Highland Green Flourishes and Volunteers

HG residents live a unique active lifestyle with a community minded spirit

 

Gene and Barbara Grove from Whitefish, Montana will move all the way to Highland Green in late July. This boosts the remarkable tally of states from which new Highland Green residents have relocated to 30!

In the first half of 2017 alone, new friends from near and far have come to Highland Green or are in the process of doing so by commitments to existing resale homes or the execution of new construction plans. Within this segment, Maine folks hail from Harpswell, Augusta, Windham, Winterport, Diamond Island, and Surrey. Others come from Hanover, New Hampshire; Haverhill, Charlestown, Needham, and Melrose, Massachusetts; South Glastonbury and Avon, Connecticut; Delmar, Cazenovia, East Hampton, and South Hampton, New York; Middletown, Delaware; Chevy Chase, Maryland; Cary, North Carolina; Livonia, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; and Seattle, Washington. The stunning influx of such a diverse assembly of adults to this 635-acre campus can be simply attributed to the fact that nowhere else could they find a place as unique. Highland Green is by definition a 55+ Active Adult Community, as opposed to a traditional retirement or continuing care community, and it is widely considered the premier one in the Northeastern United States.

 

Inside Highland Green

Highland Green provides modern wellness through interaction with and support of others from a wider demographic and is not a medical, service-driven and needs based environment. It is a move of choice, convenience, and community. And most residents and friends affectionately call it “HG.”

HG has a matchless combination of a very accessible location, a local developer, an unprecedented incorporation of conservation and nature, and lower-maintenance living. And it offers custom-built free-standing homes that are not cookie-cutter in their siting, size, design or colors, and that are unavailable in traditional retirement communities or simple condominium developments. Most importantly, it is the lifestyle, the built-in sense of camaraderie, and the ability to easily interact with a broad assortment of interesting friends that sets HG apart from just a regular neighborhood.

Social, fitness, wellness, and educational goings-on are not scheduled or organized by the HG management group. It simply provides marketing, communication, property management, grounds keeping, and certain maintenance services on behalf of HG shareholder-owners. Activities are resident organized with the HG Community Center, the newly expanded Wild Duck Restaurant and Pub, the 235-acre Cathance River Nature Preserve, the Ecology Center, the nine hole HG golf course, and nearly 200 custom HG homes (so far) as the backdrop.

Addie and John at the Kentucky Derby party held at the HG Community Center

Beyond these features, HG’s experienced and capable residents are populating, leading, and ensuring the futures of countless charitable and cultural organization. This not only provides them satisfaction and fun, but also enhances these institutions for the general population of Midcoast Maine. The list of groups that benefit from HG resident organized volunteerism is seemingly endless.

Marketing Highland Green has less to do with “selling houses” than with connecting people, telling their stories, and nurturing community. Likewise, the HG Marketing Team’s sponsorships of cultural and charitable groups are not simply about displaying a sign or logo. They are about creating symbiotic relationships with establishments for which HG residents are transformational guides, which most actively benefit them, and will also do so for future HG residents and friends.

 

 

 

Volunteerism at Highland Green

Three associations are currently prominent in representing this synergy: Embrace A Vet, Midcoast Senior College, and Maine Maritime Museum. Each has leadership and volunteer rosters largely comprised of HG residents and are significantly sponsored by HG Marketing.

Diane Hender moved to HG with her husband Ray in 2005 from Massachusetts where she had served on nearly a dozen non-profit and charitable boards. Here she has continued her passion for volunteerism and leadership with several organizations, including eleven years with the local chapter of the American Red Cross with multiple stints as President. “I cannot stand by and do nothing,” says Diane. “And HG has an amazingly high concentration of talented and giving people.”

 

HG residents Diane Hender and David Vaughn at Embrace A Vet fundraiser

Embrace a Vet

Another non-profit organization with which Diane is involved is Embrace A Vet (EAV), founded in 2012 by the late Joy Johnson. Joy had recognized that the Veterans Administration was overwhelmed and veterans, specifically those suffering from the “invisible wounds” of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), were underserved.

