Today I’d like to share a story that Hannah, our Recreation Director for Independent and Assisted Living, told me about something that happened in her department.  Each year at Easter, the Recreation team offers residents and staff the opportunity to purchase “Bunnygrams.”  For $3, a bunny-suit-clad Recreation team member will deliver a chocolate bunny and an Easter greeting to any resident or staff member the purchaser chooses.  The proceeds from Bunnygrams go to the Resident Care Fund.

Several weeks before Easter, just after the Bunnygram announcement went out, Polly and Peter—both independent residents–stopped by Hannah’s office.  Between them, they purchased Bunnygrams for all 24 residents in the Lodge at Buffalo Hill, our Memory Support community.

Polly and Peter both have personal experience with people with dementia.  Polly was a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer ’s disease, and Peter is a retired pastor who has counseled numerous families.  He’s also had close friends with dementia.  They know from experience how much little things matter in the daily lives of those with memory loss, and they took it upon themselves to provide one of those little things.  By giving Bunnygrams, Polly and Peter gave moments of joy to 24 people who are experiencing one of the most difficult effects of aging.

But the care Polly and Peter exhibited with the Bunnygrams goes beyond the Lodge.  At the same time they gave moments of joy to the Lodge residents, they gave nearly $50 to the residents of the Skilled Care Center (enough to cover unreimbursed Medicaid costs for one resident for one day).  Their small act of generosity flows through our entire community.  Polly and Peter bought Bunnygrams because they cared about the Lodge residents, and because Hannah structured the program with philanthropy in mind, the whole community benefits.

Polly and Peter’s generosity is just one example of the caring community we’ve built here at Immanuel.  Everyone from the staff who conceived of the Bunnygrams to the residents who purchased them in bulk thought carefully about how to make the lives of others better.  Small moments of joy matter, and a small gift can make a big difference in the lives of those who live here.

Immanuel Lutheran Communities’ annual Summer Concert Series for 2018 kicked off on Wednesday, July 11 with a wonderful performance by storyteller and singer/songwriter Jack Gladstone.  The Buffalo Hill Terrace courtyard was full of residents, families, and guests of all ages.  Over the years, these concerts have become events where the wider Flathead Valley community joins the Immanuel community for music, snacks, and socialization during our beautiful Flathead Valley summers.

Many of our residents still enjoy going out to events and performances.  However, it’s hard for others to go to as many events as they’d like.  Getting in and out of the car can be difficult, and some venues aren’t very senior-friendly because of stairs, uncomfortable or wrong-height seating, or long distances between parking and event space.  So when we bring artists to campus, we bring live music to residents who couldn’t hear it otherwise.

But the concerts are about much more than that.  Last night, many residents had family members present.  In fact, my own parents were there with my aunt, visiting my grandfather (a Buffalo Hill Terrace resident).  They were far from the only ones; the crowd ranged in age from elementary-school-aged children to some of the Terrace’s oldest residents—who are approaching 100!  The outdoor summer concerts allow for easy mingling and snacking while listening to the music.  This makes it an ideal environment for families who want to spend time together.

The Summer Concert Series is also about our connection with the wider Flathead Valley community.  We advertise these concerts widely, and people with no prior connection to our campus sometimes visit us for the first time when they come to hear a concert.  It’s a good opportunity to see how much fun a retirement community can be.  When guests visit our campus for the concerts, they see neighbors enjoying each other’s company, families getting to know the friends of their loved ones who live at the Terrace, and residents taking in the music from their patios and balconies.  Guests also get to enjoy snacks provided by our wonderful dining team (last Wednesday’s cheese ball was particularly delicious).

The Immanuel Foundation staff thoroughly enjoyed the Jack Gladstone concert (and we’re still talking about the cheese ball), and we’ll be back for all the rest.  We’d love to meet you, so be sure to stop by our table to pick up some Foundation swag and register to win a $50 Amazon gift card.  We’re also selling raffle tickets for a handmade queen-size quilt.  Tickets are $5 or $20 for five, and proceeds benefit the altar furnishings for our new chapel.

The next concert is Stick and String at 7pm on Wednesday, July 25.  We hope to see you there!

