and tour validated the idea that you really can do anything you set your mind to.
Pines Village board of directors profile: Patrick Lyp - President 2010-2011
Growing up in New Jersey, Patrick Lyp enjoyed a great luxury. As the oldest of seven siblings, it was certainly not material wealth Lyp basked in. Instead, until he went off to college, Lyp had the luxury of having his grandfather visit the family almost every day.
In that daily connection with his grandfather were the seeds of Patrick Lyp’s appreciation for the contributions of our older citizens.
Pines Village resident profile: Ruth and Louis Foster
For first-time author Ruth Foster, a key to getting that first book published was discovering the riches of Internet research.
That and freeing herself of home ownership.
The septuagenarian author began her historical mystery novel of the Middle Ages, Effigy of the Cloven Hoof, over 20 years ago, an outgrowth of four extended sojourns in England with her husband Louis.
Read more >
Pines Village employee profile: Joel Fabugais
“He’s got a heart of gold.” That line usually follows upon a description of a person’s menacing exterior or gruff personality.
But Joel Fabugais — a veteran dining services employee with Pines Village Retirement Communities at the tender age of 23 — breaks that “heart of gold” mold. He’s got one. But there’s no hint of menace or gruffness about him.
Read more >