Trillium Woods Seniors Help Others and Themselves Through Volunteering

At Trillium Woods senior living community in Plymouth, Minnesota, residents live an independent, active lifestyle that includes a variety of on-site amenities and activities as well as social and volunteer opportunities both on-campus and in the Plymouth and Minneapolis area.

Laurie Kruper, Community Life Services Director, oversees activities, entertainment, excursions, and volunteering as part of her job at Trillium Woods. She makes sure that every program and activity fits into the 8 dimensions of wellness that is integral to providing a holistic, well-rounded experience to each senior living at Trillium Woods.

“I always keep in mind the emotional, environmental, health services, physical, social, spiritual, and vocational components when programming for the community. We just celebrated two years of operation on July 6, so our programs and volunteer opportunities are still developing and growing.” She explained that many residents are still very active, vibrant, and independent. They have their own transportation and go out and do things on their own. “We are still trying to capture all of their interests and activities.”

Developing Volunteerism within Trillium Woods

While many seniors are busy outside of Trillium Woods, residents also have opportunities to be involved within the senior living community by leading or serving on several different resident associations. “We have Marketing & Hospitality, Communications, Community Life Services, Outreach & Public Affairs, Facilities Services, Food & Beverage Services, Health Services, Library, Finance, Associate Appreciation Fund, and Encore! Each committee has a chairperson who reports to the Resident Council on a monthly basis.”

“For example, the Community Life Services Committee that I oversee is a committee of 14 residents who help gather information for the community on what excursions, events, speakers, movies, etc. they would like programmed into their calendars,” Laurie said.

Seniors also have opportunities to get involved at the Trillium Woods health center, The Birches, which provides skilled nursing, rehabilitation, memory care, and respite care. “We are just beginning to ask for volunteers from our independent living residents. They are just now getting settled in and starting to say they are ready to get involved and volunteer. We have one resident who conducts book club, reading to those people who may not have ability to do that on their own. Another woman delivers library books to residents in the health center.”

Volunteers Who Keep on Giving

“We have some pretty terrific people who are doing things out in the community,” said Laurie. “We take residents out to Feed My Starving Children, an organization here in the Twin Cities that packages and provides dry goods to third world countries. We’ve done it twice. We usually have a full bus – 22 people – for this.”

One Trillium Woods couple, Bobby and Barbara Griffin, have taken their former careers in the medical field, and used their connections and experience to create partnerships to improve health conditions for young mothers in the third world country of Tanzania.

“In the early 2000s, they started getting with different organizations, such as Global Health Ministries in Fridley, to start refurbishing some medical equipment to send to Tanzania,” explained Laurie. “Then they established a trust to get money to purchase land in Tanzania to build a hospital.” Today they have 240 acres of land, a health care center with a dental clinic (dedicated in 2007), and a hospital with 50 beds. The hospital is called the Dodoma Christian Medical Center and is in Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania.

“They’ve actually brought doctors from Tanzania to the U.S. to be trained correctly so they can go home and give people proper medical care. [Bobby and Barbara] go back annually, too,” said Laurie. The couple also holds fundraisers in the Twin Cities to raise money for the hospital. “We host a bus that goes to this fundraising event in Minneapolis every year. We pack the bus for that, too.”

Two other residents, Margaret Wold and Sheila Cadwallader, volunteer at the nearby Plymouth Interfaith Outreach and Community Partnership (IOCP), helping to provide food, housing, and other services to the community. “They came back one day and said they really needed knitted caps for newborn babies,” said Laurie. “Well, every Thursday we have our Stitch Width that meets in our creative arts center. They cross-stitch or crochet or whatever their craft is. Within two weeks we had 140 baby caps knitted! And to this day, they are still knitting baby caps… whenever they have time they will knit baby caps and put them in a basket in our creative arts center. Margaret comes in and gets them and delivers them to the Interfaith Outreach. There will never be a baby with a cold head-  ever!”

Last November, the entire Trillium Woods community helped the IOCP with their food shelf campaign. Laurie shared, “We did something here called the Attitude of Gratitude. We had a room where people could go reflect and write down what they were thankful for, then share a food item in the food drive that went to the Interfaith Outreach.”

Another gentleman, “Grandpa” John Copeland still to this day tutors fifth graders in math. “This is his 14th or 15th year doing this. He is the sharpest man, and I think it’s because he goes in and teaches them old school math. It’s great because he’s using his skills and passing it on to fifth graders.”

Everyone Benefits

As Laurie gets ready to put an article on volunteering opportunities at Trillium Woods in their August newsletter, she is also planning their quarterly HealthyLife™ Services Fair and considering talking about the emotional, “feel good” health benefits seniors get from volunteering.

“There’s an emotional health benefit seniors get from giving back. When you’re not feeling so good about things, getting out there and helping others can actually improve your emotional and social wellness.”

She added that volunteering can also have great cognitive benefits. “When people are actively using their mind – such as with knitting – and when you give these people a purpose like that, they get really excited. It’s like a job for them. Suddenly they have purpose and they’re coming down here, talking about the yarns they found and the colors,” she said. “It becomes like a competition! I can hear the conversations… the excitement and caring about these babies they don’t even know. It’s social. There’s laughter. It’s bringing people out of their apartments and helps them reminisce, which is healthy.”

Laurie said she loves being able to be a part of these seniors’ lives. “I could program all day long, but if we aren’t doing what they want it doesn’t make sense. It’s about listening to the residents, hearing what they are interested in… finding those little nuggets.”

Serving on committees and helping in the community gives residents a sense of belonging and purpose. “It can also fill a void that many who have been working all their lives may feel when they first retire. Their abilities, ideas and services are greatly appreciated!”

To find out how you can become a part of Trillium Woods’s senior living community, get in touch with us at (763) 553-7600.