August 15, 2014 // 1:31 PM

Retirement Communities Make Good Neighbors

Written by Scott Miller

From a cup of coffee at the café to a Saturday evening concert, from Sunday church services to an indoor swimming pool, you can find virtually any amenity or convenience you could want without ever setting foot beyond the boundaries of Garden Spot Village’s impeccably manicured 104-acre campus. The same is true for service opportunities. Yet the Village doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Strong local partnerships benefit Villagers as well as organizations and individuals in New Holland and beyond.

“Over time, a warm relationship has developed between Garden Spot Village and the New Holland and Eastern Lancaster County community,” says Rep. Gordon Denlinger, who has represented the people of Pennsylvania’s 99th Legislative District—including New Holland—since 2003. “The depth to which the relationship has grown is a testimony to the goodwill of all of the individuals on both sides of the equation.”

Driving benefits to the community

“New Holland is blessed to have Garden Spot Village here as a part of our community,” says Geoff Class, President of New Holland Auto Group. Class and Garden Spot Village founder Dale Weaver served together on the board of the New Holland Recreation Center, which used to meet at Garden Spot Village.
“I became impressed with how well it was run, how clean and neat it always was and with the caliber of the employees,” Class says. When his mother needed skilled care, he moved her from Philadelphia to Garden Spot Village. “They were very attentive to her needs, and somebody was always there with a cheerful attitude.”

Today, when new residents move to Garden Spot Village, they receive a packet of “perks” that includes coupons for a free state inspection, free oil change, a rewards card and other benefits from New Holland Auto Group. It’s Class’s way of acknowledging not just the quality care his mother received, but also the benefits that Garden Spot Village has brought to local businesses like his.

“New Holland is a small town. A retirement community is the best industry that could have moved in. There’s no smoke and no dirt. It’s like a housing development, but the school doesn’t have to get bigger, and the town doesn’t have to hire extra police,” Class says. “It’s a total plus for the New Holland area.”

Learning for life

Although the school didn’t have to grow, the ELANCO School District and Garden Spot Village enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship, with many connections great and small. For example, the Making A Difference committee collects items such as backpacks and warm winter accessories for students in need. Villagers volunteer to tutor students who need academic support. Others participate in a unique living history program, bringing students a first-hand perspective on events ranging from World War II and Vietnam to racial segregation in the 1950s and ‘60s and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. One Villager is a coach for the baseball team.

“Our students benefit from this practical, hard-core knowledge sharing,” says Robert Hollister, District Superintendent. What’s more, the support comes at no cost to the district—a great value in a time when school budgets statewide are stretched tight.

“Another huge way that Garden Spot Village supports us is through our special education program,” says Hollister. Students in the program serve as interns in the Village. “The kids really benefit, and I assume the residents get a lot out of seeing special needs kids become meaningfully employed.”

In his capacity as Superintendent, Hollister is involved with Cross Connection Ministries and the Elanco Social Services Network, both of which also benefit from ties with Garden Spot Village and its residents.

“Those two organizations benefit our kids as well, so Garden Spot Village is contributing again,” he says. In addition, he notes that Garden Spot Village contributes significant tax revenue, which supports the school system. The Villagers’ service to the schools “gives the students a fuller and enriched understanding of what community should be—and is,” says Hollister. “The students look at the older generation differently because of these interactions.”
Going forward, Hollister envisions more ties between the school district and Garden Spot Village. A career day is one possibility.

“As we develop new programs, we expect to reach out more to Garden Spot Village for expertise,” Hollister says. “They do bring in a broader world perspective to this local community.”

Leading the way

Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from Villagers’ knowledge and experience.

“With backgrounds in business, non-profit organizations, government entities and a wide range of other life experiences, Villagers provide a ready resource when I need to reach out and ask questions,” says Rep. Denlinger, who is now running for state senate. “I can call or contact them and get insight as I consider policy decisions that need to be made at the state level.”

Denlinger is a familiar face at Garden Spot Village. His mother has lived here 16 years, and his mother-in-law has lived here for 10 years. He’s in the Village virtually every week in one capacity or another. He has made many friends here and has seen the value of service in action, as residents give their time to make the Eastern Lancaster Community richer and more vibrant.

“You’ll find Garden Spot Village residents plugged into most, if not all, of the churches and charitable organizations in the ELANCO area. Some are connected to local government and some have assisted me with state-level government issues,” Denlinger says. “The value of community is that we all contribute when and where we can. The residents at Garden Spot Village have a bit more time and a wealth of life experience to give back to this local community—and they do so in a very unselfish manner, in so many ways I can’t begin to name them all.”

One of the ways that Denlinger gives back is by presenting awards at the Garden Spot Village Marathon. A runner himself, he is happy to join residents and community volunteers in supporting the marathon.

“The Marathon has gained national prominence as a first-tier running event. It’s well managed, and it’s one of the most scenic runs in America,” says the Lancaster County native. “As I’m giving awards, I’m always amazed at how many go to runners from other parts of the world. That indicates the standing of the Garden Spot Village Marathon in the global running community. Garden Spot Village residents are the reason that the race has become so successful.”

Serving the spirit

Continuing education is another means of enriching the community. Garden Spot Village partners with institutions of higher learning to offer a variety of enrichment courses on the Garden Spot Village campus. Since 2009 Eastern Mennonite University at Lancaster (EMU) has offered six-session educational programs in the spring and fall. Topics have included “The Case for Christian Pacifism and Peacebuilding”, “World Religions” and “Discipleship: Following Christ Here and Around the World.”

The partnership between EMU and Garden Spot Village grew out of a relationship between Rev. Dr. Mark Wenger, Director of Pastoral Studies at EMU, and Chet Yoder, Director of Pastoral Services at Garden Spot Village. Yoder suggested that they collaborate on educational opportunities exploring Anabaptist themes.

“The process grew from there. Chet drew in two local Mennonite congregations, Weaverland and Bowman’s Hill,” says Wenger. The first course, taught by John A. Lapp, examined 20th-century American evangelicalism. The programs give the organizers an opportunity to provide stimulating learning and discussion around important topics. One of the most popular programs was last year’s “The Middle East: Land of Promise, Land of Strife.” Taught by Elias George, a Palestinian by birth, and David Miron, who was born Jewish, the thought-provoking program drew participants from throughout the community. This spring, “Faith in the Crucible of Conflict”, taught by Ken Sensenig, of Mennonite Central Committee East Coast (MCC), focused on MCC work around the world.

“What we do at Garden Spot Village is very different from the classes we offer at Eastern Mennonite University. For us it’s a community service as well,” says Wenger. By collaborating and extending its hospitality, Garden Spot Village serves partners such as EMU, enhances their ability to serve and, ultimately enriches the community at large.

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