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The general store that's a lifesaver - and a community builder

Residents enjoy browsing the variety of products in the general store.
Residents enjoy browsing the variety of products in the general store.
The mission of Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS), “to honor God by enriching the lives and touching the hearts of older adults,” is fulfilled when the actions of our employees demonstrate our stated values. In our continuing series, “We Will,” we introduce you to PHS employees and residents who are living out these values and working together toward a better, brighter future for the older adults we serve.

Oak Crest in Spring Lake Park, MN, is labeled an independent living community, yet the words might sound contradictory. Which is it: live independently or in community? Residents at Oak Crest feel blessed they can experience both. A peek inside their popular Oak Crest General Store shows one way they do so – reflecting the PHS value of Stewardship.

The General Store started years ago as a tiny space with minimal sales, but expanded last year due to COVID, under the leadership of Housing Director Cheryl Grams. 

store goodsThe store is open Tuesday and Friday mornings when a steady flow of shoppers fill up on the basics: milk, bread, laundry soap. Maybe a few stamps — definitely a carton of Rocky Road ice cream. 😊
Social distancing is practiced – one shopper at a time enters to browse the shelves and refrigerators while others wait their turn and chatter with neighbors. Resident volunteers tally inventory and assist with bagging groceries and collecting payment.

Housing Director Cheryl Grams takes requests and places the orders using Walmart Delivers. She says, “The inventory is really generated by what the residents request. So, a resident might ask, ‘Can you get sugar-free Dr. Pepper?’ and we’ll make sure it’s there the next time the store opens.”

While for some it’s a convenience, for others it’s become a lifesaver.

Clara, who has lived at Oak Crest for 10 years, says she doesn’t know how she’d get groceries without the General Store. She no longer drives and riding the bus is challenging because of a medical issue. “That’s why it’s very important to me,” she says. “Whatever I need, I can get here.”

Her neighbor Lu has lived here for 6 years and adds, “I’d be lost without it. They have all the things we need that we used to take for granted — because we could just jump in the car and go get it. Since the pandemic started, if I need something, all I have to do is ask and they’ll get it.”

Resident Yvonne says she has a daughter with special needs and has no other family nearby to help with groceries. Others say they don’t wish for their children to risk going out to shop for them during the pandemic.

Elsie, a resident of nearly 10 years, says she’s grateful. “We’re not alone,” she says. “We’re better together here than in our houses.” Then, with a sparkle in her eyes, she tells her life’s secret, which is “faith, family and friends.”

Find out how you or an older adult in your life can live well at a PHS community in MN, IA or WI. Find a community here.

Further reading, plus more in the We Will series:
We are a family at PHS
Kind Regards: ‘programs to keep us motivated and active’
Love of God, family and diversity inspire Nursing Assistant Samuel Mutuku
Doing things right from the start – a winning recipe for Towner Crest

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