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Strong, Female Leadership Team at Woodland Pond Leads with their Hearts
December 05, 2016 11:19 AM | 0 0 comments | 425 425 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Generations ago, strong female activists paved the way for women’s rights and equal treatment in the workplace. As a result, many women became campaigners, thought leaders, role models and business executives. Today’s women follow in their footsteps, making their mark on the world and setting the stage for younger generations that will come after them. Woodland Pond is home to many strong female leaders who spent a lifetime serving in executive positions and who have a wealth of knowledge to share. The leadership team at Woodland Pond is comprised of a majority of females, and the residents are supportive of a female-led workplace given their history. Though Michelle Gramoglia, president and CEO; Christi Battistoni, director of finance; Brigitte Blum, director of human resources and corporation compliance, and Sarah Hull; resident service director, did not predict they would be holding the positions they have today, they make a tremendous difference by leading with their hearts.

“I pictured myself as a self-employed accountant and originally began the path to my career working toward becoming a CPA,” said Gramoglia. “I learned vast amounts while doing so, yet also learned that my life had to be balanced. I thrive when dealing with daily challenges, but do I wish to burn the midnight oil at my computer? I think not. For many in the workforce today, there is a desire to spend more time doing the things we love outside of our offices. I began working at Woodland Pond at the age of 31, and I am now the youngest CEO of a continuing care retirement community (male or female) in the entire state of New York. The stereotypes I face have more to do with age than gender, especially in an industry like senior living. I am challenging the status quo, but I think more people have accepted it as time goes on. I’m not allowing myself to be hindered by my gender or my age. The sky is the limit, and we want to encourage young adults and women in the community to follow their dreams and aspirations.”

When Gramoglia became the executive director at Woodland Pond in 2013, she made a commitment to the community’s board that she could provide the work-life balance that her team of employees truly desired. As a result, she created and continues to support a shorter, more productive work day. She also sets goals and policies that support an environment in which there is continuous satisfaction in the workplace.

“As director of human resources and corporation compliance, I share Michelle’s goal in working toward the continued happiness of our team members,” said Blum. “While health care in general is a predominately female industry, the leadership team, executive directors and C-suite execs are usually our male counterparts. I love the synergy we have developed as a team. By changing the norms, we can demonstrate how both genders are capable leaders and caregivers. In fact, I find that the men I’ve worked with deliver compassionate care to seniors, even though people generally assume women are naturally more nurturing. Men were often thought of as doctors, but we have some excellent male nurses and CNA’s who give outstanding hands-on care. In regards to our roles as female leaders, we bring female empathy into our managerial responsibilities. Many of our female residents were activists and pioneers of female liberation, so this environment is welcomed. To have the support of so many capable and outstanding women who paved the way for us to hold positions such as these is an incredible feeling.”

All four leaders hope to act as role models for other women looking to make their mark on the world. They all believe that it is their hard work, loyalty, compassion and dedication that has helped them achieve their leadership positions, and they are eager to impart that knowledge on younger generations. The Woodland Pond board chair and secretary are also women, and over the last several years at least half of the board and its officers have been female.

“My advice to everyone is the same advice I deliver to my daughter: never feel as though you can’t pursue something because it is not the standard, and never be afraid to go after a new experience and begin something new,” said Blum. “I was initially a primary education teacher, and I did that for a number of years. I learned of an opportunity to work in health care and serve seniors, and I took a chance. I love working with people to make a difference in their lives. In regards to seniors, I enjoy working with them because they are wise beyond their years and we have so much to learn from them. Our residents lead active lives well into their 90s, and many are still so very involved. I feel grateful to work in this industry, as these seniors inspire me every day.”

Hull also developed a passion for serving seniors once she had the opportunity work with them daily. She began her career working with seniors as a housekeeper, personal care aide and activity leader. At that point, she knew she wanted to serve seniors for her entire career, and her mother encouraged her to go after a higher education, pursue her dreams and take on leadership positions with confidence.

