Category Archives: From Growing to Golden

“From Growing to Golden” encourages people of all ages to expand their horizons. Knowledge is the foundation for growth in every stage of life. Learn something new, share it with others and see where it takes you!

The Not-So-Lazy Days of Summer

By Donna Culbertson, administrative assistant, Masonic Children’s Homekids racing

Summer is officially here, which means our staff need to come up with activities for their boys and girls to keep busy. Many of our house parents are creative when it comes to planning activities.

They organize competitive sporting events like kick ball, bean bag toss and baseball to name a few. A volleyball net is set up during the summer months for the children to enjoy a challenging game with staff or peers. Our basketball courts are always available, and they are used by everyone. When you visit our campus, you will also see boys and girls riding bikes, skateboarding, roller blading, jumping rope, swinging on swings and playing all sorts of outdoor games.

Visiting the local parks and getting their feet wet in the creek looking for crayfish is one activity the boys enjoy, while others like taking a bike ride on campus and visiting the Farm Market.

A scavenger hunt was organized by our social worker that taught our youth some history about the Masonic Village campus, while also encouraging physical activity. They walked the entire campus to locate various landmarks and clues to answer the questions they were given.

A camp fire pit was just installed this year, and the children enjoy evenings around the fire toasting marshmallows and making s’mores. Many of our children have said this is one of their favorite things to do with their friends and staff. They enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and getting to know one another.

Our youth like reading over the summer, attending various camps that stretch their imagination, volunteering their time, working at various businesses and playing organized sports. Some kids are also learning to garden with Mr. Tarman, a resident of Masonic Village at Elizabethtown.

We are looking forward to a day trip to the beach in August, a visit to Hersheypark, Barnstormer’s and Phillies baseball games, and a trip floating down the Juniata River. These events are all due to the generous support of our donors.

Summer is an exciting time at the children’s home – full of new adventures and experiences. Let the fun begin!

Nutrition at a Different Level

By Stacy Schroder, M.Ed., director of wellness and prevention, Masonic Village at Elizabethtown 

Stacy Schroder accepts the 2013 Gold Well Workplace Award presented to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown by The Lighten Up Lancaster County Coalition.

Stacy Schroder accepts the 2013 Gold Well Workplace Award presented to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown by The Lighten Up Lancaster County Coalition.

Earlier this year, I listened to numerous cutting edge leaders at the Future of Nutrition Conference through the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Topics included:

  • Epigenetics
  • Food Addiction
  • Brain Health
  • Digestive System
  • Gut Microbiology
  • Planetary Health and Consciousness

This group of individuals inspired me to think on a different level about how food and nutrition affect every part of our body, mind and spirit. Some of the highlights included:

  1. Our genes are our genes BUT … did you know we can turn them on and off through lifestyle? Through good nutrition, eating whole foods, positive thoughts and feelings, reducing stress and creating a healthy environment, we do not have to be slave to our family’s health history! Epigenetics is gaining recognition and is exploding with research. Think twice about what you are choosing to put into your body, how you are acting and how you choose to let the stressors in your life affect you, and you can avoid certain diseases.
  2. Many people are addicted to sugar and processed carbohydrates which have been proven to cause many diseases (cancer, dementia, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, etc.). They also cause food addiction which is equated to cocaine addiction. Even though for many years we have heard that fat in our diet is the culprit for us being overweight, it is not. The obesity in our country is from refined sugar and processed carbohydrates.
  3. Our GUT is THE determinant of our health. We need to get more good bacteria in to our digestive system and eat the right foods to be healthy. Prebiotic and Probiotic supplements are rising in the health industry because we are not getting enough good bacteria into our gut. You can get “good bugs” through food, too! Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, cheese, yogurt, etc., have these naturally-occurring good bacteria. If your gut is healthy, your brain and immune system will be healthy as well.
  4. We cannot be healthy without hope, happiness, nutrition, physical activity, relationships and spirituality. Centenarians have been studied around the world, and they have discovered a common thread. They all live in clans or tribes, they practice meditation and prayer together, they eat whole foods, and they have meaning and purpose in their lives.
  5. Toxins in our environment and what we expose ourselves to cause diseases. The average woman puts 180 toxins on her body every day, and the average male puts over 80 toxins on his body every day. We need to choose skin care products that are toxin-free, as our skin is the largest organ of the body, and everything we put on it is immediately absorbed into your system. Environmental toxins are all around us. We can start to eliminate many of these by choosing “green” cleaning products, non-toxic fabric and non-toxic cookware. Toxins build up in us over time so we may not think we are hurting ourselves, but we are slowly causing disease to occur in our bodies.
  6. Brain health is directly linked to what we eat, stress, our feelings, our thoughts and our happiness. Every thought we have changes the chemistry in our bodies. Positive, happy thoughts produce hormones that support health. Negative, stressful thoughts create hormones that over time build up in our systems never flushing out and create disease. Changing our thoughts can change our health!

