When Bethany Village added its West Campus in 2004, a long covered porch flanking the main entrance was a key feature. Though people would stop to chat while entering or exiting the building for a few moments, it was just a social hub waiting to happen until Leroy Erickson discovered it one afternoon.
Leroy and his wife, Marianne, were the very first residents of Bethany Village West – and had watched the retirement community expand over the years as they took afternoon walks from their nearby townhome. Several years after coming to Bethany, Marianne began exhibiting signs of dementia, and as the condition progressed, she moved to The Oaks Skilled Nursing. After the move, a daily walk around the Bethany became part of their routine.
As Leroy and Marianne sat on the front porch one afternoon, a friend who served on the Residents Council with Leroy saw them and sat down to chat. Within 15 minutes, two more friends had joined them and an idea was born.
“We started talking about the Great American porch, and how this could be a great gathering place,” Leroy says. As chair of the Wellness Committee, Leroy saw the potential for a regular social event, “but we needed more comfortable chairs,” he laughs. Within a week, he had raised enough to buy rockers, a glider and some tables.
Now, between 50 and 60 Bethany Village residents meet two to three weeks out of the month during the summer and early fall for wine or iced tea and hors d’oeuvres for two hours before dinner. “People might stop for 15 minutes or stay the whole time,” he says.
Not content with starting a warm-weather tradition, Leroy also recently donated funds to build a bright and cheerful sunroom on the West Campus just outside of the Collegiate Café. He dedicated it to his wife, who passed away. Residents sometimes grab a meal in the Café and head to the sunroom, and during the winter months, Flakey Day events are held several mornings a month – offering coffee and hot chocolate and another casual social hour.
“There is a regular group of people who use the sunroom almost every afternoon,” he says. “It’s become a great place for people to gather and visit.”
Now 86, Leroy says he’d be “bored stiff if I still lived in my townhouse and had lost my wife. Living here I can ‘snoopervise’ all kinds of things,” he jokes. “There are so many ways to be involved and active here. I have a group of guys I meet for ping pong two evenings a week, and I’ve been playing water volleyball since we moved to Bethany. It’s just a great place to be.”
With residents like Leroy, it’s easy to see why.