“I attended a women’s college for both undergraduate and graduate school. This provided many opportunities for leadership roles while attending college,” said Hull. “This experience taught me there is no reason a female can’t be a leader. The only person who can get in your way is yourself. Once you find your passion, apply yourself 100 percent and you will find a job you love and leave your mark on the lives of the people you touch. Throughout my career, most of my bosses were women who were very positive role models. I learned so much from each of them and apply that knowledge on a daily basis. I think being nurturing and sensitive to people’s feelings comes naturally to most women. This assists female leaders in terms of relating to people and making decisions that have a positive impact on others. This sensitivity is also helpful when having difficult or emotionally charged conversations with residents and family members.”

Hull believes the community’s success is due in part to the people who live there. They are actively involved and have a lifetime of experience to share. This directly contributes to the culture and lifestyle that exists within the community. Next, she attributes the success to the great staff who are sincerely interested in the satisfaction and wellbeing of the residents. When staff and residents come together, a wonderful sense of community and family is developed. That is what makes Woodland Pond a success.

“At Woodland Pond, we established a ‘sense of family’ among our residents and our team members,” said Battistoni. “I truly believe this sense of family stems from the direct efforts of our female leaders who are all mothers and embody a familial warmth and understanding. We not only bring people together, but we provide the best lifestyle and care for the residents. We created a community where people come to continue to live among their peers. I’ve been working with seniors since I was 26 years old, and at that point in time I knew I found my niche. It’s now 26 years later and I am still very happy with my choice. I would attribute my success in this industry to my loyalty and hard work. It is extremely fulfilling.”

Blum also believes her loyalty and her dedication to the seniors and team members she supports led to her success. Gramoglia credits the foundation of her accomplishments to her upbringing, paying tribute to her parents as the role models who advocated a strong work ethic and perseverance to ensure you have the life you want. Her husband shares these values, and together they have raised a passionate, hardworking, supportive and loving family.

“Without my family, I would not be as happy as I am today or feel as fulfilled as I do in my job,” said Gramoglia. “Without them I could not be the leader I am today. In my tenure at Woodland Pond I have tried to find as many local leaders to join our team, leaders who share the same values as I do, and I think that has worked out well for Woodland Pond.”

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WWII Veteran Shares Personal Account of Service
November 04, 2016 02:50 PM | 0 0 comments | 408 408 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Paul Lurie, a World War II veteran and resident of Woodland Pond at New Paltz, was a pioneer in the field of pediatric cardiology when he began his medical career. His desire to help others started long before that, though, when he served in the United States Air Force as a medical doctor in World War II. These experiences would affect him greatly, and as Veterans Day approaches, he reflects on his service, the many lives he impacted and the lives that impacted him.


“I would share this advice with those currently serving our country – try to make the most out of your service,” said Lurie. “Every day you are going to learn new things, and some of those lessons may be helpful for the rest of your life. Today we are fortunate to have a volunteer Army, yet in years before, many young men were drafted to serve their country. I was in my fourth year of medical school when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. Everyone was shocked when we heard about the sneak attack. The shock was followed by outrage and an intense outpouring of patriotism. Everyone wanted to help with the war efforts. It was a very united movement and we all jumped on the bandwagon. Then many of us began asking, ‘What’s next for us? Will we be drafted?’”


Lurie’s main concern was finishing medical school before he was drafted. Fortunately for him, they couldn’t handle the influx of doctors enlisting, so he was able to finish school and complete his one-year internship in pediatrics. After completing these requirements, he headed to Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania to complete a six week course to become an Army doctor. There he attended lectures covering tropical medicine, he practiced how to properly salute officers and march in formation, he watched a film titled “Kill or Be Killed” and learned other useful skills pertaining to Army life. From there he was assigned to a station hospital in an air field outside of Tampa, Florida. There he served as a ward officer in a medical ward.


“They called it a medical ward, but in reality it was a psychiatric ward,” said Lurie. “Every patient there was suffering from what we would now call combat stress disorder, but in those days it was diagnosed as shell shock and other inappropriate terms. I was dealing with a group of very sick men. These were guys who had been isolated manning radar stations on small islands in the Pacific Ocean and others who had gone a little nuts. My job was to interview them and decide if they were fit to go back to service or if they should be given an honorable discharge. My supervisor was a qualified psychiatrist, and he assisted me in these decisions. It was very difficult and stressful, as I was empathetic to these men because they were indeed sick. Most of the men I interviewed were discharged.” 


