The Cloisters Give Back

Cloisters residents give back to the community every day through their many affiliations with local nonprofit and outreach organizations; a philosophy that’s handed down from The Cloisters’ parent organization, Retirement Housing Foundation.  Recently, the Retirement Housing Foundation celebrated 50 years of caring about people.

Here are a few examples of the many ways Cloisters residents share their time, talents and treasures: 

Green Check MarkHelping Angels National Distribution Service (HANDS)

Almost every day, Cloisters’ residents are putting their hands to good use by knitting, sewing and crocheting beautiful items for local babies and families in need.

Through the Helping Angels National Distribution Service, or HANDS, Cloisters residents make baby items for the clients of the Grace House, a faith-based pregnancy resource center in DeLand that offers medical help to clients, plus religious and parenting classes.

More than a dozen Cloisters residents work continuously in their homes, making items for babies in need in our community. These HANDS members make bibs, blankets, booties, hats and more.

These volunteers are “willing to help in any way” according to volunteer Dorothy Foster. “The items that are created and given through HANDS are just beautiful.”

HANDS members work at home, log their hours, and convene once a month to collect their items. In October 2011, 10 members hand-crafted 52 items in 280 hours. Once a large quantity of items is collected, they’re brought to the Grace House and distributed to needy families.

Supplies for HANDS projects are purchased with funds raised at Cloisters’ ice cream socials and other events conducted by the group’s members, are donated by residents, or purchased by HANDS members themselves.

Dorothy, 94, says making the items is enjoyable, but the magic lies in giving them away. “When we take the items to the Grace House, we get thanked over and over,” said Dorothy. “The women appreciate what we bring. I know I am making a difference here as a resident and in the community through HANDS. Self-worth is a benefit of giving back; the feeling of contributing.”

Green Check MarkArt Classes with Helene
Cloisters’ Resident Artist Helene Kereluk loves sharing her creative gifts with others as much as making the art. That’s why each month Helene teaches watercolor painting in The Cloisters’ first-floor multipurpose room. The classes are free and open to seniors – residents and visitors alike. Paper, paints, pencils and brushes are supplied by The Cloisters at no charge to the students.

Helene is thankful for the opportunities these classes bring. “I thank God every day for my ability to paint and teach others,” said Helene. “That’s why I help others, and that’s why I give back every day. I want to share my gifts.” 

Helene’s Art Classes are usually the first Monday of each month. The students complete full paintings in each class, which can accommodate up to 40 people. 

Most classes in late 2011 were full, but that doesn’t keep Helene from giving individual attention during the classes. “I work with each student individually; I don’t neglect anyone,” she said.“Painting and teaching others how to paint gives me a good feeling; I give some of me so I can keep on going,” said Helene. “I share my artistic ability so it can continue through others. It’s a good feeling.”During her 40-year art career, Helene has created private collections and public works in watercolor, acrylic and oil. Today, her original artwork enhances nearly every wall of The Cloisters’ eight-story Atrium Midrise.

Green Check MarkThe Cloisters’ Kitchen Band

Almost every Thursday, as many as 15 Cloisters residents gather to make joyful noises for others by sharing their love of music and fun in the Kitchen Band.

Band Director and Cloisters Resident Joan Hinderman, 87, moved to the Cloisters in 2007, and joined the Kitchen Band soon thereafter. She’s been leading the group since 2009.

Music Director Dick Futter, 79, joined the Kitchen Band in 2010, and helps select the songs the Kitchen Band performs each week. He often chooses familiar classics and those that reflect the holiday season at hand.

“I’ve always been musically inclined,” said Dick. “Music is my hobby. I have 12,000 or 13,000 songs in my library, and that’s what I use to get the songs for the Kitchen Band. I’ll pick out a bunch of songs and run them by the committee. They then pick the songs we all like.” 

Monday rehearsals prepare the group for their Thursday morning performances at local nursing homes, including Alliance Community, Sterling House, John Knox Village Nursing Home and DeBary Manor.

Not surprisingly, the Kitchen Band plays as many non-musical objects as they do musical ones. The band’s instruments consist of drums, maracas, graters and washboards, cymbals, tambourines and metal spoons. Dick and Joan insist there’s no musical talent required to be a part of the Kitchen Band, but a desire to share joy with others is essential. 

“When we get to know the people, we get to know them personally,” said Joan. “We get a very good reaction from the nursing home residents we visit. 

“That’s what is so great for us in the Kitchen Band,” added Joan. “Not only do we have fun doing it, but the response from the residents is wonderful. Before you know it, they are singing along. When we walk in they are slouching in their chairs, but by the time we are finished performing, their spirits are lifted. It’s very, very rewarding.”