“Maine has the third highest per capita number of veterans in the country, one of the highest ratios of veterans who served in the Gulf War, Iraq and/or Afghanistan, a large population of Vietnam veterans, and the need is great,” says Diane. She became involved with EAV when it was a fledgling organization and has become more and more involved over the years, and is now its President. “It is a very worthwhile organization,” she says.

EAV has grown into a comprehensive service organization providing “healthy healing environments, together with complementary therapies, buddy-to-buddy contact, learned self-care techniques, and on-going support.” It organizes Healing and Wellness Retreats, Caregiver Peer Support Groups, and Paws for Peace, which consists of 16 week training programs to pair affected veterans with trained service dogs.

Diane’s involvement with EAV is natural. She is from a military family. She served for five years with a suicide crisis organization. More recently, her son Taylor served two tours in Iraq as a combat medic. His duty included stints in Sadr City and other combat zones detonating unexploded Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s). He now works for the Army in a facility for collapsed building training.

Says Diane: “He was fortunate to come home in as good a shape as he did. He had support and understanding that many veterans do not. Becoming involved in EAV seemed like the rational thing for me to do.”

David Vaughn moved to HG all the way from Elverta, California with his wife Trish in 2016. “The reason that we are here is people; it is a community and what neighborhoods used to be like,” says David. “HG residents tend to do things together, but not as a herd. There are so many opportunities to pick and choose, and to connect with those with common backgrounds or interests.”

David was an Air Force Pilot with 1,800 hours of combat flight in the Vietnam War. He spent his 23rd, 24th and 26th birthdays in Southeast Asia and received several Air Medals including the Distinguished Cross. He went on to achieve the rank of Major, receive a Master’s Degree in English Literature, teach Wordsworth at the Air Force Academy, and be stationed in Japan, Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, Iceland, and Alaska.

“One does not spend time in a combat environment and come back unaffected,” says David. “One can develop a very thick callous, a façade. In the military one has a built-in support system with others that is not there afterwards. A common greeting to returning veterans these days is ‘Welcome Home.’ Veterans of the Vietnam era did not receive that.”

HG resident and MSC president Jim Wilkes

When he first heard about EAV after moving to HG, David was hesitant to get involved. He did not prefer the name and points out that in the military things were not exactly “warm and touchy-feely.” But after a while he decided to learn more. The more he found out about EAV the better he felt about it. He liked that it was a “boots on the ground effort to truly address real needs.”

David has become very engaged with the canine companion training program Paws for Peace. He has gravitated toward veterans of his own age group and the same conflict. He is especially proud of one Vietnam veteran who had not driven a car in nine years and drove himself to his Paws for Peace graduation. “It gives me joy to see the veterans open up,” he says.

The HG Community Center is not only the hub of resident activities; it is available for residents to schedule their own private functions. Sponsored by Diane Hender and fellow HG resident and EAV treasurer Bev Brown, the group now holds their board meetings here. They also hosted a Paws for Peace graduation.

At least fifteen HG residents are currently key EAV volunteers, including professionally trained counselors. HG Marketing sponsored EAV’s “Barn Party,” their largest annual fundraiser and auction, on June 17. HG resident rock band Off Their Rockers provided the entertainment and it was observed that one-quarter if not one-third of the nearly 210 organizers and attendees were HG residents.

 

Midcoast Senior College

HG’s location, while an oasis of natural beauty and community, is just a couple miles from the college town of Brunswick, home to one of the top-rated liberal arts institutions in the country, Bowdoin College. This is an attraction to HG. Many residents take advantage of what the college offers like its library, the museum, and discounted rates on auditing classes with faculty permission, through the Association of Bowdoin Friends. HG residents include alumni, a current lecturer, and the recent past Provost of the college.

For many the desire for lifelong learning is easily served through Midcoast Senior College (MSC), located two miles from HG. Highland Green resident Jim Wilkes took the position of President of MSC this year. And HG Marketing is a primary corporate sponsor.

