Cathedral Square Assisted Living This community offers the benefits of assisted living at a choice location overlooking Lake Champlain in downtown Burlington. Conveniently located near the University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Health Care, the community offers 28 assisted living units designed to be affordable to households wit... More Information.
A Message from Cathedral Square's Executive Director, Nancy Eldridge.
This past year has been full of growth. Thank you. We could not have done it without you - our partners, donors and other supporters. We hope you enjoy reading about our statewide Support And Services at Home (SASH) initiative, our newest community, Thayer House in Burlington, the 80th Anniversary of the Ruggles House Foundation and much more in our 2012 Annual Report. Vermont is on the forefront of change and we are happy to be a part of it with you.
On Wednesday, May 1, Nan Roman, a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission, presented the findings of a recently issued report, Housing, America’s Future: New Directions for National Policy to legislators in a joint House and Senate hearing hosted by Committee Chairs Representative Helen Head and Senator Kevin Mullin at the Vermont State House.
About the BPC’s Housing Commission
The Commission is co-chaired by former Senators George Mitchell, Kit Bond, Mel Martinez and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros.
· Rental Subsidy for households under 30% of median income in need.
· 50% increase in federal rental housing credit.
· Supplement to the HOME Investment Partnerships program.
· Sustainable approach to homeownership.
· Reformed system of housing finance with greater role for private sector.
· Aging in Place by integrating housing and health care.
· Convene a White House conference on Aging in Place.
Music has astonishing restorative powers. No better example than in the film August Rush, wherein a highly motivated child prodigy draws on his musical virtuosity to reunite with parents he became separated from at birth. Music is a tonic for the blahs, a mood elevator without side effects. And it enables Shirley Wisell to forget her troubles, to be upbeat, to journey through life as an eternal optimist.
Shirley is a relatively new resident of Town Meadow, a Cathedral Square community in Essex, Vermont, attracted to that property by its roomy, “non-boxy” apartments, recreational amenities, and handy location. She had been on the wait list for one of Town Meadow’s five two-bedroom apartments since its grand opening in 2009. When her name came up, and she was shown the available unit, “it was love at first sight.” She moved in last December and was still getting settled when her older son Charles passed away. “Music is my salvation. It gets me through the worst days. It always has.”
For Shirley, as for the boy they called August Rush, “music is everywhere.” Step into her living room, whose generous size and angular layout sold her on the apartment in the first place, and clustered at one end are a piano, an organ, a guitar, and an electronic keyboard. Look more closely, and your eyes light on a vintage harmonica. “I play for my own amusement mostly,” she insists. The keyboard, however, is integral to her most ardent leisurely pursuit.
Shirley’s family moved to Vermont from Connecticut when she was three, settling on a farm in Williston. Her dad was the town's first school bus driver and its first school custodian. She’s been playing the piano and organ since her pre-teens, following her mother’s lead. Both her parents had exceptional voices, and Shirley inherited their passion for choral singing, eventually gravitating toward barbershop harmonies. She really got hooked more than a 50 years ago when a woman she worked with at General Electric invited her to a concert of the newly organized Champlain Echoes at the Thayer School in Burlington. “When I heard these ladies sing, I said ‘this is what I want to do’.” They were still recruiting members, so Shirley signed on. The Echoes grew to a force to be reckoned with -- some 60 voices -- and became a charter member of an international alliance of racially and ethnically diverse women’s barbershop choruses called Harmony, Inc.
Marriage and a relocation to Rutland separated Shirley from the Echoes for a few years, during which she and a co-worker formed a Rutland barbershop chorus called The Peppermint Pipers. “It was hard for us to get good directors,” and when that group eventually dissolved, Shirley rejoined the Champlain Echoes, commuting weekly from Rutland to Burlington with her two pre-teen sons.
Altogether, Shirley had a 33-year career with General Electric (22 in Rutland), retiring in 1996. She rejoined the Echoes once again in 1999. The group practices every Monday evening in an expansive downstairs community room at The Pines, in South Burlington, where “we can set up our risers and store our costumes and music.” Shirley, an accomplished seamstress, has made many of those costumes herself. The Echoes break up into quartets every February and do singing Valentines, waltzing into workplaces like IBM, the Good News Garage, and GE Healthcare to bestow chocolates, cards, and sweetheart songs on unsuspecting recipients. “Sometimes they laugh, sometimes they cry, more often than not, they’re speechless. This is the best part of barbershopping for me. I like it better than competing, which is very stressful.”
Shirley, who sings tenor, is one of three remaining charter members of the Echoes. And the Echoes are the only remaining charter group in Harmony, Inc. That electronic keyboard in her arsenal of instruments Shirley uses to key music down “because most of the songs we sing in barbershop are written for men.” Shirley sings tenor in the chorus. The Echoes sometimes join with the men of the Green Mountain Chorus, as well as the Barre-Tones women’s group, for benefit collaboratives, like the one they did for victims of Hurricane Katrina several years ago.
When Shirley isn’t chorusing, playing her musical instruments, or sewing, she draws, does puzzles, and plays pinocle. Until last year, Shirley somehow fit in time to play in a boom-ba band called The Wild Boomers. What’s a boom-ba, you may ask? It’s an ancient ceremonial instrument consisting of a drum, horn, cowbell, wooden sound block, cymbal, and string of sleigh bells, all attached to a springed stick that is pushed to the rhythm of the music. The Wild Boomers -- “a rompin’ stompin’ group of Burlington area residents between the ages of 16 and 80,” plays at fairs, parades, moose festivals, and campgrounds throughout the Northeast.
To sum it up, Shirley Wisell is a whirling dervish of leisure pursuits, a live wire, a free spirit. “You have to stay active to stay young,” is her mantra. She’s still the new kid on the block at Town Meadow, but look out -- before long, her fervor will go viral in that community as well.