iPad Drive for Parsonage Cottage Residents Creates a Virtual Window  #GreenwichProud

By Sue Moretti Bodson

Parsonage Cottage Senior Residence has been closed to visitors since March 9, and its longtime Executive Director Penny Lore knew she had to address how to keep the residents connected with the world.

“Isolation can have health-related issues for older adults, and social distancing has created a challenge for us,” said Lore. “Like any older adult, our residents find great joy in seeing their family members and having those intergenerational connections. We knew that it would be important to find a way to connect the residents to their loved ones other than through a glass window.”

Lore and Parsonage Cottage found a way to follow safety protocols while enabling their residents to visit their loved ones virtually by embracing technology. Since seniors currently can’t have face-to-face contact with their loved ones, the next best thing is video chatting. Doing so utilizing a handheld phone is not ideal as the size of the screen is limited. A technology drive for iPads was discussed with Parsonage Cottage Fundraising Board, and Board member Mimi Santry went into action and reached out to the community. The generous donor network came through, and within just a matter of days, “there was an avalanche of support from several generous Greenwich residents,” explained Santry.

Next, Santry turned to the Parsonage Cottage Junior Advisory Board for support in the effort, and two young ladies, Erin O’Connor and Julia Welsh stepped forward in a big way. Both are seniors at the Convent of the Sacred Heart and saw the opportunity to support the residents at Parsonage. “We felt a strong urge to help,” said O’Connor. “The coronavirus has isolated the residents from family and friends. We felt passionate about helping them to connect.” The duo went into quick action, “we started within our school,” explained Welsh, “and then reached out to the larger community.”

“We are highly appreciative of the support of the dozens of thoughtful donors and the work of our Junior Advisory Board and especially Erin and Julia in their efforts,” said Lore. “Giving our residents the ability to visit their families virtually is an amazing gift,” continued Lore. “One of our residents, May Capone, was able to visit not just with her daughter Andrea Russo, but also her granddaughter Lauren and newborn Caroline. Without technology, this would not have been possible.”

This is not the first time this group of teenagers stepped up to help.  Last June, ten local teenagers formed the Parsonage Cottage Junior Advisory Board, and to launch their efforts, they threw a “Tee Party.” The goal was to create an event that would raise funds and awareness of the critical services provided to the elderly at Parsonage Cottage.  Using the beautiful grounds at Parsonage to host the event, the fundraiser included 18 holes of miniature golf, a DJ, and lunch with over 130 Greenwich residents and 27 corporate and family sponsors gathering for two hours of fun.

In addition to Mimi Santry, who is also a Parsonage Cottage Board Member and owner of Assisted Living Locators, other contributors to the technology drive included Laurie Pensiero, an EMT and Business Development Manager at Osborn Home Care, JP Muir, Founder and CEO of Home Care Connectors, Leslie Florio of Maplewood Senior Living, Ginny Gray, Greenwich Center for Hope and Renewal, Annesley MacFarlane and the Random Acts of Kindness Group and Joe Kaliko working with several charities. Additionally, Jen Donnalley, Director, Center for Public Good and Middle School Math Teacher at Greenwich Country Day School, set up all of the donated iPads for the Parsonage Cottage residents.

The technology drive has resulted in more than 30 iPads donated along with over $5,000 to purchase additional iPads, cords, chargers, covers, and stands. To donate to the Parsonage Cottage iPad Drive, contact Penny Lore at (203) 869-6226 or penny@parsonagecottage.org.

About Parsonage Cottage Senior Residence:
Parsonage Cottage Senior Residence is an affordable home for our own Greenwich older adults to be able to age in place, near friends and family, remaining in the town they call home. Quality of life and health is so much better when we are in familiar surroundings, allowing for peace of mind for our residents, as well as their family members, who can visit more often.

Lore enthusiastically described the state-of-the-art, traditionally designed, large “cottage” as idyllically set on magnificently landscaped wooded acres in the heart of beautiful mid-town Greenwich. “It’s really the people that make the difference. We have a caring staff, a hard-working Board of Directors, and every resident is treated as a member of the family,” says Lore. Recently updated, the Cottage boasts 34 bright, spacious single rooms and three double rooms, all with large private baths. Residents are allowed to bring their own furniture to create a familiar home environment because, after all, there’s no place like home.

Parsonage Cottage is part of the Housing Authority of the Town of Greenwich.