Jim moved to HG from Ashland, Ohio in 2005. He has a degree in Zoology and was a school superintendent before working for an engineering firm as a facilities planner. Since moving to HG he has been involved in numerous volunteer activities and has travelled extensively. He loves fishing and nature photography. There may be no other single person who has spent more time on the immense Cathance River Nature Preserve at HG, and many of the nature and animal pictures you see on our website were taken by him.

“People at HG want to participate; they are not sitting back,” says Jim. “They can be as active as they want to be but without pressure. And the community can provide them solitude as well. But one thing never changes; people are friendly and invariably wave to each other.”

MSC was founded in 1999 and provides those aged 50 and above affordable college level courses in the humanities, social sciences, fine arts, and natural sciences in a more conversational atmosphere. Several HG residents have taught courses and many regularly attend them. Jim becomes President at an exciting and challenging time. “The community demands academic classes that stimulate them and MSC now provide 21 courses this semester alone.” He offers this paradox: “The good news is that we are growing; the bad news is that we are growing.”

“The majority of our current and potential HG residents desire opportunities for educational pursuits. The fact that Jim and so many others are engaged with MSC made it a natural fit for us to boost our sponsorship,” says HG Director of Marketing and Sales Will Honan.

MSC has had some relationships with more traditional retirement communities where they could host classes on site and enjoy a somewhat captive audience. With the growth of the college and the securing of its more permanent classroom space, MSC is looking to the future. As a 55+ Active Adult community, HG attracts a wide age range with people moving here in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and even halves of couples in their 40’s. “The HG community could potentially provide the bulk of MSC’s future needs and could be its de facto succession plan,” says Will.

 

Maine Maritime Museum

HG residents Nancy Wilkes and Cy Kendrick at the HG Restoration Pavilion

Jim Wilkes wife Nancy is Volunteer Coordinator for Maine Maritime Museum. Founded in 1962, it is a world class facility just a 15 minute drive from HG in the historic ship building city of Bath. It offers exhibits about Maine’s maritime heritage, culture and significant role in global maritime activities.

Over 50 HG residents volunteer at Maine Maritime, clearly the largest single cohort of helpers of the museum. They serve as docents, tour guides, board members, benefactors, and financial staff.

The Museum recently acquired the Mary E., the oldest Maine-built schooner still afloat and it will undergo an extensive restoration starting this year. HG Marketing is an exclusive sponsor. The HG Restoration Pavilion has been erected and several HG residents will be involved. This includes architect Joe Feely, who will be “taking the lines” of the vessel, which means measuring the key dimensions of the boat and taking them down to scale to eventually produce a blueprint. Other HG residents will be Mary E. docents who will be giving the pavilion tours and doing demonstrations of auguring and caulking.

HG’s affinity with Maine Maritime Museum was just one of the many “HG is meant to be” factors for Jim and Linda Amundsen from Middletown, Delaware, whose new HG home will be started this September. Jim, a supervisor of component and material testing at a nuclear power plant, has volunteered nearly 550 total hours during the building of a reproduction of the Kalmar Nyckel, a 17th century Dutch vessel. The new ship serves as a floating classroom and an inspirational centerpiece to stimulate interest in Delaware maritime history.

 

“Highland Green is everything that we could ever want,” says Jim. “We can’t get over it. Everyone we tell about it is extremely impressed. The more research we have done on other areas in the country, even after committing to HG, convinces us that it is absolutely one-of-a-kind.”

 

Jim Amundsen volunteering back in Delaware

The Amundsens stumbled upon HG by happy accident. “We had not planned on moving anywhere for at least five years,” says Jim. They were fairly comfortable in their big four bedroom house in Delaware on over an acre of property. Their three daughters were grown. They had, says Linda, “some passing thoughts, dreams, maybes, and ideas about whether or not we would live there forever.”

Chances were they would potentially move to Cape Cod. Both of them summered there as children. They had vacationed often there with their daughters. They were married there. Then last September they decided to take a vacation to Maine.

