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Village at Orchard Ridge offers workshop for ‘P.E.A.C.E. of Mind’

by Kaye Hult

The Village at Orchard Ridge in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, will offer a workshop on resources for aging people several times in 2017 at area churches, beginning with one from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 11, at St. Pius X Catholic Church.

Mary Stewart

Featured presenter Susan Melchiore is a local physician and co-founder of OnSite for Seniors, a Christian program helping meet needs of elderly people in life transitions.  She will speak about “Strategies for Successful Aging.”  A panel of local professionals will offer guidance in managing life transitions and levels of care; making informed health-care, estate and end-of-life decisions, and holistic approaches to care.

The P.E.A.C.E of Mind workshop has evolved from an idea of Mary Stewart, the church engagement coordinator for this faith-based nonprofit home, formerly called Heritage Place/Coeur d’Alene Homes.

The Village at Orchard Ridge honors older adults by providing independent living, assisted living and a memory-care unit, she said.

P.E.A.C.E. stands for Professionals Easing Aging Concerns through Education.  Orchard Ridge offers the educational workshop to its 20 member churches and the wider community.

Two other workshops planned this spring: 1) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 18, at Peace Lutheran Church in Post Falls, and 2) from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, May 6, at Lake City Church in Coeur d’Alene. 

The idea for the workshop evolved over the years, stemming from a need Mary observed while she participated in a focus group for at-home caregivers at the Area Agency on Aging of North Idaho in about 2011.

“Most were spouses,” she said.  “I was a daughter caring for my mother.”

It tore at her heartstrings when participants cried as they shared things like, “My loved one was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was left to his/her own devices.” 

She realized people faced with dilemmas of aging didn’t know how to access resources.  Before her mother moved from New Jersey to live with her in 2008, she began to show signs of memory loss, so Mary researched resources for herself and her mother.

“I had two teens at home, needed to care for my mother and knew I would need respite.  How could I go to my daughter’s play and be a wife to my husband?” she wondered.

“Knowledge is power,” she said of her research before her mother moved in.  She went to the Area Agency on Aging and other agencies to learn what they offered.

Her mother lived with her for about four years before she moved to what was then Coeur d’Alene Homes, where she lived for a year before she died in 2013.

Mary sees God’s hand in how the idea grew. 

The Toolbox of Community Resources for the Aging Population, the original seedling from her idea, was a project for Servant School, the four-year Diaconate and Lay Ministry Formation Program of the Catholic Diocese of Boise, where she and husband Chris have been studying.

At that time, Mary was also serving on the Orchard Ridge board, which was engaged in a long range planning process.

“The board of directors wanted to nurture relationships with member churches and offer resources they could use both before and after members needed to move to a campus like Orchard Ridge,” Mary said.

She later introduced her toolbox idea to the board president, executive director Ann Johnson and the long-range planning committee. The board decided to create a church engagement coordinator to help carry out the idea.  

In 2014, she left the board to take that position, because she felt “passionate about church relations and carrying the idea forward.”

“I could have created a toolbox at my parish for my internship, but Orchard Ridge’s willingness to carry out the project provided an avenue to reach more churches and people than would have happened otherwise,” she said.

Orchard Ridge developed the toolbox and has given it to date to 17 member congregations.

Twenty churches govern Orchard Ridge, with each congregation having two members as voting delegates. 

The toolbox provides information on such things as adult day care, advocacy for the aged, Alzheimer’s/dementia residential care, companionship, caregiver respite, grief and loss, handyman projects, legal and financial issues, and more.

In May 2016, Orchard Ridge facilitated a Pastor Summit, “The Toolbox Comes Alive,” for member church pastors and other ministers in the community.  They asked what other resources pastors could use in their ministries.

From that list, the Village at Orchard Ridge’s planning team identified three issues: finances, mobility/independence, and encouragement/support. 

Admissions coordinator Connie Wills suggested that Orchard Ridge develop their own group of presenters, which led to the P.E.A.C.E. of Mind concept.

At a second Pastor Summit in October 2016, they presented a mini-version of the workshop. With feedback from that, the planning panel put the workshop into final form.

“Orchard Ridge is funding P.E.A.C.E.,” she said.  “I applaud their commitment to providing these resources.”

Mary grew up in Hamilton, N.J. She had four brothers and eventually, two orphaned cousins moved in with them.

After graduating from high school in 1975, she attended Rider College in Lawrenceville, N.J., and then worked as a legal assistant.

When she was in her early 20s, Mary moved to San Diego, where she worked for a political consulting and fund raising firm.

She met her husband Chris there.  Once they married and their daughter was born, they moved in 1991 to Coeur d’Alene, where Chris has family. 

Since then, Mary took part in the grassroots effort that started Holy Family School. She was capital campaign manager for building the current building and later became its first development director.

Before becoming involved with Orchard Ridge, she stayed at home for about 10 years, first to be available to her children and then to care for her mother.

“My mother’s nature was to minister to others,” Mary said.  “She was always concerned about what more to do with a situation.  She was a godly woman.”

Following in her mother’s footsteps, she volunteers with women on Mondays, in addition to her work. 

“Many people don’t have somebody,” she said.  “I want to bring a little joy to their lives.”

Mary said many people will find the workshop of interest: outreach ministers, those who visit the homebound, caregivers for the aged, adult children of aging parents, middle-aged people planning for their future, as well as those who have reached that season of life.

For information, call 208-664-8119, email or contact Mary at or 208-691-7826.

Copyright © March 2017 - The Fig Tree