Local retirement community gives back

From left, David Bricka, Village Concepts program director, Miranda Wilson, Helping Hands Food Bank and Solution Center executive assistant, Nate Vandenburg, food bank volunteer and Village Concepts team member, and Sandra Jensen, Village Concepts executive director, pose for a photo.

A check for $2,300 was hand delivered to Miranda Wilson, executive assistant of the Helping Hands Food Bank and Solution Center at the Village Concepts Country Meadow Village Christmas party.

Over the year, staff and residents of the retirement community raised money through the summer barbecue, Holiday Bazaar and Buffet and through proceeds from Kathy’s Kloset, a consignment shop for the residents and staff. In addition to the monetary donation, the retirement community has been collecting donation items for the food bank through a basket in the lobby that generates about 500 pounds of donations each year.

“With this donation we will be able to purchase healthy, nutritious food that will feed hundreds of people,” Wilson said. “We are so grateful for your generosity.”

In the past 10 years, Village Concepts has donated over $24,000 to nonprofit organizations in the area.

Issaquah’s Star-Studded Calendar for a Cause

At first blush, from afar, the people posing in Village Concept of Issaquah’s 2020 calendar look like famed movie characters, from Top Gun to Star Wars to Wayne’s World. Lean in a little closer, though, and you’ll realize Wayne and Garth don’t look quite like they used to. The hilarity and popularity of Village Concept’s themed calendar is back for a second year, featuring some of the senior residents, who live at the Spiritwood at Pine Lake community, and their families dressed as popular TV and film characters. The $35 calendar raises money in support of the Alzheimer’s Association. Mugs, ornaments, and reusable tote bags also will be available. To purchase the calendar, contact Jennifer Angell at jennifera@villageconcepts.com or by calling 425.313.9100. 

2019 Family Business Awards, Large Companies: Village Concepts

IT TAKES A VILLAGE: Steve Brown, president of Village Concepts, left, with his son, Stuart, the company’s chief executive officer. Image Credit: Hayley Young

Village Concepts
Location: Auburn

Village Concepts owns and operates some 20 housing and assisted-living facilities across the Puget Sound region and Central Washington that serve more than 1,300 seniors, with a top-flight nursing staff at the core of its care model.

The company was launched in 1975 by Bill Brown and is now led by the second and third generations of the Brown family — with Bill’s son, Steve, serving as president and Steve’s son, Stuart, serving as chief executive officer. Along the way, the company has remained true to its commitment to quality resident care while also keeping up with the times by incorporating new training, education and care programs. It also stays in tune with the needs of its residents through programs like Project Bucket List. The program allows seniors to fulfill lifelong dreams — making it possible for Dorothy Roth, who played in a World War II-era women’s baseball league, to throw out the first pitch at a Seattle Mariners game, for example.

The company promotes open communications and input from all family members, holding true to its credo of “creating a village that feels like family.” Family members are encouraged to work for the company, but they must still apply and qualify for positions. The Brown family’s business philosophy appears to be paying dividends. Village Concepts recorded a 14.4% increase in annual revenue between 2016 and 2018, to $40.8 million, and hired 60 new employees last year — and currently employs around 375.

“Creating supportive environments that foster continuous learning is a central value in the Brown family and is what Village Concepts strives to achieve,” the company says.

Issaquah Man Has Ties to America’s First Pilgrims

It’s been almost 400 years now since the Mayflower first arrived in Massachusetts, and the lives of those first pilgrims can feel so removed from us now. More than a dozen generations have come to pass, and with that, countless cultural and technological advancements.

But for those sitting down for Thanksgiving to enjoy a much-anticipated feast, it’s possible you have a connection to the first settlers who braved the voyage to America.

Bill and Phil Cushman / The Cushman family

Issaquah resident Bill Cushman, who currently lives at Spiritwood at Pine Lake’s Village Concepts retirement center, and his brother, Phil, can tie their lineage 13 generations back to the man who gave the first documented sermon in America.

Their ancestor, Robert Cushman, was a business agent for the Plymouth colony, essentially serving as a financial liaison between investors who funded the trip to the New World and the first settlers. Cushman had intended on traveling with the Mayflower in 1620, but when the crew discovered the smaller ship was leaky, Cushman was forced to stay an additional year in England. He instead arrived at the colony in late 1621, according to the Cushman family, who have retold the story of life with the help of historical texts.

Once he arrived, he realized how dire the conditions were. Many of the pilgrims died on the voyage, and many more perished during the first winter. Cushman was only in America for a short time, but he delivered an impactful sermon entitled, The Sin and Danger of Self-Love, that’s been preserved through history and is thought to have lifted the spirits of the first settlers, encouraging them to dash their selfishness and work together.

