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Covenant House Guild’s final luncheon a loving look back

The last Guild luncheon, January 2011

Covenant House Administrator Maryann Bernstein thanks Guild members at their final luncheon while Activities Director Janice Kohn (L) looks on

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

More than 40 members of the Covenant House Guild showed up at the nursing home on Dec. 9 for the last luncheon of the Guild’s 37-year run.

As of Jan. 1, Covenant House was scheduled to be leased and operated by Four Seasons LLP, bringing to an end its years as a Jewish resident-care facility.

“We have very good memories of what took place in this building for many, many years,” said Louise Tanis, co-president of the Covenant House Guild, to those at the luncheon.

“We have a lot of mixed emotions,” Co-President Esther Feldman told the gathering. “We’ve been here volunteering for years.”

When the Jewish Federation opened Covenant House in 1973 on its campus in Trotwood, a group of volunteers established the Guild.

Feldman has been with the Guild since the beginning. Its purpose, she said, has always been to enhance the quality of life for Covenant House’s residents. Each year, the Guild has designated money toward projects beyond Covenant House’s budgetary means.

Covenant House Guild Co-Presidents Esther Feldman (L) and  Louise Tanis thank Guild members at their final luncheon

“We’ve raised money for things residents could specifically use,” Feldman said. “We bought electric beds for the home for people who needed it, electric chairs that they could raise up and down. When the garden (in the Zimmel Miller Courtyard) opened, we contributed a lot of money and a lot of thought to what would be pretty in the garden.”

Tanis joined the Guild in the early 1980s. She said its membership dues — from close to 300 members — have funded the projects in recent years.

“We’ve provided blanket warmers,” Tanis said. “The staff told me all of the residents love warm blankets.”

The Guild has also contributed oversized beds for residents who needed them, towel warmers, tub lifts, money for arts and crafts, and most importantly, companionship to residents.

“Some residents who didn’t have any money in their accounts, we quietly paid for the beauty shop appointments and their manicures,” Feldman said. “Even clothing for some residents who came from out of town.”

Tanis said most of the women at the luncheon have been with the Guild for years.

“They’re very loyal about coming to our luncheons,” Tanis said. “Most of them have always come.”

“We’ve always had four luncheons a year,” Feldman said, “which is nice, because sometimes the residents would have their loved ones come to the luncheon and then they would sit with them at the luncheon, or people who would come to the luncheon would visit with the residents after the luncheons.”

Covenant House Activities Director Janice Kohn, who has worked at the facility for 31 years, shared a multitude of old pictures from past Guild luncheons with the women.

Kohn will now work directly for the Federation as part of its Jewish Senior Service Agency. Among her jobs will be volunteer recruitment.

“It’s been my pleasure to work with everybody over all these many years,” Kohn said to the Guild. “We’ll see a lot of each other I’m sure.”

Covenant House Administrator Maryann Bernstein now serves as director of JSSA.

“We’re now going to support the Jewish Senior Service Agency and we have money in our treasury for the seniors, whether they live in a nursing home or at home,” Feldman said in her farewell remarks.

“One person I feel bad that can’t be here,” she said, “is Carmen Appel, because she is really like the president emeritus. She got me to be president 25 years ago. She’s a lady that you couldn’t say no to.”

Appel, almost 104, lives in her own home with continuous help from caregivers. Due to inclement weather, and to preserve her health, she doesn’t venture outside often anymore.

Some Guild members shared their memories of Covenant House with the group.

“Thank you for taking such wonderful care of my husband,” said Ruth Rafner.

“My husband was here for five years,” Phyllis Ross said. “Covenant House staff, residents and volunteers became like a second family to us. We made so many friendships. Thank you for the care you gave him.”

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