“Celebrating Life at Tamarisk” is The Phyllis Siperstein Tamarisk Assisted Living Residence’s tagline; after the past 15 pandemic-filled months, Tamarisk’s residents, staff, and volunteers are celebrating life with spirit and enthusiasm.
“We’re open for tours, our residents’ families are visiting their loved ones and our diverse activities are in full swing,” says Tamarisk’s Director of Marketing & Outreach Susan Adler. Even before our celebratory ice cream social (the first such monthly ice cream social since the pandemic!) on June 14, residents have been enjoying current event discussions, trivia competitions, exercise classes, painting classes, a play-reading class led by former CCRI Professor Bert Silverberg and twice-weekly happy hours, which are led by fully vaccinated Tamarisk volunteers. Additionally, Rabbi Ethan Adler leads a Pages Through the Ages program, while Rabbi Yossi Laufer presents a lecture and discussion program. Shabbat services, with rotating volunteers, have begun, as well, says Adler.
Many residents have returned to their beloved games and activities, including Bingo, Scattergories, Mahjongg, Cornhole, Pitch-and-Putt, and Bocce; others are content to use the computer lounge, chat with others in the common areas, or soak up the sun in the garden.
“Everyone is enjoying life feeling normal again,” says Adler. Her office is just off the main lobby, so she can’t help but overhear public conversations among residents and guests. One resident, Miriam, concurs. “I am happy to have activities back in full force. They make me feel more alive and active.”
Outside, the Tamarisk gardens are being prepared for the third consecutive summer. While the spring’s dry, cold weather led to a bit of a slow start, Tamarisk staff began turning over and preparing the garden beds in early June and visited the Farmers’ Daughter in mid-June to buy plants. In accordance with best gardening practices, Tamarisk is rotating crops so that soil nutrients are not depleted, says Tamarisk’s Executive Director Roberta Ragge, MS ALA, the original driver of the garden. New this year is some hydroponic felt, which is designed to keep weeds to a minimum.
“We’ll experiment – last year, the watermelons grew beautifully, but the squirrels ate them all,” says Ragge. “Gardening always includes some trial-and-error.” Beautiful heirloom tomatoes are a favorite of residents, so the garden will include them, along with rainbow chard, peppers, beans, snap peas, potatoes, broccoli, pumpkins, and squashes – spaghetti, acorn, and butternut – as well as a wide array of herbs. The gardeners will try growing baby cucumbers again this year, even after no success last summer.
“The farm-to-table produce is all used for our residents’ meals – and our Executive Chef Deb Blazer creates delicious dishes with the produce,” says Ragge. “We hope that we have a big enough harvest that we can donate some of the excess produce to the Kosher Food Pantry and our garden volunteers.” Tamarisk welcomes volunteers – who will receive either a bag of fresh produce or a gift certificate for a Kosher meal.
The produce is planted in 12 garden beds, each about 15 feet long and three feet deep. As they are not raised beds, only able-bodied residents are able to participate in weeding, watering, and harvesting. While the garden has a sprinkler system, some areas need to be hand-watered. “We love when our residents pitch in and help out,” says Ragge.
“It was always my dream to have a farm-to-table food program, as Kosher food is fresh food. Deb and I are kindred spirits, and always on the same page, especially about food,” adds Ragge, who credited Jewish Collaborative Services’ Chief Development Officer Sara Ades Goodwin with securing financial support to fund the garden. “We love it, it’s a truly beautiful garden.”
Want to volunteer at the garden? Call Tamarisk at 401.732.0037 and ask to speak to Roberta Ragge or Deb Blazer.