Says Linda: “On our second day at our waterfront rental in Harpswell, we took the ferry over to Monhegan Island to hike the trails and enjoy the scenery. It was a glorious late summer day, September 13, 2016, engraved in our minds forever, because that was the day fate rudely stepped in when I took a misstep on a trail and sprained my foot. Little did we know that our future was in the making that very moment. We didn’t know it yet but the love affair with Highland Green had just begun… a twist of fate?”

Back in Harpswell the next day, Linda decided to Google 55+ communities. She found Highland Green just a few miles away and they decided to take a quick ride over just to pick up a brochure. Arriving a minute before 1PM they were surprised to be greeted by Will Honan asking “if they were here for the event.”

They had fallen upon one of HG’s semiannual comprehensive marketing events; this one was called Highland Green Makes Financial Sense. It started with a very detailed presentation about cost of living, lower maintenance living through cooperative ownership, financial strength and stability of the HG community and residents’ capital reserves, and more. An hour long video of that presentation is available on our website under “Our Videos.”

Eight hours later the Amundsen’s had, says Linda: “received financial information, had lunch, were welcomed by many residents, learned about their backgrounds, saw homes, heard the resident rock band, had dinner at the Wild Duck Restaurant and Pub, and gone back to the office for a down-to-earth conversation with (marketing team member) Amber Grant. We were so impressed with the uniqueness of the community and the homes, the friendliness of the staff and residents, and the very detailed information. And the Pub was even serving Dogfish Head beer on tap from our home state of Delaware…another sign?

“Upon our return home, we could not stop thinking about and discussing our ‘blind date’ with HG. Friends of ours told us we were practically ‘gushing’ when we spoke about it. Four days later we reserved a home site and now we can custom build a home with the HG team and move in spring 2018.”

 

Jim adds: “If it wasn’t for the group of people that have the passion to promote Highland Green none of this would have been possible. For the staff at HG it is not just a job, but clearly a labor of love. In the number of 55+ communities I have visited I have not met a group of people so dedicated. Also, the current residents that so warmly have opened their homes to all new comers say a lot about the quality of people that are drawn to the HG family.”

The Amundsens made another special trip to HG to attend an impromptu event on January 21, 2017. Originally intended to show HG builder Dan White some recently finished homes, it morphed into an unforgettable day. It was filled with enjoyment and the building of lifelong friendships between HG staff, current residents, and future residents.

 

Highland Green House Tour

Six current HG households hosted a progressive tour with each stop catered by the Wild Duck. Five new couples who were already contracted to build HG homes starting in 2017 attended. HG Marketing staff officiated.

Wimberley Burton and Kathy Glennon from Haverhill, Massachusetts came that day, and their HG home starts this July. “It was so great to meet new friends. I wish I could blink my eyes and just be there,” says Kathy.

Linda and Ed Alperin came all the way from Cary, North Carolina for the gathering, and their HG home starts this fall. “The event was fantastic,” wrote Linda later. “It was above and beyond! We are still wrapping our heads around the fine caliber of the event, the generosity of our many hosts/ hostesses, the new friendships, and the unbelievable food. Highland Green is the place for us. We already knew that fact but that day cemented it!”

The evening culminated with dessert and coffee at HG residents Don and Judy Auten’s home and the HG Mannequin Challenge was filmed. You can watch it on the “Our Videos” section of our website. You will see an amazing group of people in perfect repose, plus Don and Judy’s spectacular kitchen and living room. The sense of neighborly ambience and joy is palpable.

The front cover photo of this issue of HG Lifestyle shows future HG residents (left to right) Michael and Theresa Green; Jean Foy and Rich Evans; Linda and Ed Alperin; and Linda and Jim Amundsen gathered in front of the Auten’s fireplace on that January day. They are all together for the first time.

An apropos quote by Irish poet W.B. Yeats has been making the rounds here lately and sums up much of what HG is about:

 

 

There are no strangers here; only friends you have not yet met.

 

 

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