Delivering Gifts of Connection and Engagement to Maryville Residents
As we see how the Sisters’ core value, Honor the Unique Gifts of Each Person, is expressed across campus, it could be said that it is one of Kathy Fedr’s daily responsibilities.
As the Director of Activities for Maryville, Kathy provides engaging projects and programs for residents with various rehabilitative and intermediate care needs to meet the residents where they are at. This work connects her with many people who seek to share their talents with the Maryville community. Her connection to Maryville and the community is rooted in her family history. Born and raised locally, her mother graduated from St. Mary of the Valley in 1954, and, while attending St. Cecilia’s, Kathy received piano and music lessons from the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.
Kathy Fedr also brings many professional experiences to her role. As a long-time marathoner, she knows the journey of committing to a long-term goal, persevering through the challenges, and the joy of crossing the finish line. Her love of running led her to volunteering as a pace group leader for the Portland Marathon Clinic for more than three decades, most recently completing the 2022 Portland Marathon.
Before joining Maryville, Kathy spent ten years engaging youth in coordinator and director roles. This experience developing engaging activities in a spiritual environment initiated her transition to Maryville. “The age group I previously worked with was different,” she said with asmile, “but their interests were a lot more similar than you might assume.” As Kathy knows, everyone of all ages appreciates good music. While navigating the challenges presented by COVID-19 the past two years, she has continued to provide musical entertainment to Maryville residents.
Joe Szabo, The Accordion Man, can be heard weekly in the community space singing and playing for the residents. He brings his playlist of 400 songs to Maryville. If you miss the show, you might hear his accordion humming mellow tones down the halls as he serenades those unable to leave their rooms.
“This is an opportunity to bring music to people who are unable to hear an accordion being played. It is a blessing for me to reach out to the residents, for them to hear music from their past, and to feel their appreciation when I play the accordion for them,” says Szabo.
Another local musician, Chris Taylor, is a favorite of the residents. Influenced by jazz, he also brings a bright spirit to his work. He sings and plays keyboard, acoustic guitar, ukulele, and melodica. Chris has also recorded many classic keyboard, pop, jazz, and meditation music pieces. Like Szabo, Taylor goes mobile following his performance.
“For me, it’s a chance to stay connected with people by using music to convey something meaningful. From the larger gathering in the lounge to the one-on-one time with residents in their rooms, the connection that music brings is deeply personal and engaging. It is love in action,” says Taylor.
The residents and Fedr echo Taylor’s sentiments. The time and dedication the musicians put into bringing music to Maryville is meaningful to the residents. They love how these musicians take time to visit and connect with them.
In addition to musical performers, there is also a recurring, hands-on music experience at Maryville. Vicki Lollis, The Bell Choir Lady, came into the profession through the front door. As a former nurse’s aide several years ago, she answered a request at work for someone “who could read music” to help out. She’s since retired as a nurse’s aide but brings her experience and joy of music to the bell choir. During her visit, she conducts the residents’ very own bell choir and challenges their memory in a game of “name that tune.”
While COVID-19 introduced many obstacles to providing activities, from social distancing for residents and rapid tests for visitors, Kathy also faced the challenges of health, mobility, and interests. When the community originally went into isolation, they worked through the major challenge of social gatherings by adapting to technology already in place. Former in-person events, such as the Sisters Spiritual Hour were adapted into spiritual programming. They also expanded the lineup to include recurring movie schedules centered on seasonal holidays, resident recommendations, and general classics. All the rooms have cable television, but for the residents, particularly those who are not mobile, these movies help provide a connection to the community.
While all the activities are appreciated, bingo is the most anticipated event of the week. There is just something about a competitive game of chance. The stakes are low, but the enthusiasm is high.
Sometimes coordinating and facilitating this work makes Kathy feel, as she says, “like the pink bunny with the drum in the commercials.” However, she is quick to note that she does not do this alone. In fact, she considers working with her department colleagues, Debbie, Jamie, Moody, and Tom, among the best parts of her job. In the end, Kathy says, “this is their home, my goal is to interact with our residents and to bring them some joy.”