Singing in the Woods

by Dan Knapper 11. April 2012 11:00

Think of a time you heard a classic song come on the radio, an old favorite from years ago. You’re driving along, perhaps, or doing the dishes when those first notes come through the stereo, and suddenly you’re back in time, highway driving in your first car or dancing the night away at prom. You can hardly remember what you ate for breakfast that morning, but somehow you can remember every word to that 80’s cult classic and the names of everyone in the band. That’s the uncanny power of music—nothing transports us so quickly to other times and places, and nothing quite so easily primes the feelings and emotions that are deeply connected with past experiences.

But that’s not its only power, not for Lindsey Perrault and the residents at the Woods at MapleCreek. On a given Saturday morning, the Woods’ dining room is transformed into a veritable concert hall, complete with guitars, tone chimes, and most importantly, a chorus of voices. While caregivers and nurses move about their daily tasks, the echo of vintage tunes reverberates through the halls and offices, from “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” to “Wild Irish Rose” to “Auld Lang Syne,” sung by the residents themselves and led by Perrault, one of the Woods’ Activity Coordinators, a Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC), and a member of the Grand Rapids Symphony Choir. 

“Music can also be used as a tool,” Perrault informs me after a morning of singing with the residents, “it can be used to reach functional goals.” Such goals include increasing social skills, improving memory and mood, decreasing physical pain, and motivating activity. Certainly there are other activities meant to do as much, but none so aesthetically pleasing, and none that share another of music’s peculiar advantages: because music is stored in and uses many different areas of the brain, damage or deterioration to one area does not prevent a person from participating. For residents of the Woods, the majority of who carry cognitive deficits to a certain extent, music thus becomes a particular blessing, a means of reaching across the divide, of communicating and expressing themselves both personally and to one another. 

Perrault is very intentional in the songs she chooses (songs from a person’s twenties, apparently, are best for long term memory), and she is more than happy to share the rationale behind each specifically; songs like “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” and “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” for example, provide visual cues for clapping and other upper extremity exercises, while others such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” prompt emotional mirroring and feeling response. Residents are even able to participate directly in the music-making, casting tone chimes to “Auld Lang Syne” as a group.

Of course, the music is not meant to be wholly practical. The other dimension of music therapy is the one to which we can all relate, that aspect of song which feeds our inner lives, strongly manifested in the hymn-singing that takes place on Sunday afternoons. Again with Perrault’s lead, the residents sing many of the church favorites—“Amazing Grace,” etc.—and the effect is certainly moving. For many of the Woods’ residents, access to the inner self is increasingly clouded, at times impossible. And yet, it seems, with every resident joining together in chorus, the human side is being reached. The dam bursts, memories flood, and as Perrault puts it, “the spirit revives. It’s special—it really brings out so much life.” Witness the lively, boisterous scene on Saturday mornings or the peaceful, meditative sobriety of hymn-singing on Sundays afternoons, and you’ll know what she’s talking about.









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General | MapleCreek

Pastor Becky featured in USA Today magazine

by Megan Streng 15. March 2012 11:01

Recently, Pastor Rebecca Ebb-Speese (Pastor Becky), MapleCreek's director of pastoral care was approached by a journalist, G. Jeffrey MacDonald who was doing an article on the change of faith in seniors.

The article, titled "Soul Search," appears in the May's USA TODAY special publication, "The Best Years." Pastor Becky gives insight about what she's learned about senior faith from working at MapleCreek. She talks about how some seniors grow spiritually, even after moving into a retirement community.

She mentioned how seniors often have a hard time feeling comfortable with faith. 

From the article: "Ebb-Speese says many newcomers hesitate at first, worrying they don't have the right clothes for worship, lack the right knowledge for discussion, or can't spare a dollar for the offering ...  "But somehow when they're here, they mellow ... A lot of them enter into religious activity through personal one-on-one relationships.""

She also tried to break down some stereotypes about seniors:

""People have an assumption that seniors are very stuck in their ways, but they are not," Ebb-Speese says. "There's something about the senior years that enables them to blossom and be open to new things, much more so than middleaged people.""

MapleCreek resident, Jean Skiver, who was recently baptized by Pastor Becky, was quoted in the article as well. To read the full article click here, and to order a copy of the magazine, click here.

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Faith at Work | General | LSSM | MapleCreek | Staff Stories

CEO joins national refugee services board

by Barbara Lewis 12. March 2012 13:46

Mark Stutrud, president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, has joined the board of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), a national organization based in Baltimore that contracts with the federal government to resettle refugees. LIRS works through 27 state and local affiliates, including Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, to provide services to refugees. LIRS is also very active in advocating for policies and legislation that uphold the rights and dignity of newcomers to our country.

Lutheran Social Services also serves as the Michigan affiliate for Episcopal Migration Ministries.

Last year, Lutheran Social Services resettled more than 1,000 refugees. They were primarily Chaldeans (Christians from Iraq) but also people fleeing war and persecution in Burma, Bhutan and several African countries. Lutheran Social Services provides help with paperwork and documents, housing, English language training and job placement. Most refugees are self-supporting within six months of their arrival.