Contact me if any of this triggers your curiosity! I have resources available to you.


Healing Touch: A Pathway to Wellness

By Tammy Nickel, LMT, HTCP, HTCI, volunteer at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown

Healing Touch volunteers at Masonic Village, including author Tammy Nickel, left

Healing Touch volunteers at Masonic Village, including author Tammy Nickel, left

With the advancement of technology and a fast paced lifestyle, we have forgotten how to heal ourselves. We have turned self-care over to others or have forgotten about it completely. Healing Touch is an invitation to remember how mind, body and spirit can be integrated with intention, responsibility and accountability to increase the flow of healing energies within ourselves. When these inner energies are made more optimal, well-being follows. There are many paths to wellness. Healing Touch is one such path which the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown has embraced in the past five years.

Healing Touch comes out of the medical model and the nursing tradition. It is steeped in science and research, as well as the world of spirit. Students and practitioners are able to find a point of entry that is most comfortable to them, emphasizing one dimension over the other, while eventually establishing a healthy balance of the two.

One recent student came to the Level One Healing Touch class, questioning why her pain did not diminish while everyone around her seemed to be experiencing positive results. She was encouraged to persevere by learning the steps and techniques. Following the two-day class, she took it upon herself to practice the techniques on herself as taught, as well as listen to Healing Touch meditation CDs. In time, the pain that was part of her life for several years lessened and disappeared.

In the seven years since Healing Touch was first taught in Elizabethtown, nearly 70 Masonic Village employees, residents and volunteers from the community have been trained, and we currently are educating upwards of 25 people a year. The Healing Touch Advisory Group is leading the way with policy changes that have allowed interested employees and volunteers easy access to training.

The typical benefits of Healing Touch which are emphasized have to do with the well-being that comes to the client: relaxation, reduced pain, management of anxiety, faster recovery from injury, enhanced quality of life, and more peaceful end-of-life. What is sometimes not emphasized is that by learning Healing Touch and giving it to others:

  • You enhance wellness in yourself
  • You receive an invitation to explore who you are and what you believe
  • You experience the healing that is part of your innate make-up as a person
  • You take care of yourself as you are taking care of others
  • You grow and mature in unexpected ways

Healing Touch sessions are available from Healing Touch students who volunteer time to give sessions to residents living in the Masonic Health Care Center or to hospice patients and family members. Paid sessions are available through the Masonic Life Center and are given by Healing Touch Certified Practitioners. Also starting in June, a local, monthly, community Susquehanna Valley Healing Touch Clinic will be at Masonic Village in the White Ballroom, located in the Freemasons Cultural Center.

Healing Touch – so much to give, so much to receive!



Around the World, But Always at Home

Three employees and a resident at a luau-themed summer picnicBy Trisha Lamb, activities director, Masonic Village at Warminster

As an activity director, I’m sometimes challenged to find things of interest for residents who often come from very diverse backgrounds. In the 15 years I have been at Masonic Village at Warminster, I have met people from many different places, both residents and staff. Fortunately, I am eternally curious, and having travelled much of the globe myself, am always ready to learn something about where we all originate.

