Volume LVIIIMay 2011Number 2

Adopt-A-Resident: Give a Priceless Gift & Hope

Bro. Rick Fisher with Libby Rothgaber at
the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown
A Birthday Surprise

Amidst an array of photographs adorning the wall and side table, one image stands out from the rest. Bright pink and gold sweep across the image as dozens of women pose in elaborate matching dresses making up Harrisburg's Sweet Adelines Chorus. Along the right of the group, stands a glowing young Libby Rothgaber. She was a member of this award-winning singing and dancing sensation which took her throughout the United States for 26 years.

Now, many years later, Rothgaber has traded in her performance attire for beautiful jewelry, and her beauty, charisma and poise remain unscathed by the years.

As a resident of the Masonic Health Care Center at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, Rothgaber's room is a testament to her life. A large photo of her pride and joy - her late son - with a sheepdog puppy hangs on the wall. On the precisely made bed sits Boisee, a stuffed Old English Sheepdog, and Muffin, a smaller stuffed dog, to keep him company. A chiming clock, a birthday gift from her son, gently rings a tune every hour. Several dolls from her earlier doll collection are on display. A schedule of activities rests on her table so she does not miss out on the events she loves - bell choir; music classes with Ann and Jen; ceramics class, a newer hobby; wheelchair square dancing; and making flower arrangements for the dining room. A petite floral basket music box sits next to the schedule.

The music box was a Valentine's Day gift this year from Williamson Lodge No. 309, Downingtown, as part of the Adopt-A-Resident program. When opened, it chimes the melody from the Stevie Wonder song:

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

Bro. Rick Fisher, P.M., commenced the lodge's initial involvement in the Grand Master's initiative. "My aunt was a resident at Masonic Village, and she received such wonderful care," Bro. Fisher said of his inspiration to participate in the Adopt-A-Resident program. "I desired to see that everyone had a family that would visit."

Rothgaber's family now consists of a few friends from Sweet Adelines, former neighbors and friends she's made at the Masonic Village. Last year on her birthday, a new group of friends showered her with love. Besides "Happy Birthday" sung by the Masonic Village staff and residents in her neighborhood and the joy of picking whatever she wanted from the menu for the day, Rothgaber received some surprises. In the morning, a card came for her from Williamson Lodge. "It was wonderful, but I had mixed emotions," Rothgaber confessed. She couldn't figure out who these lodge members were, and why they were honoring her in this way.

Later in the day, the assistant in the neighborhood told Rothgaber that a gentleman wanted to stop by to visit. Rothgaber and Bro. Fisher visited for more than an hour. "He is a very nice gentleman," Rothgaber said. "I had a good time talking with him." He even brought Rothgaber a cake with pink icing flowers, a treat that everyone at her dinner table appreciated later that day. As her final surprise, the lodge gave Rothgaber a gift certificate for an extra appointment at the hair salon.

Since Bro. Fisher has given updates at lodge meetings, more brothers have approached him to get involved. Financially, Williamson Lodge cannot support as many charities as it wishes it could, but what it lacks in funds, it makes up for with heart. The Adopt-A-Resident program is a perfect way to give a priceless gift.

"It's been more about what Libby's done for me than what I've done for her," Bro. Fisher admits. When he was the Lodge Secretary, Christmastime could be difficult because of the many logistical lodge matters to attend to. "I got the most wonderful Christmas card from Libby. It turned my holiday around!" Bro. Fisher said.

Relationships Are Mutually Rewarding

In Western Pennsylvania, Masonic Village at Sewickley resident Jim Phipps is busy. "We have a really great activities program here," he affirmed. Phipps sings in the choir, does some solo work and helps the music therapists plan music programs featuring all types of music including big band, classical, country and Broadway. In his "spare time," Phipps calls bingo games for other residents and plays bridge.

Recently, he has added a new friend to his repertoire - Bro. Greg Kobasa, P.M., Infinity Lodge No. 546, Verona. As the former Worshipful Master, Bro. Kobasa initiated his lodge's involvement in the Adopt-A-Resident program last fall. "It was something the Grand Master wanted, and we thought it would be a good idea. Masonic Village isn't too far from where we live, and we thought it would be a nice thing to do."

Bro. Will Pepperman, W.M.; Jim Phipps; and
Bro. Gregory Kobasa, P.M., celebrate Jim's birthday.

Bro. Kobasa contacted Ann Beck, one of the Adopt-A-Resident program coordinators, and she suggested adopting Phipps. Bro. Kobasa and Bro. Howard McFarland, Lodge Treasurer, learned that Phipps liked the Steelers, so the men took a Steelers blanket and a box of candy for him when they visited. "He's a very interesting man, and we enjoyed the visit," Bro. Kobasa said.

The brethren also had the opportunity to meet Phipps's wife, Anne. When the former Valley Care Nursing Center was being built at the site of the Masonic Village, Anne served on the committee that made it happen. "When the Masons took it over a few years ago, we were sure this was where we wanted to live," Phipps said. He and Anne moved into a villa in the retirement living area of the campus in 2003. Years passed, and now Anne lives in the personal care building, while Phipps resides in the nursing services area. Though they no longer live under the same roof, "We're together a lot," he said. "We eat together, attend activities together and play bridge together."