MapleCreek promotes two to senior management team

by Megan Streng 29. February 2012 16:27

MapleCreek has promoted two staff members to senior management positions. Deedre Vriesman is the new associate administrator and Scott Spencer was named director of plant operations for MapleCreek.


“Both Deedre and Scott bring a wealth of talent, skills and passion to MapleCreek. Their innovative and mission-based approach cultivates this pasa desire to provide high quality service and hospitality,” said Jay Prince, executive director of MapleCreek.

Vriesman was previously the clinical operations manager for The Woods at MapleCreek, where she managed the daily operations for the campus’ memory care unit. Her new role includes managing The Terraces healthcare operations in addition to her role at The Woods.


As director of plant operations, Spencer will provide leadership and oversight for the campus’s physical plant operations including purchasing, transportation, maintenance, housekeeping, laundry and security departments. Scott has worked for MapleCreek for five years, starting as an Administrative Services Manager.


General | LSSM | MapleCreek | Staff Stories

Lent, a Season of Receiving

by Barbara Lewis 29. February 2012 08:53

These thoughts on Lent are from Pastor Rebecca Ebb-Speese, chaplain at MapleCreek in Grand Rapids.

I have been pondering what I should be giving up for Lent this year. A given is always sugar. But this year I have had an awakening that Lent is for receiving, which requires giving up the need for fierce independence.

I started Lent this year by having knee surgery. This has given me the gift of a little over two weeks off work. I looked forward to this time of rest and reflection at the beginning of Lent. 

Now, a few days into my leave, I have had to experience a lot of giving up: of independence, of driving, of cooking my own meals (that’s a gift in its own right!), of caring for the household chores. I have given up most of these to my husband, who is willing to give of his time to take over.

When I was in the recovery room, the surgeon came in to tell me how the surgery went. I was quite surprised to hear him say that I had donor parts in my knee. At first, I thought it was kind of creepy to realize I had a dead person’s ligaments and cartilage in my body. I didn’t even realize that donor parts were used for knee repair. When I think of organ donors, I think of the big ones, like the heart, lung and liver. It never occurred to me that that what seem like small, insignificant body parts are also used. And I never imagined myself being a recipient. Wow! Someone’s death gave me new parts in my knee so that I can experience healing. That sure sounds like Lent to me. Someone else gave his whole life so that we can have new life! 

Lent is about receiving. It’s about receiving the sacrifice of life that Jesus gave to us. It’s about receiving grace and forgiveness. It’s about letting go of our need to be gods in charge of our own lives as we let God guide us and the Holy Spirit open us up to receive wonderful gifts.

I am also learning that Lent is about letting others care for me. I am a professional caregiver. It’s hard for me to be on the receiving end. Most people want to be able to give and care. It’s a gift for them to receive. I am thankful for the gift of my donor’s knee parts, for the gifts of prayers and cards, for meals and flowers, for calls and visits and for the many other ways people are reaching out. I am humbled. As the weeks progress, I will be more and more opened to learn to receive with thankfulness, especially to Jesus for his life-giving gift of going to the cross, which led, ultimately, to his resurrection!

(Photo by Enygmatic-Halycon, Creative Commons)


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Faith at Work | LSSM | MapleCreek

Filming at MapleCreek

by Megan Streng 24. February 2012 11:08

The last couple of weeks were full of excitement at MapleCreek. Two new commercials were being filmed on campus, and the residents were the stars!

The marketing team at MapleCreek decided that our current commercial could use a little more excitement, so we hired a new production company in town, Tell Tale Productions. For the commercial, we wanted to showcase all of the fun we have at MapleCreek.

Last Monday morning started in the wellness center with five residents pretending to be involved in an aerobics class and by 10 a.m. we were watching a movie in the Life Enrichment Room. From there we staged a poker game, complete with tuxedos and visors. The day ended with a pretend happy hour, although, by the looks of it, all fifteen actors for the scene were pretty happy.

The star of this commercial, Dorothy, moved through each of the scenes, dancing as if no one was watching.

Tuesday, we began in the dining room, showcasing the service that MapleCreek provides for it's residents. We filmed a scene in one of the cottage with Tom and a pretend grandchild, and a lot of cookies. We ended in the Woods, where we were able to show the comfort of healthcare on campus. 

It was an exciting couple of days, and we now we have two new exciting commercials to show for it.

On Feb. 24 we held a premeire of the new commercials for MapleCreek residents and their families, complete with a red carpet! Look for the commercials beginning March on WOOD TV, WXSP and WOTV starting Monday.


General | LSSM | MapleCreek | News

Lou Prues appointed to state Board of Medicine

by Barbara Lewis 24. January 2012 15:00

Louis J. Prues of Grosse Pointe, director of strategic planning and business development at Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, has been named by Governor Rick Snyder to the Michigan Board of Medicine as a representative of the general public. He will take the oath of office January 25. Board members serve for eight years.