Near the end of his lengthy sermon, he said: “Lay away all thought of former things and forget them, and think upon the things that are; look not gapingly one upon other, pleading your goodness, your birth, your life you lived, your means you had and might have had; here you are by God’s providence under difficulties; be thankful to God, it is no worse, and take it in good part that which is, and lift not up yourself because of former privileges…”

It’s believed that prior to his departure back to England, the group enjoyed a feast known as the Harvest Celebration, an English tradition that prefaced Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately for Cushman, he never returned to America. He died in England in 1625, likely from disease. His sermon was printed in England in 1622 and was reprinted in Boston in 1724.

According to a biographical sketch penned in 1846 by John Davis, late judge of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, Cushman “was one of the most distinguished characters among that collection of worthies, who quitted England on account of their religious difficulties…”

Cushman continues to be celebrated for his work with religious freedom. Cushman’s son eventually sailed to New England and, subsequently, some of the Cushmans built a life in modern Issaquah.

Sometimes the world feels so big, but we’re often reminded of how small it can be. Cushman’s sermon and biography can be found here.

Veterans get to fly on free flights aboard WW II biplanes

A number of local veterans received the gift of a lifetime Sunday: a chance to ride in the cockpit of a World War II biplane flying out of Renton Municipal Airport.

It’s an experience provided by the nonprofit Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation based in Nevada.

The group operates several fully restored World War II-era biplanes. Thanks to sponsors and donations, it’s able to provide these flights, free of charge to seniors and military veterans all across the country.

Flying time normally lasts no more than 10 to 15 minutes, but for these lucky passengers, including Navy veteran, Bill Barber (a resident at Village Concepts of Burien), every second was priceless.

“I like flying I wish I can do more. It’s the finances that stop you from doing it,” said Barber.

The particular biplane, Barber and other veterans flew in today was built in 1944 and served as an army training plane before being converted into a crop duster.

Its engine and the outer fabrics have since been fully restored.

The pilots and crews involved in this program are all volunteers.

Pilot Clint Cawley works full time for a commercial airline.

“I grew up flying Stearman similar to this one so it’s a lot of fun to give back to veterans, especially seniors. You know it’s a really neat experience,” said Cawley.

Since it launched in 2011, Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation has flown nearly 4-thousand flights in 49 states.

For more information on Ageless Aviation, click here.

Planning a picnic to benefit local police department


A local senior community is buzzing about a barbecue to raise money for teddy bears.

Many police departments have programs providing officers with stuffed animals to give to kids caught up in high-stress police response situations, and Village Concepts of Milton decided to support the effort, with a Teddy Bear Picnic.

Executive Director Jennifer Dennis says the project is especially near to her heart because both of her parents were police officers.

“Growing up I heard stories of my parents responding to calls where a kid might be a little uneasy; so the bears have helped to ease that in different departments.”

Thursday will be Village Concepts’ very first Teddy Bear Picnic, but Dennis says it likely will not be the last.

“So far community members are very excited; they’re so glad to be able to come in and have a nice lunch and raise funds for this cause. I’ve had a few tears in conversations – people are grateful that we’re doing it –  and a lot of smiles.”

Everyone is invited to stop by Village Concepts of Milton – Mill Ridge Village at 607 28th Ave from 4:00-7:00 Thursday for a burger or a hot dog.  Tickets are $10 each, and all of the money raised will help buy teddy bears for Milton police officers to carry with them.

Village Concepts Redefines Retirement with Family-Style Approach to Assisted Living

Stuart Brown, Village Concepts COO

Forty-four years ago, the Brown family of Bellevue realized entering into assisted living didn’t mean an individual had to jettison their social life or relinquish any sense of community in their golden years.

In 1959, Bill Brown opened his original nursing community called Centennial Villas, building a company with over 20 locations on the West Coast. But it wasn’t until 1975 that Brown decided to cultivate the family culture and officially launched Village Concepts.

From its humble beginnings, family-owned Village Concepts has grown to include three generations of the Brown family and it encompasses 19 independent living centers, 14 assisted living centers, seven memory care centers, and five senior apartment complexes across the state.

By keeping the business in the family and nurturing an engaging atmosphere for residents — coupled with utilizing the latest technology — the Brown family ensures its founding premise of “bringing retirement to life” is upheld.

In fact, the Browns believe that running a family business is the key to Village Concept’s success.

“The great thing about running a family business is the level of commitment that comes from everyone involved,” said Stuart Brown, Village Concept’s Chief Operating Officer and grandson of the company’s founder. “Working with family gives us a good support system. We’re here because we love what we do.”