Since Bro. Kobasa first visited, he has called Phipps several times to see how he's doing and encouraged lodge members to send cards at Christmas. For Phipps' birthday, Bro. Kobasa introduced Bro. Will Pepperman, W.M., to Phipps and celebrated with cake and small presents. "For us, it's rewarding to be there, to help and to be someone else in Jim's life," Bro. Kobasa said.

Strengthen the Masonic Connection

Bro. Tracy Miller, P.M., Myrtle Lodge No. 316, Franklin, and plural member of Doric Lodge No. 630, Sewickley, was shooting clay birds at Castlewood Rod and Gun Club in 2009 when he first met Bro. Robert Grine, Harmony Lodge No. 429, Zelienople. Not long thereafter, Bro. Miller attended a lodge meeting at Harmony Lodge.

When the Grand Master initiated the Adopt-A-Resident program, Bro. Allen Householder, the Worshipful Master of Harmony Lodge at the time, and other lodge members decided to adopt Bro. Miller since they had made a connection with him. "I hear a lot of good things about Tracy at Masonic Village," Bro. Householder said.

During a lodge meeting that Bro. Miller attended, Bro. Householder announced that Harmony Lodge wanted to adopt him and asked if he would accept. "I'm very honored that the lodge would want to do that," Bro. Miller said. For Harmony Lodge, adopting Bro. Miller meant befriending him and helping to support his network of connections to Freemasonry.

The lodge sent Bro. Miller and his wife, Sandra, complimentary tickets to its annual ox roast last Labor Day. They presented him with his Grand Lodge Proficiency Pin, and Bro. Householder had dinner with the couple one evening. He also stays in contact with Bro. Miller via telephone.

Bros. Tracy Miller and Dave Rihl at the Enchanted
Evening. Grand Master Sturgeon presented them with
the Grand Master's Award of Excellence.

Bro. Miller's passion is supporting the men, Masons and non-Masons alike, who live in the personal care and nursing care areas at the Masonic Village at Sewickley. With fellow resident Bro. Dave Rihl, Doric Lodge, Bro. Miller co-chaired the creation of the Enchanted Evening. For this program, the women in the personal care and nursing areas get dressed up for an elegant dinner party while the men gather together for games, pizza and beer. Residents look forward to the special event annually. Last year, Bro. Miller invited Bro. Householder and Bro. Grine to help, and they were happy to offer their support and were astonished by the magnitude of the project.

For lodges that might feel they lack creativity when it comes to adopting a resident, Bro. Miller stressed, "Lodges can get involved with existing programs at the Masonic Village."

For instance, the William Slater II Master Masons Club plans and coordinates programs to give men in the personal care and nursing areas an opportunity to leave the campus and participate in events they have always loved. Activities include a trip the day after Father's Day to the Ambridge Sportsman Club, where residents can enjoy a picnic and fish with one-on-one support from staff and Masons; a Washington Wild Things baseball game; and trips to restaurants and eateries like Eat'n Park or Bruster's, among other events and programs.

William D. McIlroy Lodge No. 269, Pittsburgh, and Doric Lodge both hold their stated meetings at the Masonic Village at Sewickley once a year, so Masons who cannot otherwise travel to lodge can be present. The members commit to arriving early and staying late to help Masons with transportation difficulties to attend.

While he's a resident, Bro. Miller also serves as a tour guide and volunteer at Masonic Village. "My role that I play here at Masonic Village is to get the outside lodges acquainted with the Village and show them how they can get involved here for the benefit of the residents," he said.

Your Lodge Can Do It, Too!

Could your lodge adopt a resident and commit to helping him attend lodge meetings? Could you visit and participate in an activity on campus with him? Would you stop by on his birthday and ask how Freemasonry has affected his life? Would you make his wife or friends feel special by helping them all attend an event on campus together? As a group, can you fellowship over a picnic lunch or take a walk outside? Can you make the presentation of Masonic pins and awards a special occasion for your adopted resident?

The answer should be a resounding, "YES!"

Whether your lodge is financially thriving and full of creativity or you're keeping your head above water and feeling unsure about how to support residents at the Masonic Village, the Adopt-A-Resident program is one way you can show your Masonic pride and dedication. You never know, you may even get something in return!

"I've been to many senior facilities, and in my experience, Masonic Village is one-of-a-kind," Bro. Fisher said. "It's a place of hope. I have never, ever, been there for a visit that I haven't come out smiling."

If your lodge does not know whom to adopt, the Adopt-A-Resident program coordinators listed below can help you connect with a resident or a resident couple. If your lodge has adopted a resident, but has not contacted an Adopt-A-Resident program coordinator at one of the Masonic Villages, please contact an individual listed. It is important for the Masonic Village to keep track of who has been adopted so the program coordinators can make recommendations to other inquiring lodges.

Masonic Village at Elizabethtown:
Cynthia Hollinger: (717) 367-1121, ext. 33175 or via email
Masonic Village at Lafayette Hill:
Lynn Christ: (610) 825-6100, ext. 1271 or via email
Masonic Village at Sewickley:
Ann Beck: (412) 741-1400, ext. 3200 or via email
Cindy Stefl: (412) 741-1400, ext. 3600 or via email
Masonic Village at Warminster:
Anne Maher: (215) 672-2500, ext. 112 or via email
Joyce Wadsworth: (215) 672-2500, ext. 116 or via email

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