Over the years I have presented activities featuring my travels to China, Argentina, Australia, South Africa and, soon, Israel. My husband even presented a talk on his trip to Antarctica! All were a combination of food, culture, language and music.

Holidays are also the perfect time to learn about other lands – Cinco de Mayo, Oktoberfest, Chinese New Year and Passover… it’s like traveling the world from the imagination!

I have had the pleasure of learning how to say things in Haitian French, Albanian, German, Polish and Greek, along with the Italian, Spanish and Chinese I already know. It has been such a pleasure to talk to others about the customs of their country and love of food, which unites us all.

Occasionally, we have staff members who share their recipes with us, such as Indeera Ennis, housekeeping supervisor, who prepares delicious dishes from her home of Trinidad.  Also, Vera Velaj, housekeeper/porter, has shared rich creamy homemade Albanian yogurt, and Donna Skumpija, lead cook, has made many wonderful desserts from her Romanian and Serbian heritage.

Residents also like to share their recipes and stories of world travels or where they grew up. Many came from Europe during or just after World War II and have such interesting experiences – some good, some not. But knowing all these things is what makes us better people, and more like family. Which, on any day you visit us here at Warminster, you will see that we are – a big family.


Gardening for Health and Heart

By Jennifer Grassi, recreation coordinator, Masonic Village at Lafayette Hill

Masonic Village garden

Masonic Village resident Barbara Shields cares for her flowers.

April is National Gardening Month, and gardeners, like me, have hit the ground running. After a long, hard winter, I happily roll up my sleeves and jump into the labors of love. My winter blues are long forgotten as I occupy myself with the joys of a new growing season. Magically, I feel invigorated, as I rake out the beds that will be home to my beloved vegetables and herbs. I garden for the sheer love of all things green and growing, but there are plenty of reasons to consider adopting gardening as a hobby.

  • Physical Benefits: Gardening is a great low-impact exercise that can improve strength, flexibility, coordination, balance and endurance. The variety of tasks involved in gardening (reaching, bending, gripping, lifting, etc.) make use of many different muscle groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gardening as a form of moderate daily exercise can reduce the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, osteoporosis and stroke. Mild to moderate gardening activities can burn 300 calories an hour. Plus, you have the added bonus of getting two things done at once.
  • Psychological Benefits: Research has shown that even just passively viewing plants and nature for a few minutes can induce positive psychological and physiological changes in the body, such as decreased cortisol level (“the stress hormone”), elevated mood, reduced muscle tension and decreased negative emotions like fear, anger and sadness. Actively engaging in gardening activities delivers even greater results.
  • Cognitive Benefits: Gardening can be a great escape from the demands of life, allowing your mind a chance to rest and clear. This restorative nature of gardening helps to improve focus and concentration, resulting in overall better mental performance. Designing a garden is also an excellent way to let your creative juices flow.
  • Social Benefits: Gardening is a great way to connect with others. Offering your neighbor a vase of your freshly harvested zinnias or a prized beefsteak tomato is an easy way to initiate a friendship. Growing a patch of giant sunflowers with your grandchildren is a joyful activity that can strengthen your relationship. Swapping growing tips and tales can make for endless conversation between fellow gardeners.

Gardening also increases time spent outdoors and exposure to nature which can promote relaxation and tranquility. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures found in the garden are plentiful and effective in stimulating the senses. Listen to the birds, admire a butterfly, breathe in the intoxicating aroma of lilacs, and chances are you will forgot all about your troubles.

In the words of a Masonic Village resident, “There’s nothing like flowers to soothe you. Just look at a flower and you will feel better.”  Genevie, how right you are!

Video Cooking Demo – Cauliflower Rice

If you’re a big fan of cooking with rice, Jenny Weisberger, sous chef at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, has an alternative you can try to mix things up a bit – cauliflower rice. You can season and serve it just like regular rice. In this video, she shows how she uses cauliflower rice in stuffed peppers.

