This is a guest post by Melissa Kieffer. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Melissa moved to Minnesota almost 4 years ago with her husband. She quickly got involved in the community and is proud to be co-chairing the Under 40s committee of the 2012 Food for Your Soul event. Melissa writes about her husband’s family and their experience with the Sholom organization. Her perspective is from the side of a “transplant” verses a native Minnesotan.
We moved halfway across the country to the midwest to join his family and begin creating our own when I got the opportunity with my company to open an office in Minnesota. I moved away from my parents, brother (and his family), 3 living and healthy grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and 28-year-old friendships. People often ask me how difficult that was or is still today. The answer is sort of strange. I do miss my family terribly and love our visits together, however; the community here in Minnesota does make it easier and lots of fun to be here.
I told myself from day one that the only way this move would be successful for us would be if I dove into the community head first and made a life for myself outside of riding on the coattails of my husband from his childhood. To accomplish this, I became involved in various organizations and groups. One of many groups has been the Sholom Auxiliary.
My husband’s paternal grandparents lived together at Sholom’s Knollwood Place. I visited them there many times admiring their adorable 2-bedroom apartment. I always ended up sitting on their old yellow velvet couch and eating her delicious desserts at their 6-seat dining table which held their personalized pill boxes. I share these details because to me it shows they were comfortable in their “own” apartment even though they were no longer in their St. Paul home.
From the couch, table, desserts, and even organized pills it screamed “home” and “comfort” to this loving and generous couple. The grandparents hosted various Friday night dinner celebrations in their community dining hall for our family. I even recall them hosting an engagement dinner for us when my family visited from Georgia. What special memories we all have at Knollwood Place.
My husband’s grandfather passed away and his grandmother moved to Sholom’s Roitenberg Assisted Living shortly after. At Roitenberg, she found a beautiful apartment with many of those same accessories to make it continue to feel like “home”. She loved having our son over to her place to visit, have a cookie and juice in the community game room, and watch the fish in the gorgeous tank in the lobby. You could often find our son dressed as a Vikings football player at the annual Purim carnival at Roitenberg shaking his grogger. She sat at the same 5-seat round table for her meals. In fact, my best friend’s grandmother sat there as well. What a coincidence!
At the ripe and glorious age of 94, she moved to the Sholom West nursing home for more assistance. Even there, she received the most wonderful care and tender friendship from the staff. She eventually used the in-house Sholom Hospice services and passed away peacefully surrounded by family.
My husband’s maternal grandmother also spent years in the Sholom West facility. My mother-in-law visited the building and her Mom daily. Upon her entrance into the front door, she was always greeted with a warm hello and welcoming feeling. I met my husband’s maternal grandmother while she lived in Sholom West. We’d visit in the lower level common areas. We’d share a cup of coffee and laughs. Her smile was ever so bright adorned with her bold red lipstick. Typically, we’d sit by the bird cages and watch them fly, tweet, and shake their cute little parakeet bodies. Occasionally, we’d stroll through the center gardens for fresh air.
Through these experiences our family formed a close bond with Sholom in more than one way. On various levels, we are connected with the Sholom community. Personally, I did not have any blood relatives in the community. However; my husband did and his history is important to me and my children.
I was asked last summer to chair the Under 40s portion of Sholom’s Food for Your Soul charity event. Quickly I said yes and began my volunteer efforts for the upcoming event on June 21, 2012.
My co-chair and I have collected 5 Under 40s host homes and 5 local famous people. The host and famous guest pairings will each participate in an intimate dinner with the charity participants from the community. The 5 homes will be raising money for Sholom and will help many thousands of elderly Minnesota residents during their journey through the care facilities.
As you can tell from my experience, I am passionate about this cause.
If we don’t come together and support our elderly population, then who will? If you are connected to these buildings or to any of the elderly who call Sholom their home whether in Minneapolis or St. Paul, then I invite you to join me for an evening of fun and fund raising on June 21st.
The Under 40s tickets are $50 per person and the 19 other dinners are a bit more. Please visit www.foodforyoursoul.org for more information and event specifics.