The Windemere Team

A sheep with a Windemere resident

The Windemere program started with our Education Coordinator Josey Kirkland and her dream to bring nature to individuals who were not able to explore it for themselves. Residents of Windemere’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center are mostly immobile and have restricted access to the outdoors.

Josey was determined to overcome the limitations that kept nature just outside their door and out of reach.  Since November, Josey and a very truly amazing team of volunteers have done monthly programs focusing on nature sensory activities based on Martha’s Vineyard’s changing seasons.  These programs incorporate natural material, animals, poetry, guided visualizations and conversation and in order for the residents to get one on one attention, many volunteers are needed.

A very special group of women stepped up to help us make this program a reality and they are truly helping out with something amazing. As individuals, Penny Uhlendorf, Janet Holladay, Susie Schwoch, Ellen Miller, Sharon Pearson, and Marjorie Peirce have helped Felix Neck in a number of ways over the past years, but as a team, this dedicated bunch has contributed to the remarkable monthly programs at Windemere.

When asked what was the highlight of helping with this unique program, Marjorie says, “Watching some of my special people at Windemere literally come back to life each day we do a program as they touched, smelled and saw whatever we brought in ….birds, animals, dirt, growing herbs, bowls of seeds, everything.  The objects opened up discussions about their own past life experiences with nature – having a garden, growing up on a farm, raising animals and tending to their families.”

Penny expresses her gratitude to Josey and the Sanctuary staff. “It is through Josey’s passion, dedication and determination, with the support of all at Felix Neck, that we are able to bring the sights, sounds, smells and stories of nature into the lives of those living at Windemere. The nature program has become one of their monthly highlights, and the bright, spacious community room is now filled to capacity, with residents eager to see what collection of plants, animals, pictures and ‘touchables’ are on the agenda this month.”

All of these awesome volunteers have a great love for nature and educating others, Susie explains, “For me it is so much fun sharing your knowledge about something you love with people.” Penny adds to that sentiment, “It is also heart-warming to witness the enthusiasm, support and community spirit from local businesses, farms and individuals, when asked to lend ‘props’ for a specific theme.”

The Windemere program would not have been possible without a little help from some local businesses and organizations as well. The FARM Institute and the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard graciously allowed us to use their animals to enhance the experience of the Windemere residents. Rainy Day and Island Alpaca assembled themed baskets, and Morrice Florist provided flowers and herbs to provide a more beautiful, fragrant, and hands-on program.

With all of the support Felix Neck has received and the kudos from the staff at Windemere, these seasonal sensory explorations of the natural world will continue in the fall with the hope of expanding to other island institutions. Please contact Josey Kirkland [email protected] to volunteer or Laura Caruso, Development Assistant [email protected] to support this initiative.