August 2013

Lutheran Home at Topton staff member celebrates 50-plus years of service

Patricia Trexler at 2012 Leading Age conference with Bishop Emeritus Edmond Tutu.

In today's increasingly mobile work environment, Patricia Trexler is somewhat of a phenomenon.

She has worked for the same organization for more than 50 years, earning her status as the longest-tenured employee at The Lutheran Home at Topton and recognition at the national 2012 Leading Age conference.

During her more-than-half-century history with what is now Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, she has witnessed evolution of the Topton campus from a home for children to its current primary state as a Continuing Care Retirement Community.

As a child, Trexler lived across the street from what was then called an orphanage; she frequented the campus to visit the children living there. Her mother was later employed as a nurse in one of the first vestiges of senior care on the campus, called the "infirmary," living adjacent to the campus until her husband passed away.

When Trexler married, she and her husband bought a house next to the campus; they lived there for 44 years, during which their sons volunteered at The Lutheran Home at Topton.

With limited career choices for women at the time, Trexler followed in the footsteps of her mother, choosing nursing as her profession. At that time, "you were either a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse," she says. Trexler began her nursing career in a hospital, but left to work at the new health care center at The Lutheran Home at Topton when it opened in 1962. With only four residents and a handful of employees, the center provided a homelike atmosphere for both residents and employees. "It was like a family ... a lot of the main employees lived on campus or close by," she says.

"Trexler’s ability to adjust to a changing environment has allowed her to grow with the organization."

Over the years, the campus evolved to keep up with a rapidly changing world. "We progressed from reusing everything to using disposables; from dispensing meds from stock bottles to using punch cards; from using gloves for almost no tasks to using gloves for everything; from all white dress uniforms to colorful scrubs."

Despite all of the changes in administrations, policies and procedures, Trexler, an LPN, has thrived. Shelly Sweigart, R.N., assistant director of nursing at Topton's Henry Health Care Center, says that Trexler’s ability to adjust to a changing environment has allowed her to grow with the organization. "She has jumped in wholeheartedly and adapted. And she has helped others along the way."

Patricia Trexler, right, cares for The Lutheran Home at Topton resident Yvonne Lewis.

Trexler, who has no plans to retire soon, says she will work as long as she is "mentally and physically able."

The Leading Age award was in recognition of her tenure in serving older adults. Leading Age is a national association of 6,000 not-for-profit organizations dedicated to caring for and serving older adults.

"I went to Denver for the conference and award," she says. "I even got to meet Desmond Tutu. "It was amazing, quite an experience."

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The Flight Program soars to western Maryland, crosses generations

Keith Mutinda, left, and other Flight participants work on landscaping the sign at the entrance to Diakon's Frostburg Heights Apartments in western Maryland.

The residents' “stories were great,” says Keith Mutinda, a participant in Diakon's Flight Program. “It felt like they cared about me and really wanted to hear about my life, too ....”

Several participants of the youth-mentoring program recently traveled to Frostburg Heights, a Diakon Lutheran Senior Housing apartment complex in western Maryland, to tend flower gardens and build a planter at the building's entrance.

Working with those who have "aged out" of traditional youth services, the Flight Program provides a year-long experience for youths who volunteer to participate; all have been previously enrolled in traditional youth services, such as those based at the Diakon Wilderness Center.

“It felt like they cared about me and really wanted to hear about my life, too ....”

The goal of the program is to provide the support necessary for the young adults to build successful lives at home, work, and school. Typically, for example, Flight participants are enrolled in college or trade school while also holding down jobs. They also work together on a variety of community-service projects, supporting one another as they jointly build new lives.

The Flight program-completed plant bed at Frostburg Heights Apartments.

"It was so nice to visit with and help out the residents," says Flight participant Jamile Madison. "We ate dinner with them and they were so kind to us. It feels great to be able to give back." Both members of the Frostburg Heights community and Flight participants enjoyed a question-and-answer session during visit, during which the youths and the residents were able learn more about each other.

At that session, says Rebecca Brown-McCusker, manager of the rental-subsidy complex, "the fund-raising committee presented the Flight crew with the $320 proceeds from a bake sale held in June. Many residents were so impressed with these young men that they, with the committee, want to have a 'bakeless bake sale' and a drive for non-perishable foods for them."

Other Flight participants will return to Frostburg Heights in November to help hang holiday lights and decorations. "At that time," says Brown-McCusker, "we will present the Flight crew with proceeds from the bakeless bake sale and the food drive."

"We’re going to keep fostering this relationship," notes Matt Reichard, director of the Flight program who, along with Rob Kivlan, former Flight director and now a Diakon development officer supporting Diakon Youth Services, assisted in the Frostburg work, "because it is definitely a win-win situation for all of us. We’re already looking forward to coming back."

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Band plays music in honor of Cumberland Crossings resident

Janet Clark, left, receives the commission from composer Dr. Michael A. Harcrow, second from left, while Dr. William Stowman, conductor, and Jan Bigelow, Cumberland Crossings executive director, look on.

The Harrisburg Concert Band regularly presents concerts at Cumberland Crossings, a Diakon Lutheran Senior Living Community, at Carlisle, Pa.,

Recently, one of the members of the band wrote a march entitled, Cumberland Crossings. A resident of the senior living cottages at Cumberland Crossings paid anonymously to have the piece commissioned in honor of fellow resident Janet Clark.

Clark began the College of the Arts program at Cumberland Crossings, which has brought a lot of music to the senior living community.

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