While this blog lives on the Immanuel Foundation website, it’s not really about asking for donations. Instead, it’s about sharing stories of the work we do. But Amazon Prime Day starts at 1pm Mountain Time today (more on what that is in a minute), so I thought I’d take this opportunity to write a little bit about how easy it can be to be philanthropic in the twenty-first century. Of course, we all want to be thoughtful about how we direct our gifts so we can make sure they’re going to organizations we genuinely support. So giving wisely can take a lot of time and research. But not always. Sometimes, giving is easy.

I’m thinking about this right now because July 16th-17th bring us Prime Day, Amazon’s 36 hours of discounts for members of its Prime program. If you’re thinking right now that that sounds like the ultimate made-up holiday created purely to justify consumerist excess, you and I are on the same page (but, um, we might also be on that page, trying to figure out whether there will be any good deals on things we, er, need). On its face, Prime Day doesn’t sound like much of an occasion for philanthropy.

But it could be! Immanuel Lutheran Communities participates in the Amazon Smile program. If you shop at and choose Immanuel Lutheran Communities as your designated charity, a percentage of your eligible purchases will go to help seniors in the Flathead Valley. There’s no additional cost to you, and once you’ve chosen your charity, you don’t need to do anything except start shopping at the “smile” page rather than at the regular Amazon page. Just think, you could get a great deal on a Fire TV Cube (once you figure out what that actually is) and help care for seniors!

Prime Day might, in fact, be mostly a day of buying “presents” for yourself. But simply by doing your shopping that day on Amazon Smile, you can give presents to Immanuel residents as well. Giving via Amazon Smile doesn’t cost you anything more than what you’re already paying for the items you buy. The donation comes from Amazon’s foundation to our foundation—all you do is direct it (while shopping!). I think most of us in the Flathead Valley would agree that online retailers have made it much easier for us to get the things we want and need in a timely fashion. Conveniently, they’ve also made it easier than ever to give back to our friends and neighbors here in our home community.

I’d like you to meet Delsie B.  90-year-old Delsie has lived at the Immanuel Skilled Care Center since 2014, when a stroke made it impossible for her to care for herself. Delsie is beautiful inside and out; her beautiful smile, smooth skin and well-cared-for clothes are only outshined by her positive and happy demeanor. Today, I want you to learn more about Delsie so you can get to know one of the many wonderful residents who calls Immanuel home.

Delsie was born on the Highline and was one of seven children in a Mennonite farming family.  She fondly remembers her childhood and her eyes light up as she recalls a time when she and her closest sister, Betty, fell down a snowy hill on their three-mile walk home from school.  Who pushed who is still a lively debate between the two.  After graduating from high school, Delsie moved to Glasgow.  While there, she met Bob, who had just been discharged from the army following World War II.  It was love at first sight and they married after a whirlwind two-week courtship!

Bob’s family was moving to the Flathead, and the newlyweds joined them.  At first, Delsie worked in a dress shop while Bob pumped gas.  As the years went on, they were blessed with three daughters and two sons.  Delsie ran a daycare in her home so she could bring in money while also caring for her own children.  During this time Delsie, who had always loved to draw, taught herself to paint.  Oil paint remains her favorite medium, though she’s worked in watercolors, too.  The 2017 Immanuel Lutheran Communities Christmas card featuring one of her paintings (shown above and below) is only the latest honor for her award-winning work.  Her room is decorated with examples of her artwork going back decades.

Delsie has had some hard times.  After 50 years of marriage, Bob passed away.  Since then two of her children have also passed, and another has developed serious health problems.  So when she had a stroke that made her unable to care for herself, Delsie came to Immanuel.  When asked what she likes best about Immanuel, Delsie says it has “the best people.”  She calls Keisha, her favorite CNA, “darling,” and says she’s “a lovely girl.”

Delsie’s story is unique, and every resident who lives at Immanuel has a unique story.  That’s why the Immanuel Foundation blog will regularly feature residents’ stories.  The sum total of wisdom and life experience housed at Immanuel Lutheran Communities is truly astonishing. At the Immanuel Foundation, I get to meet amazing seniors like Delsie and raise funds to make sure they keep getting the care they need, and I want you, too, to have a chance to meet some of the people your donations help.