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A summer to remember at Lake Minnetonka Shores

Today we share a story in our Better Together series. Lake Minnetonka Shores residents, volunteers, staff and even special guest experts have come together to get everyone outside for a summer to remember.

Beauty grows in the community gardens

The community gardens have been a part of Lake Minnetonka Shores for 40 years. Row upon row of raised beds show off a variety of flowers and vegetables that have been planted, cultivated and harvested by the residents. Nearly every summer day they are outside with their hands in the soil.

Since 2015, horticulture educator Julie Weisenhorn has been on-site twice monthly to work alongside the resident gardeners, answer their questions and share gardening science. The time she spends at Lake Minnetonka Shores is part of her professional career with the University of Minnesota Extension. She admits that she learns as much as she teaches, saying, "These people have me beat when it comes to gardening and farming experience, and I love hearing their life stories.""These people have me beat when it comes to gardening and farming experience, and I love hearing their life stories."

Is it a pontoon or a “friend-ship?”

Down on the docks of Lake Minnetonka, every Thursday this season, Ron Reier, volunteer captain of the Lake Minnetonka Shores pontoon, has welcomed aboard residents and staff. Out on the lake, they take in beautiful views, breathe fresh air and enjoy the company of their friends and neighbors. “I have the GREATEST volunteer position in the whole wide world!” he says.

As they disembark, the residents say thank you to him. “Thank me?” he says, “I am the one most thankful to serve [you] wonderful people. God has sure blessed all of us. Our short season is nearly over, and I can’t wait to be back next year.” 

Take a walk, say a prayer

Those who like to enrich their faith in nature have found the campus prayer walk to be a path of quiet reflection. Beneath their feet are colorful mosaic steppingstones created by residents. The path includes 13 stones so far and will have 25 stones when completed before winter. The walk is self-guided by a handout with a bible verse for each stone.

Resident Joyce Nelson Shellhart, an artist and a teacher, has been dedicating her gifts and skills to the project by teaching her neighbors how to design their own personal stones. “I’ve been blessed by the grace of God to know what I’m doing as an artist and to use this to help other people,” she said.  

Made of concrete and embedded with art glass, buttons, beads and more, each stone includes a single-word message, for example “faith,” “good” or “love” to inspire thoughts of prayer. Every stone is unique to the resident who made it and reflects their interpretation of the virtuous messages. Making and placing the stone is as much a spiritual expression for the residents as the messages they convey.

“They feel like they are adding something to the community and leaving a bit of themselves for others,” Joyce explains. She tells of one resident who said that she wanted to make a stone for the path so that she could show her family and say, “See, Grandma did this!”   

The patio is the place to be

The patio is the “outdoor community room” at Lake Minnetonka Shores, where all summer long residents and their families have enjoyed a concert series performed by local instrumental duets and bands. Pick-up games of bocce ball, corn hole and croquet fill sunny days.  

And as the sun sets over the lake, Michele Dorholdt, health information director, stokes a fire in the lakeside fire pit. The monthly gathering draws nearly 100 residents from every part of the campus — independent living, assisted living, memory care and the care center. They share hot dogs roasted over the fire, as well as their camping stories.

Residents who volunteer to assist Michele wear special hats for the occasion. When favorite old songs begin to play, one volunteer couple leads some of the group in dancing while others watch and enjoy. 

After each fire pit gathering, residents make a point to thank Michele for the fun evening. “They even made me a frame of a fire pit that I have hanging in my office, and they all signed a thank you card,” she said. “It was so touching!”

Michele adds, “I just love doing this. It is so rewarding to get to know the residents and it makes me so happy to see how much fun they have together.”

Better together

Life enrichment director Donna Olsen looks back and acknowledges, “The community has truly come out this summer. We were all very ready to get together again, and so many people made it happen in so many ways.”  

Who has made your summer memorable — family, friends, community volunteers? Let’s reach out and thank them before fall arrives.

Find out how you or an older adult in your life can pursue purpose and joy a PHS community in Minnesota, Iowa or Wisconsin. Visit our Find a Community page.

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