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Celebrate Women In Leadership With Us (Part IV)

March 31, 2020

Celebrate Women in Leadership With Us

“Everybody has a voice,” said Marie Cowart, a resident at Westminster Oaks. “I think it’s exciting today that we can hear from young women.”

This month, we’ve been celebrating women’s contributions to history and to the Mission of Westminster Communities of Florida. To close out our series, today we interview a group of residents from around the state, to learn about their experiences as leaders — in their communities and in their careers — and how things are different today.

Cowart is a past president of the Westminster Oaks Resident Council and was dean of the Florida State University College of Social Science. She began her career in nursing at a hospital, and because of her interest in working with older adults, eventually had the opportunity to direct research on gerontology in public policy. “I always wanted to be at the table where the decisions were made,” Cowart said. “As a nurse, you learn an awful lot about organizing, teaching and leading in the community.” She found that, in spite of being one of just a handful of women on the faculty in the College of Social Science, leadership was a natural fit for her.

Her experience showed that women can be natural leaders, and that it was a matter of allowing equality to promote the best. “Today, we’re seeing greater equality overall. We’re seeing this in the schools, in public policy and in the workplace — all over.”

This year, Cowart is Westminster Oaks’s Volunteer of the Year for her many contributions to the life of the community.

Meanwhile, Kathy Vande Berg said that, in her experience, leadership finds you, not the other way around. Vande Berg, a resident at Westminster St. Augustine, is the chairwoman of a local arts festival, the Romanza Festivale. She is also Westminster St. Augustine’s Volunteer of the Year for 2019.

“I have for too long sat in groups that say, ‘This is not right. Someone ought to do something about that,’ ” said Vande Berg. “When something comes along that speaks to you, then it’s really important that the leadership role has come to you.”

A retired music educator, her passion for the arts found its best expression when she found a local arts organization to be involved with. Today, “We have more than 80 events over two weeks, with a whole variety of performances to enrich the life of the community,” Vande Berg said of Romanza Festivale.

Another leader says she found the way through listening, first and foremost. Connie Kone, a resident at Westminster Palms, served two terms on the St. Petersburg City Council, including two years as vice mayor. Kone taught history and political science, and in the ‘80s in St. Petersburg, she found that solving the problems that bothered her neighbors took a desire to “advocate for our priorities,” she said.

Kone said that having women in local government isn’t about voting for women — it’s about allowing the people to choose. “We need people, women or men, with the knowledge, experience and temperament to make local government work,” she said.

“As a leader, the most important thing is that you need to be able to listen to people and hear their concerns,” said Kone.

That’s a sentiment shared by Dr. Joan Hodges, a retired psychologist who has held a variety of roles in community life since moving to Westminster Woods on Julington Creek in 2012. “If you really want to teach anybody to be a leader, you first have to teach them to close their mouth and listen,” Hodges said.

Hodges said that today, the opportunities for women to serve in leadership roles are greater —early in her career, she was often the only woman on her hospital staff. “In the Sixties, I remember making rounds up on the psych unit with one of the male nurses. The patients addressed the male nurse as doctor, and me as in, ‘Who are you?’ That was just the era!”

What’s the value of having women in leadership roles? Hodges encapsulates it: It’s about having the right person, whether a man or woman. “In order to lead, that means there’s someone following. Value all that follows,” she said. “The best leaders understand that, no matter who they are.”

Westminster Communities of Florida is proud that we have many women who contribute to the Mission of our organization, both with volunteer leadership roles in our communities and as part of our team.


Join Us In A Shared Prayer Today at 2 p.m.

March 31, 2020

We are continuing to pray for the health of all of Westminster, and the world. Today, Tuesday, March 31, at 2 p.m., join us in our shared day of prayer, where residents and staff in every Westminster community around the state will come together to pray. This week's shared prayer was written and will be led by the Rev. Brenda Loyal, Ph.D., Chaplain at Westminster Towers.

Download the prayer now


All the Essentials Without Leaving Home: Pop-Up Groceries at Westminster Communities Provide Staples Amid Uncertainty

March 30, 2020

New Pop-Up Grocery Stores At Our Communities Offer Residents A Safer Shopping Experience

For older adults throughout the country, as we watch the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), a simple trip to the grocery store can induce anxiety. But at Westminster Communities of Florida, residents have lots of ways to make sure they get nutritious food and basic staples.

One way is our new dining delivery program, providing refrigerated, reheatable, nutritious and tasty meals delivered to residents’ doorstep. But sometimes, a person needs a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk or a roll of toilet paper — the most basic grocery needs. For those essential items, we’re opening up new “pop-up” grocery stores for residents to shop.

These pop-up groceries are conveniently located in the community and limited to one resident at a time for safety. Groceries can be paid for using either credit card or charged to their monthly bill via key fob.

We’re offering a selection of certain basic goods in these stores: Bread, milk, eggs, cereal, coffee — and perhaps most importantly, toilet paper. All the items are from a standard basket of items that we know can be kept in stock, at a time when grocery stores are struggling with inventory.

“With a pop-up grocery in their community, residents can continue practicing social isolation and shop safely,” said Mario DeLuca, Director of Resident Experience for Westminster Communities of Florida. “We just opened the first stores on Thursday and Friday, and we’re already seeing a fantastic response from the residents.”

Candy Porter, a resident at Westminster Suncoast, said that the pop-up stores are providing residents like her with more security. “Last week, as I left at 7 a.m. to grocery shop, I felt like I was making a special ops foray into enemy territory,” she said. “But the pop-up grocery stores at each community, offer staples for purchase at more than reasonable prices. The efforts Westminster has made to keep its residents safe, secure, and well-stocked go wildly beyond our expectations.”

These pop-up stores are located in common areas that are no longer in use for group activities throughout the communities, and are tied into our common Point of Sale system. A simple trip around the corner in a golf cart or down the elevator is enough to provide for essentials.

Thanks to our food-purchasing partners, U.S. Foods, for working with us to identify staple grocery items that we can keep in stock reliably and offered at reasonable price.

As our communities find out what we can keep in stock and what people want, our organization plans to adjust what we’re offering. We also plan to offer this service to our team members in the future, knowing that it’s important for them to feel  safe when they bring home food and essentials for their families.


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