A few months after that, he met with the chief medical officer and was assigned to the 2nd Air Commando Group in Burma. This group was responsible for the mission of air commandos, which entailed dropping men into the jungle by glider with tiny bulldozers and other mechanized equipment. The Army used the equipment to open up the jungle and create little air strips so supply engineers could open the land route to China known as the Burma Road. The aircraft were surrounded by fighter planes for protection.


“When I got to my post it wasn’t actually in Burma, it was in an area now known as Bangladesh,” said Lurie. “We held the beach while the Japanese held the territory over the coastal mountain range. The beach was used as a runway for the aircraft, as the sand stretched wide and was hard packed. Here I was assigned to the 327th Airdrome Squadron, and my job as a physician was to see to all the mechanics and cooks. I got many morning sick calls and painted people with compounds used to treat a variety of fungal skin diseases. Thankfully there were no bloody wounds. I was there for almost a year when I got a call from the Red Cross. They informed me that I was requested to go back to the United States, as my younger brother had passed away, my father had suffered a stroke and my mother was beside herself with anxiety and grief.”


Lurie boarded an empty cargo plane to return to the states. In those days, planes didn’t travel great distances, but made several stops between the site of departure and the destination. Along the way Lurie and the pilot stopped in Cairo, where he took a taxi to catch a glimpse of the pyramids and the sphinx. They also stopped in Casablanca, where he visited the Kasbah. Eventually he returned home and found that everything was as bad as the Red Cross described in their message requesting his presence back home. He was reunited with his wife, and they had a short furlough before he was given a new assignment working at a station hospital near his family’s home. His father passed away shortly after, and he was able to assist his mother for a bit. Then the Air Force prepped him to train for a landing in Japan. Fortunately, Japan surrendered before they embarked on their new assignment. He was discharged shortly thereafter.


“Paul’s account is an incredible journey, one that is interesting to reflect on given the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director of Woodland Pond. “We are privileged to hear his story, as well as the stories of the other veterans living in our community. A few years back, the veterans collaborated to produce a book called ‘War Times Remembered.’ It is a testament to the varying roles every one of them played and the sacrifices that were made in serving our country. We will honor them this Veterans Day, and we appreciate them sharing their experiences with us, as this is how history lives on.” 

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Seniors Advocate for Making Educated Votes in Election
November 04, 2016 02:24 PM | 0 0 comments | 423 423 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, voters 65 and older had a 72 percent turnout during the last presidential election, the highest percentage of any age group. This number will certainly increase as seniors from the largest generation, the Baby Boomers, are part of this age bracket now. Having voted in every presidential election since she was 21 years old, Dorothy Jessup, an 86-year-old resident of Woodland Pond, will surely vote this November. As the former chair of the senior living community’s Political Affairs Committee, Jessup is vocal about the reasons why people should make educated votes.


“The first presidential election I cast my vote in was in 1952,” said Jessup. “Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower successfully ran for election against democrat Adlai Stevenson, whom I’d had been influenced to notice and admire by husband and parents-in-law. Our family was never split in political views, even in our decisions to cross party lines. I accepted their political opinions at first. However, several years after my husband and I graduated from our respective colleges and moved to New York, we become more involved in local politics and I began to learn things for myself. That’s when I began to realize that people really should know more about who could potentially make decisions that will impact their lives.  At that point, I started voting at many elections, not just the presidential ones.”


Jessup has been involved in politics since 1958, participating in grassroots efforts, local campaigning, and voting when she and her husband joined the Democratic Reform Movement in New York City. During her retirement, she became more involved in politics after undergoing problematic back surgery. Since she could no longer hike and travel as planned during this time, she began investing her energies in learning about what was happening in her local school district. She started attending meetings and realized the school board was not offering appropriate leadership for the New Paltz community. Jessup joined a group of fellow citizens to work diligently to successfully elect a school board committed to appointing a more forward looking superintendent. Shortly after that, together with a group of older citizens, she began attending New Paltz Village and Planning Board meetings, in order to witness and participate in discussion of the proposed senior retirement community, called “Woodland Pond.”   As the group learned more about the proposed community, they decided to actively support it. 


