Orchard Park celebrates 17 years, donates funds to Alzheimer’s Foundation

By Valerie Shelton, Editor

Orchard Park, the oldest senior assisted living community in Clovis, celebrated its 17th anniversary with a country-style barbecue on Thursday, Oct. 22.

During the celebration, residents in the community’s memory care unit had a special presentation for Marie Espinola of the Alzheimer’s Foundation. Earlier that month, the residents made watercolor paintings and sold them in a silent auction, raising over $400 to donate to the foundation.

Espinola said she was honored to receive the gift from the residents.

“The Alzheimer’s Foundation has had a good partnership with Orchard Park over the years,” Espinola said. “I’ve done educational programs with residents and their families for 12 to 15 years. We’re a local non-profit and all of our funds stay local. We opened 15 years ago and we don’t have any state or federal funding, so we rely on donations. This donation was really touching for me because it was made by the residents in the dementia unit at Orchard Park. I’m just pleased and honored by that. It was just really special to have the residents do this for us.”

Orchard Park Executive Director Kim Sherman said the residents and staff at Orchard Park wanted to do something special for Espinola and the Alzheimer’s Foundation because they value their work and the time Espinola has taken to work with individual residents and their family members.

“Marie comes in once a month and does support groups for us and for outside people who are loved ones of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease,” Sherman said.  “We wanted to give back to her for all that she has done for us over the years and all that she has done for the Valley so we decided to do an art silent auction and had residents in Illuminations, our memory care unit, create the artwork. The art was at all different levels, we have some residents that did beautiful pieces of artwork like birds and ladies’ faces and we had art from residents who can’t do quite as much but still were able to participate. We put it all out in the lobby and had it sitting out for a week and we had people from the outside come in and families come in and staff all bidding on the artwork. A couple of pieces had quite the bidding war and we raised $420 for the Alzheimer’s Foundation and we presented a check to her at our celebration.”

Although $420 doesn’t sound like much, Sherman said it was significant considering the pieces of art were small and there were only 20-25 pieces. It was also a great way for the Illuminations residents to get involved. Although these residents are suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, Sherman said art skills are something those in memory care can retain for a long time so creating a fundraiser around art was a way to ensure that everyone could participate and express their gratitude for Espinola and the Alzheimer’s Foundation.

“People that suffer from Alzheimer’s disease regress a lot but there are parts of their brain that deteroriate and certain parts they really retain and art and music are really things they can still focus on for quite a while after the disease progresses, so having them do watercolor painting is very relaxing and soothing for them and something that they can feel like they are accomplishing,” Sherman said. “That, along with music, is one of the last things that they are able to retain.

“We have a resident right now who sings and plays the piano and when she is in her element, you can’t even tell that she has the disease because it brings everything back that she has been able to do in the past. It’s the same thing with drawing and the art side of it. You do from the time you are small and because Alzheimer’s kind of back tracks, you lose your short term memory but a lot of those long term memory pieces are still there so drawing and art is something they’ve done when they were young so it’s something they can still do.”

Sherman said art, music and other activities are regularly done in Illuminations because of this. The watercolor paintings, however, were made specifically for the silent auction, separate from their regular activities.

Ken Yamamoto, whose mother Kay Yamamoto is a resident in the Illuminations memory care unit, said he doesn’t know much about the regular activities that take place at Orchard Park, since they occur during the day and he visits in the evening, but said he did see some of the work his mom created for the silent auction and wasn’t surprised that the art looked similar to artwork she’d done in the past.

“I’ve seen her artwork before,” Yamamoto said. “I remember when I was growing up, my mom always had a passion for doodling and drawing. Some of her pictures are even hanging in her room. She probably did it out of boredom because she was a housewife, but she got good at it and I wasn’t surprised to see the artwork she did for the auction because art is deep in her heart. I think the tasks like that, that people enjoy like art and language, are things they retain for quite some time.”

In addition to doing something special for the Alzheimer’s Foundation, Sherman said the celebration for Orchard Park’s 17th year was all about acknowledging that they are the longest-running assisted living large community in Clovis with an experienced staff.

“We have staff members that have been here 10, 12 or 15 years, which makes the cohesiveness of the community very strong so when we have a new resident that comes in, we’re able to really work well together because we know what works and so with the celebration, we just wanted to recognize that we have that and that we’ve have been around for such a long time and we are the largest long standing community in town.”

Clovis Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen spoke at the ceremony and Assemblyman Jim Patterson presented Orchard Park with a certificate of recognition on behalf of the California State Legislature.