With so much to be grateful for, we want to share the many joyous activities our Healing Communities have been enjoying this holiday season. Our staff continue to spare no effort in making our residents feel at home, connected, and above all – respected. Holiday crafts, outstanding meals, and to top it off our Asheville community members got to enjoy a true “White Christmas” on the 25th. Yes, we continue to hold the line on keeping our residents safe against this pandemic, but there’s no reason to not celebrate this season together, as a community. It may be from behind masks, but we can feel the warmth of our resident’s smiles beaming from 6 feet away. Happy 2021 everyone! Let’s make it a good one.
Eric A. Levine, Ed.D.
President & CEO
CooperRiis Healing Community
The Farm at Mill Spring
We got emus! Their names are Fred and Wilma, after the Flintstones. They are our new guard animals for the chickens. They’re also very friendly and cuddly.
Winter is a time for cleaning and preparation. We’ve been manuring and mulching beds, tidying areas that got out of hand over the summer, and cultivating all of our leafy greens for the kitchen.
We recently seeded our next round of indoor flowers to give some color though the winter. We also had both greenhouses recovered, which happens roughly once a decade.
We’ve been trucking along splitting firewood from a 100+ year old oak tree that fell on our property. Also, we’ve been helping to make Christmas presents for residents’ loved ones.
This is our newest crew! We’ve been helping with holiday decorations, welcome cards for new residents, preparing signs for our orchard, and making new coffee mugs for the dining room.
Checking in with the Farm at Mill Springs’ Residential Director, Maryana Newton, BA MA Art Therapy
Our community had a great time over the holidays – we played a huge game of White Elephant on Christmas, and had a ton of fun decorating Christmas cookies! We created our own New Year’s Eve “Ball” to drop that entailed a yoga ball, silver paint, and fishing line. Dropping it with the community was super fun! We’ve been taking full advantage of the mild winter weather with lots of on-campus hikes, and outdoor games. Our residential team also hosted a huge ‘Science Experiment Day!’
CooperRiis at Asheville
Checking in with Asheville Managing Director, Stephanie Wilensky
I continue to be impressed by our staff team at CooperRiis at Asheville. Christmas day was a wonderful example of the dedication and care our team shows to support our resident community. We had some inclement weather and things did not go exactly as planned. Staff stepped up and pitched in without even being asked. Our campus supervisor and coaches prepared a beautiful brunch. Our clinical team shoveled and salted the walkways. Other team members readied our outdoor welcome tent for visitors by rolling up soaking wet rugs and adding festive decorations. Coach Alex picked up several staff so they could get into work safely. And, campus supervisor Katarina gifted personalized gifts to each of our community members with the help of suggestions from the staff team. It was my favorite part of the day watching residents open their gifts. I don’t think they expected it. It was truly special.
While leading Life Skills Group, Recovery Coach and intake expert April Lewis has observed residents incorporating skills and techniques they have learned in therapy, wellness, and Non-Violent Communication groups. Residents are also showing confidence using grounding techniques including breathing exercises and the cross-legged position. Community members also reflected on the Non-Violent Communication skills they learned with staff member George Pond during their Life Skills Group. These skills were discussed within the topic of emotional boundaries.
Food Glorious Food!
Sous Chef, Rosanne has been doing “Purple Rose Cafe” many afternoons at “The Hop!” Staff and residents just LOVE it.
And several residents have been involved in growing and harvesting organically grown arugula, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, microgreens and radishes for the kitchen. They proudly enjoy this freshly grown produce as a community and love seeing it in the delicious culinary dishes being served by our chefs!
Checking in with Design Director and Co-Founder, Lisbeth Riis Cooper
Our M*A*S*H tent is open for ‘business’ at CooperRiis at Asheville and ready to use. Best looking army tent anywhere, even if we do say so ourselves. The tent will soon host family visits, group therapy, staff orientations, lunch overflow/distancing, and so on. It’s looks dark and ominous on the outside but once you step inside, It’s sunny and warm and it feels like you are on a vacation.
Battling COVID Fatigue During the Holidays
Tips from The Farm at Mill Springs’ Recovery Program Director, Yolanda Robinson, DSW, LCSW-C
During this pandemic we should continue to reach out to friends and family safely through technology or masked in small groups outdoors. We also need to take walks outside to get some sun and exercise. Heck, even do your zoom call on a walk outside and get your zoom partner to do it too so that you are both moving together.
Also, be kind to yourself. If you don’t have the energy to do something, acknowledge it and always remember to ask for help if you need it. Reach out to those you know that often struggle with asking for help for themselves.
We seem to have reached the zenith of the 2020 struggle and we have a long winding road back to what will be a new normal. Support, self kindness, and community are what will guide us down that road.
A Tradition Continues for Mrs. Claus!
Since 2003, “Mrs. Claus” has brought joy and gifts to all the CooperRiis staff children at Christmas time. Typically she and staff with their children would all gather around the Christmas tree and the Menorah and share in the joy of the children. This year that was not possible, so Mrs. Claus and her helper chose instead to deliver the children’s gifts at their homes; safely distanced and from behind masks. Just before the holidays, they made the Asheville rounds and then the Farm rounds to deliver all their gifts.
“Oh, what fun it was!” said Mrs. Claus!
“I just wanted to take a second and really appreciate the company we work for and the founders that created it,” shared one grateful parent and staff person. Another shared, “Mrs. Claus just came to visit and (though shy at first) my kiddos cannot stop talking about it. We appreciate you Mr. and Mrs. Claus, as well as all your helpers! Truly, am proud to be part of the CooperRiis team.”
One child wrote this note: “I am thankful for you. I know you don’t have elves and you do all the hard work!”
Many thanks to “Mrs. Claus” and her “helper” for the joy they brought to staff and their children this holiday season. It was a different kind of year, but one still made very special.