“Participating in these local campaigns taught me a couple of important lessons,” said Jessup. “First, they demonstrated to me firsthand that a small group of people can make a huge difference. Second, both showed me that we don’t really know what is going on behind the scenes until we pay attention. People think I’m passionate about politics, but when you begin to feel like these issues are important and you learn about them, you become passionate about the opportunity to make a positive difference through an election. I’ve learned a lot about the dynamics of politics over the years. I know most people have little interest in these dynamics, but I feel they are very important to understand, and wish more people made the effort.”


Jessup is not alone in her interest in politics. Another resident, Max Finestone, was the person who first suggested the Political Affairs Committee at Woodland Pond. Max had strong feelings about getting residents involved in local elections. As a longtime Democratic Party leader in the Kerhonkson area, Finestone understood the importance of creating opportunities for fellow residents at Woodland Pond to be appropriately informed to vote in local elections. He organized some of the first events to bring local party officials and candidates in to discuss their processes, issues and goals. Sadly, he passed away in 2011, but Dorothy Jessup and other residents have continued along the lines he initially inspired.  They bring in various speakers several times each year, focusing mainly on local issues, and local elections.


In recent years, the Political Affairs Committee has also invited candidates running for Congress in the 19th Congressional district. This year, there were Congressional primaries in both parties in June: all four candidates for Congress were invited to Woodland Pond to speak. The winners in each party returned again to speak in early October. The 19th congressional district race is hotly contested this year, with supporters of the two major political parties being almost evenly divided, meaning that Woodland Pond residents’ votes could make a significant difference.  Most residents at Woodland Pond are registered to vote, and many also show an active interest in politics:  they raise important questions for the candidates who come, and understand the importance of voting.


“Older adults have a tremendous influence on elections, and the residents recognize the importance of learning about the candidates and issues in advance,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director of Woodland Pond at New Paltz. “The committee invites speakers from both political parties to present a bipartisan view and also schedules transportation to the polls and political events. Most of the guest speakers are locals seeking office, have special knowledge about political issues, or are politicians explaining their programs. It comes as no surprise that residents in the Woodland Pond community are so involved, as many of these seniors have backgrounds as lawyers, doctors, authors, business executives, consultants, educators, politics and more.”

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Woodland Pond Receives Five-Star Rankings by Medicare.gove and U.S. News & World Report and Welcomes Philip Mehl, LNHA
May 06, 2016 04:15 PM | 0 0 comments | 437 437 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Woodland Pond at New Paltz, a premier, nonprofit continuing care retirement community, is pleased to announce that it received a five-star quality rating from in its Nursing Home Compare rankings, as well as a five-star rating by U.S. News & World Report in its annual Best Nursing Homes issue. In conjunction with this announcement, it is with great pleasure that Michelle Gramoglia, president and CEO of Woodland Pond, announces the Philip Mehl has been named director of long term care. The community’s team is excited to receive such phenomenal recognition by national programs, and pledges to strive toward continued excellence and delivery of exceptional care. 


“Our five-star ratings for 2016 reflect the compassion and knowledge that our team brings with them to the community every day,” said Gramoglia. “We take great pride in the quality of life that we are able to provide to our residents. To receive this level of national recognition is exciting, especially because we have achieved this honor for three consecutive years. It is these kinds of accomplishments that have allowed us to recruit and retain an incredible team of leaders and staff. We are thrilled to welcome Philip and all that he will bring to Woodland Pond. Philip has a long track record of person-centered care, and his ability to recognize opportunities to improve the wellbeing of each and every resident is well known in our field.”


Mehl comes to Woodland Pond from Mountainside Residential Care Center, a HealthAlliance-affiliated skilled nursing facility in Margaretville, N.Y. Having earned his master’s in social work from Columbia University and New York University, Mehl used his education as a springboard to develop a career in long-term care. More than 10 years ago Philip decided to marry his passion for social work with team building and oversight by acquiring his administrator’s license. In addition to being recognized time and again with leadership awards both in New York State and at the national level, Philip has a long-time affiliation with LeadingAge New York, a long term care advocacy organization in New York. In addition to these seemingly more traditional accomplishments, Philip is a leader and an innovator in the LGBTQ community, particularly for Woodland Pond’s seniors. 