Because the Browns believe in creating villages that feel like a family, each resident is treated like one of the brood with programs such as Village Concepts University and Bucket List Check-Off, aimed at keeping residents engaged and inspired.

The Village Concepts University provides classes to its residents on the topics of physical and emotional health as they prepare for the next stage in their lives. The Bucket List Check-Off program allows residents to fulfill lifelong goals such as riding in a hot air balloon, a bi-plane, or on a Harley-Davidson.

Village Concept’s on-site programming, and certified, licensed staff who need to be available 24 hours per day means that Village Concepts is well equipped to deal with any issues or emergencies that arise. This means the Browns value employees on whom they can rely.

Outside of their work at Village Concepts, the staff is encouraged to take advantage of the company’s benefits and initiatives which provide extra training and courses for those who want to expand their experience beyond company and state requirements.“We’ve got people who’ve worked here for going on thirty years, and in a family-run business, these connections are highly regarded and trusted,” Brown said.

The family-feel of Village Concepts doesn’t stop there: During the snowstorm earlier this year, employees volunteered their time to make sure residents got the best care possible in such dangerous weather conditions. Village Concepts provided mattresses, blankets, toiletries, and food for those employees, and their family members helped with transportation and childcare.

Because of this community ethos, keeping the company in the family is of utmost importance to the Browns. That said, they never force any family members into the business.

“It is up to every generation in the family if they want to work at Village Concepts, there is no pressure on them to join. We invite family to apply, but we encourage all employees to grow within the company,” Brown said.

Village Concepts of Sedro-Woolley’s Resident Care Director Caroline Davis Honored with Assisted Living Nurse of the Year

Village Concepts of Sedro Woolley’s Resident Care Director Caroline Davis was awarded Assisted Living Nurse of the Year by the Washington Healthcare Association

AUBURN, WA – (May 22, 2019) Village Concepts attended the Washington Health Care Association’s Quality Awards Luncheon in Vancouver Washington at the Hilton Hotel. At the awards, Resident Care Director Caroline Davis of Village Concepts of Sedro-Woolley was honored with the Assisted Living Nurse of the Year award for Washington State. The award “recognizes an assisted living nurse who demonstrates outstanding innovation, achievement, and capabilities in their provision of high quality, person-centered care in a service-oriented culture in an assisted living community.”

In attendance with Caroline Davis was Director of Corporate Development Tracy Willis, Corporate Director of Regulatory Compliance Vicki McNealley, and Executive Director of Village Concepts of Sedro-Woolley Sandra Whiton.

I’m just a “gear guy” or “Easy does it”

Kay and Mike McCormack

Every winter, for the last few years, Mike and Kay McCormack join others at Magic Works within the Riverton Heights rehab center to pack sandwiches, drinks and candy bars to take on weekly visits to homeless camps under I-5 in Seattle.

It is a cold, wet and a very dreary existence for the tent people under the freeway. Mike and Kay felt they needed to be involved. The Des Moines residents also help clean up the areas. It is, they say, to give back, for a life of living well themselves. Mike likens his life to being a “victim of circumstances”. He’s been lucky, he’ll tell you. Lucky circumstances.

Mike, born in Tacoma 78 years ago, has been fortunate, much of his own making. Now living with Kay at Village Concepts-Adriana senior apartments in Des Moines, Mike will say he has been living a “charmed, easy life”. Kay knows the stories.

Many residents at the Adriana also know the stories in the near two years he has been living there. Stories about Mike’s early life and career as a Navy Seal.

Adopted and raised in the Magnolia area of Seattle, with a 3-star general dad at Ft. Lawton, Mike once swam from Point Dilworth, on Vashon Island to Three-Tree Point,  just because he could. The water is typically 43 degrees year-round. “it was easy. I wasn’t cold,” he beamed.

Mike was in the first graduating class at Blanchet High in 1958. He wanted to be a UW Husky but dad insisted on something more for Mike. Always a fine student, Mike enrolled at Cal Tech, graduating in 1962 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He then acquired a master’s degee in scientific navigation, “how to drive a boat” is how Mike put it.

His dad’s military credentials influenced Mike to join the Navy after graduation. Mike opted for Seal training, eight months of rigor that would test his 5-11 plus, 210-lb body.

Forty-six men went through cold and warm water training in that period. First in the warm Caribbean water where swimming was essential to survival. Finding their own food and living in the jungle helped create a unity among the men. Cold water training near Iceland followed as the team was dropped in the ocean, in gear, with a forced swim to shore. They caught their own fish and bivouaced on the beaches. Many of the men longed for the warm waters of the Caribbean. Out of 46 who started, 18 remained in the program. Washing out was not an option for Mike.