The Michigan Board of Medicine is responsible for regulating the entry of physicians and surgeons into practice in the state, for requiring continuing medical education of licensed physicians and for the disciplinary action against those who violate the public health code.

Prues previously served on the Michigan Board of Nursing as an appointee of Governor John Engler.




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Helping in the transition from hospital to home

by Barbara Lewis 20. January 2012 08:51

Home Care Assistance of Michigan, Lutheran Social Services’ private duty home care provider, has begun a Hospital to Home Care program, providing resources for families managing the difficult transition home after hospitalization. The program helps families prepare for discharge and manage their post-hospitalization needs at home.

“The program is anchored in the belief that patients can recover and rehabilitate at home following a hospitalization,” said Rob Louis-Ferdinand, executive director of In-Home Services. “Our clients benefit tremendously from a familiar home environment and their families enjoy peace of mind knowing that trained professionals are on hand to support their loved ones.”

A free 16-page PDF guide to the discharge and recovery process is available at




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It's never too late to be baptized!

by Barbara Lewis 12. January 2012 13:23

Jean Skiver, 85, just never got around to being baptized. She attended a Baptist church with her first husband, and became close to the pastor’s wife. Her second husband was an active member of a Lutheran church, and she attended worship services with him but never formally joined.

Jean moved to The Terraces in Grand Rapids, which offers catered independent living for active seniors, 13 years ago. She says it’s a very caring community.

That changed on January 11, when Jean was baptized during the afternoon service at Trinity Chapel at The Terraces at MapleCreek.

“When I moved here, I met a man who is still a friend and who was active in the chapel. I would also attend his Lutheran church in the community,” said Jean, who spent her working years as a housekeeper in a hospital and a college.

At MapleCreek, Jean enjoys the wide variety of social activities that offer fellowship with other residents. She started going to a volunteer-led Bible study Because Jean has some health problems that it hard for others to understand her, she doesn’t like to speak in group settings. She relies on her friend, Barb Bell, who also lives at MapleCreek, to be her voice, helping her to participate in activities she formerly avoided. She also began talking to MapleCreek's chaplain, Rebecca Ebb-Speese, known as Pastor Becky, about spiritual matters. Jean says she enjoys exploring issues of faith.

Early in the new year, Jean told Pastor Becky she wanted to be baptized. “I want to accept God and to feel more connected to church,” she said.  “I had my children baptized and now it’s time for me.”

Pastor Becky officiated at the ceremony and Barb Bell served as Jean's sponsor.

“My quality of life has changed since I moved to MapleCreek and started attending spiritual activities,” Jean said. “I know these are good for me. I feel better about my life.”

After witnessing Jean’s baptism, another resident came to Pastor Becky and said she’d never been baptized either, and she wanted to do it too. Her ceremony was held the following day, with all the residents in attendance serving as sponsors.



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Client Stories | Faith at Work | LSSM | MapleCreek | News

Birthdays for MapleCreek residents, 99 and 102

by John Elmore 9. January 2012 15:04

Ethel Evert called it her "rehearsal" for her 100th birthday. Ethel turned 99 on New Year's Day. A few days earlier, on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011, family and friends hosted a "99" party for her in the Life Enrichment Room of The Terraces at MapleCreek. Ethel cut the cake, and Cottages resident Elizabeth Druckey held the plates. When asked what she remembered about being a little girl, Ethel told about remembering a great fire at a brick factory within walking distance of their house. She and her father went to watch the action ."The draught horses the business used to haul bricks died in the fire. I think I was about six."

Ethel was an only child. "My parents were married 10 years when I came along, so I guess they were glad to have me." She remembers riding on the Interurban, a streetcar rail system that people could ride over great distances in West Michigan, going from Grand Rapids all the way to Kalamazoo, Holland and Muskegon. "We rode on a high trestle bridge up over the Grand River, and I was so scared," she said. "I also remember my Father taking me to the Fair, maybe in Comstock Park. We rode the Interurban for that, too."

Mrs. Lou Miller turned 102 on Friday, Jan. 6, 2012. In her mailbox was a letter of congratulations from Willard Scott of the "Today" show. The Terraces staff surprised Lou at lunch by entering the dining room clapping their hands, surrounding her table and singing "Happy Birthday" to her. Lou was deeply moved, but quickly recovered and began showing her usual good humor. In addition to a little cake, the staff gave her a can of beer for a little celebration on her own later. "I think first I'll put on my pajamas, get in bed, and then drink it," she joked.

Lou will tell you that the secret to long life is to always have a positive attitude. "I used to get up in the mornings, jabbering away and singing, and mother would say, 'Who put a nickel in you?' And I'd say, 'I don't know, Ma.' I guess I've always been this way." Her upbeat outlook on life has carried her through many difficult times in her life, including being widowed after 17 years of marriage and working and raising her children on her own, then caring for her dear aging mother. Still, she'll always say, "I guess I've had a good life. You take what the Lord gives you and do the best you can. But I really love it here. This really is the best place for me. Everyone is so friendly and kind and helpful, and they'll do anything for you."


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