This holiday season, residents of Windham Terrace, an enriching assisted living and memory care community, came together to bake several dozen loaves of sweet breads. The breads were donated to Windham’s Helping Hands, a 501© (3) volunteer organization providing for families in need of assistance in a variety of ways.

 The sweet breads were put into Thanksgiving food baskets to help families in need. The senior living community has been participating in this project for years, making it annual holiday tradition. The joy residents feel as they contribute to this project is contagious. Windham Terrace has an ongoing partnership with the organization, assisting with other small tasks and contributions throughout the year.

In addition to baking loaves for the baskets, the “Terrace Elves” worked hard stringing paper mittens for the town Giving Tree. They plan to select an item from the tree to purchase when they take their monthly trip to the library.

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When it comes to learning, you’re never too old or young to try something new. It’s with this in mind that the residents of Windham Terrace Assisted Living are gathering school supplies and “heading back to school” as part of an intergenerational partnership between the senior living community and Windham High School. Once a month, residents from Windham Terrace visit the high school where they have the opportunity to jump back into class with the students and participate in the day’s assignment. Subjects run the gamut, ranging from basic math and science courses all the way through to creative writing and jewelry making. Each class not only provides residents the chance to revisit their youth, but also to engage with young people and learn about their experiences. The “Back to School” program has been a hit since school started in the fall, and for residents such as Greta David, the monthly visits provide a sense of joy as she interacts with the students.

“I’ve enjoyed being able to get out and meet the students and learn more about their lives,” said David. “It’s interesting to see how their school experiences differ from ours but are also similar in many ways. Recently, we visited the school and attended a creative writing class, and while we normally participate, this time we found ourselves as the subjects. It was wonderful to share more about my life with the students and then hear what they had written read back during the rest of the class. We were all entertained while hearing one another’s stories and more personal aspects of our lives. Each visit brings a new experience, and I look forward to the next class.

The partnership began near the end of spring 2018 when Windham Terrace contacted the school to begin planning a way for local youths and seniors to connect on common ground. While similar programs may only have the residents attend and observe, the Back to School partnership sees the residents as active participants and seeks to involve them in as many ways as possible.

“Welcoming the residents to our school and seeing the friendships form between the seniors and our students has been wonderful to witness,” said Holly Londo, service/ELO and transition coordinator at Windham High School. “The students like having the residents join them, and we have seen firsthand how this participation has impacted both groups. The students really latched onto the program and look forward to the residents’ visits. It’s a win-win for both of us, and we are so proud of how the students have really taken charge when connecting with the residents. We’re excited to see how these relationships continue to strengthen as the partnership grows.”

Windham Terrace will make their next visit to Windham High on Friday, March 22 at 10:00 a.m. During the March visit, residents will be able to join students for Spanish and graphic design classes.

“The partnership with Windham High has provided our residents with a sense of fulfillment, and we couldn’t be happier to help make it possible,” said Lynda Brislin, executive director of Windham Terrace. “At Windham Terrace, we believe in the importance of providing our residents with rewarding activities, and this is one that we know brings them satisfaction and happiness. We look forward to continuing the partnership as the residents and students are showing all of us what it means to keep learning and building new relationships.” 

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Wanda Hancock sings with members of Girl Scout Tro

It’s said the best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing aloud for all to hear, a belief that Wanda Hancock (a resident of Windham Terrace Assisted Living) takes to heart. Known as the senior living community’s songbird, Hancock frequently serenades her neighbors and team members at the community with her own melodies. However, she will soon find herself in the audience as Windham Terrace hosts students from Merrimack Valley Montessori and members of Girl Scout Troop 10051 when they stop by the community (3 Church Road) for Christmas caroling. On Friday, December 14 at 10:00 a.m., the Montessori students will go door-to-door caroling for the residents. Additionally, Troop 10051 will come perform their own holiday tunes on Tuesday, December 18 at 3:15 p.m. These special performances will showcase the connectivity of the holiday spirit and remind all who hear the cheerful voices of the magic of the season. For Hancock, these performances will be particularly meaningful as she plans to join in and sing along with each note of “Jingle Bells.”