Basic Cauliflower Rice Recipe
1 head of cauliflower
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive or safflower oil
1 medium onion, diced
¼ cup water
salt/pepper to taste

  1. Wash the head of cauliflower and dry. With the large side of a box grater, grate the whole head.
  2. In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add onion and sauté approximately 10 minutes or until the onion is soft.
  3. Add the grated cauliflower to the pan and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Then lower the heat and add the water. Cover the pan and cook for 6 – 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper
  5.  Remove and serve.

Video Cooking Demo

Join Diane Waple, chief dietitian at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, as she demonstrates how to incorporate a trendy “new” food – freekeh – into your cooking at home. Learn about this ancient grain and its nutritional benefits – just in time for the holiday meals you may be making this weekend.

Roasted Sweet Potato Stew with Kale and Freekeh
1 cup freekeh
3 sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 inch cubes
Oil for roasting
4 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 bunch of fresh Lacinato kale, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, diced
1 12-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 12-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, diced

Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Bake in a preheated oven 375 degrees for about 25 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and set aside. While the potatoes are cooking, pour all ingredients into a large pot on top of the stove over high heat. Stir and heat for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add roasted sweet potatoes. Cover partially and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Recipe adapted from

Warm Breakfast Freekeh
1 cup freekeh
2 ½ cups water or almond milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

Pour freekeh and liquid into a saucepan and bring to a boil for about 1 minute. Add vanilla extract and cinnamon. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes.
Recipe adapted from

Baked Oatmeal-Freekeh Casserole
1 cup oatmeal
2 cups cooked freekeh
1 ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
½ cup applesauce
½ cup egg substitute (or 2 beaten eggs)
5 Tbsp. stevia-brown sugar blend
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Optional: blueberries, dried fruit, nuts

Mix all ingredients together. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes in a 9 X 9 pan or until center is set and firm.

Volunteering: Talking Baseball and Building Friendships

By Garrett Powell, volunteer at Masonic Village at Sewickley and 2013 scholarship recipient


Photo by Tamara’s Camera Photography

Since middle school, I have always loved being actively involved in the community. At a young age, I began accompanying my mother and siblings to nursing homes where we assisted with group activities, holiday parties, cooking and art classes. At the time of my high school graduation, I had accumulated approximately 600 community service hours.

Impacting Others

While in high school, I regularly visited my grandparents who reside in a nursing center, thus deciding to volunteer at Masonic Village at Sewickley was an easy and natural choice.

My favorite activity while volunteering was spending time with residents watching or talking sports. Some of my most memorable experiences occurred during the time I spent with a particular gentlemen watching Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games and discussing current events. After many weeks of conversations, this gentleman told me that he thought of me as a son because he had someone to talk and laugh with, and something to look forward to for that week to come! He went on to explain that his own family had been visiting less often, and I reminded him of his grandson. To make this individual’s days more meaningful is what volunteering and community service is all about!

I am very impressed with every part of Masonic Village! The staff were very welcoming, especially the Activities Department. They provided me choices, making my experience unique and rewarding. Everyone was kind to me and always interested about my life outside of Masonic Village. I made some lasting friendships.

Life’s Next Journey

My experience at Masonic Village taught me many life lessons that have helped me in my journey thus far through college. I learned that you should enjoy every moment and every person that walks into your life, and that happiness has to be made out of the situation you are given.

As a freshman at Virginia Tech, being a member of the Residential Leadership living and learning community has allowed me to continue my community service in the Blacksburg community. I am currently volunteering at Warm Hearth Village and a local elementary school.

The building program I witnessed during my time at Masonic Village at Sewickley inspired my interest related to community living options in college. It is my desire to continue to volunteer my time and talents at Masonic Village during my summer and holiday vacations. I would encourage all high school students to become involved in community service and consider spending their time with the senior population, a group of individuals who have so much to teach us.

Masonic Village at Sewickley and Elizabethtown award $2,500 scholarships to graduating high school seniors who have volunteered at least 100 hours at Masonic Village. Students and others interested in volunteering at any Masonic Villages location are encouraged to visit our website.


