When Bethany Village added its West Campus in 2004, a long covered porch flanking the main entrance was a key feature of the Community Center. Though people would sometimes stop to chat on their way in or out, it was just a social hub waiting to happen until LeRoy Erickson discovered it one afternoon.
Now, between 50 and 60 Bethany Village residents meet two to three weeks out of the month during the summer and early fall for wine or iced tea and hors d’oeuvres for two hours before dinner. “People might stop for 15 minutes or stay the whole time,” he says. (View photos from Front Porch Socials below.)
LeRoy and his wife, Marianne, were one of the very first residents of Bethany Village West – and watched the retirement community expand as they took afternoon walks from their nearby townhome. Several years after coming to Bethany, Marianne began exhibiting signs of dementia, and as the condition progressed, she moved to The Oaks Skilled Nursing. After her move, a daily walk around the Bethany became part of their routine.
As LeRoy and Marianne sat on the front porch one afternoon, a friend who served on the Residents Council with LeRoy saw them and sat down to chat. Within 15 minutes, two more friends had joined them and an idea was born.
“We started talking about the Great American Front Porch, and how this could be a great gathering place,” LeRoy says. As chair of the Wellness Committee, LeRoy saw the potential for a regular social event, “but we needed more comfortable chairs,” he laughs. Within a week, he had raised enough to buy rockers, a glider and some tables.
Now 86, LeRoy says he’d be “bored stiff if I still lived in my townhouse and had lost my wife. Living here I can ‘snoopervise’ all kinds of things,” he jokes. “There are so many ways to be involved and active here. I have a group of guys I meet for ping pong two evenings a week, and I’ve been playing water volleyball since we moved to Bethany. It’s just a great place to be.”
With residents like LeRoy, it’s easy to see why.