Mike’s Seal training took him to covert infiltration in Vietnam in 1963-64, near the Mekong Delta. The war as still considered a ‘conflict’. Seals are not just Navy guys. More than once Mike rode bareback on horses through Mongolia to observe and report military activities by Russian-backed support teams for arms trading to North Vietnam forces. In that pursuit, Mike had learned to eat more rice than he wanted so his body would exude an aroma of a rice diet. “Better to smell like the enemy,” he said. Mike won’t eat rice to this day even though he has no enemies now. He spent many days in Hanoi, living among the locals, dressed in civilian clothing to disguise his presence. He observed the “Hanoi Hilton” where John McCain was a prisoner in 1967.

Fearless is what we think Navy Seals must be. It is true but Mike would tell you things just came “easy”. Like the time a fellow officer on base turned his back when Mike opted to take the base helicopter on a jaunt out to an aircraft carrier at sea for nice lunch. “They had good food,” Mike explained. Never mind that he had no licence, no training and had no experience flying a helicopter. “It was easy,” Mike said.

Back home and out of the military by 1970, it was not long before he got a call from NASA to take a look at the gears in their satellite dishes in Houston. His Cal Tech education came in handy. He traveled the world working on complex gears, usually on recon satelites exploring the heavens and tracking NASA launches.

Married with two daughters, Mike did not slow down, ramping up another phase of his career with a love of hydroplanes in the early ’70s.

That love took Mike down to Stan Sayers Pits every summer for several years when the Gold Cup hydro races required a guy who understood propellers and gears. Mike figured out the reason for the many gear failures in the hydroplanes. It was due to the hardened steel of the gear teeth and the amount of torque during high speed applications. He advised a softer gear assembly to the mechanics working on the boats. It was a remarkable change. Roger Penske, a noted Indy driver, took note himself. He invited Mike back to the Brick Yard in Indianapolis. Mike helped the Penske team there, also enjoying a 212 mph trip around the famed track.

Mike’s fast paced life included skiing (a great love) and hiking and climbing. He joined climbing guide Lou Whittaker on several summits of Mt. Rainier and other peaks in the northwest. He says he feels good. Has no aches and pains and loves Kay and his life with a view of the water. For all he has accomplished, Mike has humility, calling what he’s done “easy”.

He and Kay think the people living under the freeway, for reasons not entirely their fault, is “not easy”. It is why they volunteer. The tent people are “unlucky victims of circumstances,” Mike said and 180 degrees from Mike’s life. He and Kay want to change that. He approaches this effort the same way he became a Navy Seal. Like swimming to Three Tree Point or flying a helicopter because he could…It was “easy,” Mike humbly said, “I’m a gear guy”.

Channel Point Retirement Community Partners with Hoquiam’s Central Elementary School

Village Concepts of Hoquiam – Channel Point retirement community and Central Elementary School in Hoquiam formed a new partnership this school year as part of the Hoquiam School District’s Team Wednesday initiative. On Wednesdays, Hoquiam students have early release, which allows teachers time for planning and training. When school lets out on Wednesdays, a select group of the 4th and 5th grade students at Central walk a few blocks with their Para-educators to Channel Point Village. Residents of the retirement community welcome them with a tasty snack and conversation, and then they work together on an art project, listen to music or socialize. The Central students visited the retirement community about twice a month during the school year.

The seniors enjoy spending time with the children and the children look forward to their visits with the seniors. Heather Dyson, Principal of Central Elementary School shared, “The partnership with Central students and Channel Point is giving our young citizens an opportunity to be involved in the community. The time spent together, connecting and bonding is benefiting both generations.”

Channel Point’s Executive Director, Maggie Birmingham, says the benefit is clear. “We have an active and engaged community here, but when the children arrive, you see and hear even more laughter, smiles and conversation.”

Inter-generational programs are becoming more and more popular in senior living communities. According to Generations Unlimited, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth and older adults, one benefit for older adults is that they learn new innovations and technologies from their younger counterparts. For children, interacting with older adults enables them to develop social networks, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, positive attitudes toward aging, a sense of purpose and community service.

Founded in 1975, Village Concepts owns and operates 17 residential and assisted living communities throughout Washington State and provides property management and consulting services for owners of assisted living communities. Village Concepts, a leader in the senior living industry, is a third-generation, family-owned business. Each community encourages residents to “create a village that feels like family” by providing personalized care, fostering new relationships and encouraging independence.