Gifts changing lives, person by person

We would like to thank the individuals below for bravely and openly sharing their stories of how the donor-driven services and program of ERS have positively impacted their lives at a time of great need.



Finding friendship and camaraderie

Kathy, who has been living with dementia for several years, explains, “I used to feel like I wanted to keep it a really big secret, but I think that (by) us talking about it and our experiences, maybe we’ll help someone else.”

Dave, Kathy’s husband and care partner, confesses, “It’s been very difficult.  Completely unexpected.  This is the sort of thing you think is going to happen to someone else -- it’s not going to happen to you -- and it has changed our lives dramatically.”

Dave and Kathy find camaraderie and support by attending innovative community-based programs including With Art in Mind, a program of the ERS Center for Memory Support and Inclusion (CMSI) which is funded completely through donor support.



Finding her sanctuary

“A sanctuary.”  That is how Cyndee Whigham describes her new home at Scheper Ridge, an ERS Affordable Living community for seniors.  Speaking on behalf of her friends and neighbors, she explains, “We are looking for a place where we can live in peace, find companionship and there are people who are happy to help.”  She says she’s found that at Scheper Ridge.

An Air Force veteran, Cyndee spent 27 ½ years working in a Florida elementary school as a teacher assistant and receptionist.  Her own struggles as a child with poor vision and attention deficit disorder drove her passion for education.  “I am a very empathic person.  I feel the vibes and emotions of others.”  With a tender heart, Cyndee has rescued countless animals and loves reviving dying houseplants.  “Helping things grow makes me feel so happy and alive!”  

Cyndee with her Australian Shepherd Daisy.

Cyndee’s optimism has helped her weather many challenges in life, including a battle with Stage 4 breast cancer from which she has been in remission for 13 years.  While she loved her career in the schools, the day-to-day expenses of raising three sons prevented her from saving for her retirement.  Her unstable housing situation led to multiple moves from Florida to Michigan and then Alabama so that she could live with relatives. At the encouragement of her son, she decided to make one more move to be near his home in Florence, KY.  Initially, the Veteran’s Administration found her a temporary apartment on Cincinnati’s west side.  It was nice, she said, but was not as close to her son as she hoped to be and the stairs were very hard on her knee. 

“I must’ve called 50 places” until the stars finally aligned.   Scheper Ridge, in Florence, was nearing completion and accepting new resident!  On August 13th, she moved in with her beloved pets Daisy and Kee Kee and a slew of revived plants.  “Even 16 year old Daisy has a pep in her step since we moved in.”



Enfolded with love in her darkest hour


Two weeks before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Marjorie P. Lee residents Kate and Jim Powers received the unthinkable news – their daughter had been diagnosed with a Stage 4 brain tumor.  Reeling, they were embraced with overwhelming support from every corner of Marjorie Lee – from Tina in housekeeping to Laura Lamb, President and CEO, and many others.  

In Kate’s words, “It was a sacred experience … to be in that place of facing the unknown, and to be surrounded by so much tenderness.”

Tragically, Anne Powers lost her battle with cancer 13 months later. Please take a few quiet moments to listen to Kate’s reflections on the compassion that was showered on her and Jim as staff, friends and neighbors walked alongside them in their darkest hour.



The red suit changed his life

Have you ever stopped to think what it’s like to be Santa Claus, and how enjoyable it can be for the man in the red hat?

“Santa Frank” has. Not only has he thought about it, he’s experienced it and it helped bring joy back into his life, following tragedy.

Living through a dark period in the three years since his wife, Molly, had died, Frank had the opportunity to act as Santa at the Affordable Living by ERS campus of Thomaston Woods and Meadows in December of 2021. He had moved in just days earlier, and hadn’t finished unpacking. But the five hours he and Thomaston Service Coordinator Sue Schindler spent distributing gifts door-to-door to infants, children, teens and residents over 60 on the campus offered a bright, life-changing moment.

"My wife, she talked about helping people for years and years, and years, and I kinda went, 'Eh, whatever,’” Frank said. “When she passed away, things changed for me. It's time for me to start giving back in her name."

That day gave Santa Frank hope as he helped his new community, and was a turning point for him.  


As Mr. Claus, Frank “easily turned on his Santa magic,” Sue Schindler said. He posed for photos with residents, “and made sure to listen intently to our children. Frank made everyone feel special.”

Volunteering has become a way of life for him all year round.  Of course, he’ll be Santa again this holiday season, using his own beard, which he has been growing all year, and which is gradually turning white. He plans to dye it somehow. 

"God gave this to me. I've got to use it for some good,” he explained.

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