“Of the many factors that help determine the five-star ranking, we did exceedingly well in Quality Measures,” said Gramoglia. “Having earned five of five stars in this category indicates that our residents receive exemplary care. We were judged on criteria such as whether or not we are effectively managing the pain of our residents, whether they had bed sores, pain or urinary tract infections, whether we have reduced risk of falls, and use of anti-psychotic medication, as well  as other care-related issues. This five-star rating highlights the dedication to high-quality services provided in an incredible environment that caters to varying levels of care.”


This ranking by CMS gives Woodland Pond additional exposure, as it lists the community on the Nursing Home Compare website which allows consumers to compare information about nursing homes. It contains quality-of-care information on every Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country, numbering over 15,000 nationwide. Nursing homes without Medicare or Medicaid certification are not included on Nursing Home Compare.


“To obtain this ranking, an organization needs to demonstrate that clinical staffing is above the norm, including an increased amount of coverage by registered nurses, and that quality in areas such as wound care and fall prevention are tracked,” said Gramoglia. “Caregivers, referring doctors and hospitals look for this rating when deciding if one long term care facility or rehabilitation center is right for their family member or patient. Since we recently achieved a stand-alone basis, it is imperative now more than ever that is how our results rank us higher than other communities in the region. In our case, we are unique in having achieved the five-star rating for three consecutive years, even as ranking standards have become increasingly stringent.”


Nursing Home Compare was created because healthcare facilities vary in the quality of care and services they provide to their residents in healthcare and skilled nursing services. Reviewing health inspection results, staffing data, and quality-measure data are three important ways to evaluate a community’s quality. This information gives you a snapshot of the type and quality of the care delivered to residents.


Data gathered from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provides the basis for the U.S News & World Report ratings. CMS exists to help consumers, families and caregivers assess options for senior care. The data comes from regular health inspections carried out by state agencies and mandatory reporting from the residences. Communities are evaluated on several categories including health inspections, level of nurse staffing and quality of care.

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Residents at Woodland Pond Work to Keep America Beautiful
May 06, 2016 03:58 PM | 0 0 comments | 438 438 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Residents of Woodland Pond at New Paltz, a premier continuing care retirement community, are participating in green programs that conserve resources and energy, repurpose materials and reduce damage to the environment. Many of the residents started and continue to support environmental programs. These active residents encourage fellow seniors to keep the community clean and make a conscious effort to keep America beautiful. Residents recently celebrated National Keep America Beautiful Month this past April, and they acknowledge that these programs help them fulfill their goal of making a positive impact the environment.


“Here at Woodland Pond we are grateful for Interfaith Earth Action's efforts to nurture and heal our environment,” said Steve Kohn, a resident of Woodland Pond, member of the Interfaith Earth Action Committee and of the Woodland Pond Interfaith Committee. “I am an active participant in the green programs, and I am an advocate for the environment. I want to keep the world beautiful, clean and healthy for my grandchildren. Each of us can play a part in preserving and healing our environment.”


Currently, Woodland Pond residents are focused on making every day Earth Day by participating in the abundance of conservation programs available at Woodland Pond. Residents have access to recycling bins and take part in a composting program through Community Compost Co., in New Paltz. Since September 2015, residents have helped keep 20,000 pounds of compost from ending up in garbage dumps.


Woodland Pond at New Paltz has taken the following steps to alleviate deterioration of the environment and reduce the use of water, energy and other resources the community:

•             Has not used pesticides since its opening in 2009

•             Placed washable HVAC filters in all apartments

•             Uses environmentally-safe detergent for all laundering

•             Uses a battery-recycling program for staff and individual residences

•             Uses non-toxic cleaning products in common areas

•             Uses recycled toilet paper and paper towels

•             Uses low-VOC paints in common areas, apartment homes and cottages

•             Uses LED and CFL light bulbs in common areas, apartment homes and cottages

•             Has installed low-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads and low-water-usage washing machines


“We encourage residents to decrease the amount of trash by suggesting that they bring plastic, reusable containers from home for leftovers, as well as use reusable cups for coffee, tea, water and any other beverage,” said Sarah Hull, resident services director for Woodland Pond. “Every little bit makes a difference, and we have noticed a substantial reduction in the amount of to-go containers and throw-away cups being used. More residents are doing their part to lessen their impact on the environment. I am proud of Woodland Pond’s continued efforts to help keep American beautiful.”

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