Fifteen years ago, as she contemplated retirement, Mary Carroll Potter envisioned her future. With her children scattered about, she confirmed to herself that the home she loved in the Hollin Hills neighborhood she had lived in for 40 years would be the ideal place. But how?
“I read about a Beacon Hill organization created to facilitate neighbors helping neighbors thrive as they retired and aged in their homes and I immediately thought we needed something like that here. Literally everyone I talked to about it agreed. It seemed so obvious.”
Potter hosted a meeting in her home with about five or six friends who had expressed particular interest and the beginnings of Mount Vernon At Home (MVAH) started to take shape. “I don’t know why but none of us had any doubt this was going to be a success,” she observed.
After more than 18 months of planning, Mary Carroll Potter became Mount Vernon At Home’s first president in 2009.
Virginia Hodgkinson attended that first meeting. She had heard independently about the Beacon Hill Village as it was called and was enthusiastic.
“As we created our own organization, we had the Beacon Hill model we could emulate but quickly found that wouldn’t work,” Hodgkinson said. “They are a walkable urban community and we are suburban, so the issues were different, particularly transportation.”
As the neighborhood buzz grew as loud as a chorus of cicadas, Betsy Stephens heard the news and volunteered to be involved. As a health professional she served on the health advisory committee and developed an array of wellness programs such as exercise classes, general safety protocols, health education.
“As valuable as MVAH is, I found my greatest joy in meeting people and many of the group activities. We had insider’s tours of the State Department, radio stations, commercial gardens, etc. I have made friends I will have until the day I die,” Stephens said.
Margaret and Arnold Edelman were also among those who found the socialization of MVAH to be equally important as the member services. Arnold Edelman was the first treasurer while Margaret was a member of the nominating committee.
Margaret Edelman thought a lot of MVAH’s success was because “we were a community. We had so much in common. Many of us moved to the area when we were young and poor and had been there our whole lives. There was just so much synergy.”
A big service of MVAH is its preferred providers list. Kae Wells chaired this committee, and they went through any number of levels of investigation to ensure that members who used this list were getting honest and genuinely recommended referrals.
“We researched it though the Better Business Bureau, personal recommendations, consumer reviews, etc.,” she said. “We wanted to make absolutely certain you could count on this list.”
What began as a way to help Potter and others organize their retired lives and desire to stay at home, blossomed and grew into Mount Vernon At Home, a community-based nonprofit that cares for seniors desiring to age in their homes and communities.
MVAH is celebrating 15 years of community service. Senior Villages, as they are called, have cropped up all over the United States, now numbering more than 230 nationally. Each is volunteer driven and customized to serve the members of their individual local community.
MVAH has been particularly important and effective during the pandemic. Fifteen months ago, when almost no one knew the word ZOOM, seniors now stay in touch and social activities such as the book club, discussions and more regularly take place via ZOOM.
“It has been invaluable to me,” said Hodgkinson. “Being almost completely shut in for more than a year would have been devastating. But MVAH has literally been a lifesaver for many of us.”
Mount Vernon At Home will celebrate with its 15th Anniversary Gala online on May 27th. Food will be prepared by the Cedar Knoll restaurant and delivered to each participant’s door. At the Gala the founding members of the organization will be recognized and honored. For more information, visit http://www.mountvernonathome.org/.