“I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember,” said Hancock. “Music has long been a part of my life and brings me immense joy and satisfaction. Whether I’m singing along or listening as someone else performs, there’s nothing quite like the power of music to engage and connect us. The holiday season is one filled with music, and it brings everyone together in celebration and wonderment. I’m looking forward to having our special guests visit and perform, as they will bring with them the merriment of Christmas that only children can share. Music does something special to the heart if you listen, and when we hear those little voices it will remind us all of what it means to be a child at Christmas again.”

Hancock began singing as a child in her church choir and continued to perform throughout her life, most recently with the Silver Lining Chorus for seniors. From a young age, she studied voice and piano and was also a member of her high school acapella group, where she met her high school sweet heart and future husband. In addition, she spent years helping to direct children’s choirs at the churches she attended. According to Hancock, some of her fondest memories are of taking her youth choirs caroling and then concluding their performances with hot chocolate on cold winter nights. It’s memories like this that she will think about during the caroling visits as she sits front and center to sing along.

“The holiday season is a special time for all of us to come together, and nothing unites people quite like music,” said Lynda Brislin, executive director of Windham Terrace Assisted Living. “At Windham Terrace, we enjoy celebrating with our residents and reflecting on what it means to be a community. By hosting the carolers and observing this special time of year, we spend time with one another and remember what matters the most.”

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When reflecting on World War II, most people’s thoughts first drift to the military heroes who served to defend the rights of others. However, there are many memorable stories of everyday men and women who stepped up to protect their communities and those they loved. One such individual is Gene DeCamp, a resident of Windham Terrace Assisted Living, who at 19 years old served as a volunteer interpreter for the British 8th Army in his hometown of Lanciano, Italy. DeCamp moved from town to town with the British regiment, helping them communicate with the Italian army as they worked against the German occupation of the city. The son of Italian-American immigrants, DeCamp moved to Italy with his parents to be closer to extended family after his mother fell ill. As a dual citizen of the United States and Italy, DeCamp was uniquely qualified to assist Allied troops as they came into the area, and he was thrilled to have the opportunity to make a difference in the war.

“It was an interesting time to grow up, and I did so quickly,” said DeCamp. “I’ll never forget when the British army came through the city during the German occupation. I was so happy they were there that I ran right up to them as they attempted to speak with the Italian officers. They were thrilled when they realized I understood what they were saying and could translate between the two groups. I volunteered then and there as an interpreter and started right away. They gave me a British uniform that my mother sewed an interpreter’s patch on, and that was it. I went with the British captains and officers from town to town helping them communicate with the Italian forces.”

During the war, DeCamp remembers the fear his family and their neighbors experienced as the fighting was all around them. He remembers his home having a large crack down the side after a bombing and how it was the threat of such attacks that left everyone on edge. As if things were not stressful enough, there was also the added stress of separation from DeCamp’s father, who was in the U.S. during this period. His father had returned to the U.S. to finalize the family’s move and was unable to return after the war began. For three years, DeCamp witnessed the unimaginable as he watched friends and neighbors lose everything to the occupying German forces, and he hoped for the opportunity to make a difference. He received his chance when he began interpreting for the British and Allied forces. His family was terrified that something would happen to him, but underneath that terror was an immense pride that kept him going and reminded him of the importance of his work.

“It was an incredibly dangerous time, but I felt strongly that I was doing the right thing,” said DeCamp. “I firmly believe that my work saved the lives of my family and those of many others in our community and the surrounding area. When I was 20 years old, I made the decision to return to the U.S. and went to Pennsylvania to meet my father. It was very difficult to transition back into a daily life that didn’t include fearing aerial bombings and raids by foreign militaries. Over the years it’s gotten easier to talk about my experience, and I hope that by sharing my story it will help future generations to understand a more complete picture of what life was like during the war.”

After returning to the U.S., DeCamp went back to school and finished his education. He then went on to become a high school history teacher for over 30 years, sharing his knowledge of the greater world and his experiences with his students.

“At Windham Terrace, we believe in the importance of standing up for the welfare of others,” said Lynda Brislin, executive director of Windham Terrace. “We are honored to have individuals in our community like Gene DeCamp who put themselves in danger to help others during an incredibly difficult time in world history. Gene’s story is an inspiring reminder that anyone can make a difference no matter what age you are.”