Behold the Turtle!

By Cynthia Bard Hollinger, supervisor, volunteer services, Masonic Village at Elizabethtown 


A few of Masonic Villages’ hundreds of volunteers.

When asked recently why she volunteers in the Masonic Health Care Center, a volunteer who resides in our retirement living area, answered: “Because I just love it!  The care that the staff gives the residents is incredibly compassionate; the residents are so appreciative of all the assistance, attention and kindnesses; and I know that I am needed. It gives me one more reason to get going in the morning, and I like the structure it provides in my life! Plus, I can only go to Wegman’s so many times!”

What a great testimonial! Volunteering is a state of mind … an expression of the heart … a commitment to doing good and doing it well! Volunteers often say that they get so much more out of their volunteer service than they give. Whether volunteers are dedicated to overseeing a library or a gift shop, leading tours or a Pickleball tournament, escorting residents in wheelchairs to rehab or on a shopping trip to Walmart, piecing together intricate lap robes or a jig saw puzzle with another resident, serving coffee to residents in their Country Kitchen or wine and cheese at a social in retirement living , gathering residents for music and memories or singing in the choir … the outcome is the same: people helping people to live life in a better and happier way!

When I was growing up, one of the “philosophical lessons” my parents repeated to my siblings and me was: “Behold the Turtle.”  Protected by a hard shell, a turtle pulls in its head and legs to remain safe and secure.  However, to get anywhere in life, he needs to stick his neck out, take a bit of a risk perhaps, and he will go places … slowly, but surely!

To all of you who volunteer at Masonic Villages or in your own community: thank you for making a lovely difference each week!  To those who may be unsure of or unfamiliar with volunteering:  perhaps this may be your time to “Behold the Turtle!”

Happy Volunteer Celebration Week … April 6th ~ April 12th!

Hope Springs Eternal

By Scott Ruth, landscape manager, Masonic Village ElizabethtownMasonic Village Formal Gardens

March 20th

This is the infamous date we are all longing for – the official start of SPRING!!

In my 45 years of maintaining landscapes, gardens and grounds, the winter of 2014 is one that will not soon be forgotten. We have had more snow and colder temperatures in winters past, but not with the frequency and duration that “old man winter” threw at us these past three months.

Since January 1st, we have experienced snow or rain on 32 of the first 62 days of the year. The totals here in Elizabethtown reached 33.9” of the white “stuff” and 3.55” of the liquid variety.

The February 6th ice and snow event caused our Landscape Department the most anxiety. The physical damage was obvious on nearly every part of the campus with fallen trees, littered limbs and dangling braches around every turn. In total, we lost 43 trees and the number is still rising as damage assessments continue. Twenty-three of those trees we deem to be “prominent” pieces of our landscape here at Masonic Village.

LandscapeThe staff will work diligently this spring to try to get them replaced with as suitable as specimens as we can find. Nearly 1,000 hours have been dedicated so far this winter, strictly to clean up from that one day event on February 6th. Damages have exceeded $150,000 and will also continue to rise as corrective pruning continues through the next several months.

Tips for your own outdoor spring cleaning:

  • If you have branches or shrubs on your property that have been bent by the snow and ice DO NOT try to pull them out of the snow cover. Allow the snow to melt and the branches to rebound on their own.
  • The silver lining of all the snow cover we experienced this winter? It has acted as a blanket to protect the tender root systems of our plants, as well as, replenish the soil moisture for a rapid recovery in spring plant growth. Before replanting, wait and see if your plants recover.
  • If plants need to be replaced, any time the proper plants arrive at the local nurseries, it is safe to replant.

Speaking of our staff, I would like to take this opportunity to personally THANK all of them for their tireless dedication this entire winter for their snow removal efforts. The numerous events and numbing temperatures have pushed patience to the brinks, but not once, without exception, did any one of them walk away from the work in front of them. Truly, truly a great group of people! We are all fortunate to have them working with us and for us here at Masonic Village.

Hope springs eternal … anxiously waiting for the third week in March!!


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