December 2020 Newsletter | *Special Edition*
December Spotlight -- Sponsored by The Academy of Irish Dance
For the past four months, we've been sharing the stories of our members and volunteers through our series "A Village Connection." We've featured volunteers and members who go above and beyond--some of whom also call themselves neighbors and friends.

As we begin to wrap up the year, we wanted to share a special edition of this series, highlighting the neighbors and friends whose tenacity and commitment formed Village Connections, the first Village in central Ohio.
A Village Connection...Where it All Began: Janet Druen & Ed Elberfeld
Janet (far left) and Ed (far right) pictured at a 2018 Village Connections fundraiser.

Ed sets the scene, “At the time, many different committees…were doing the bulk of the work in German Village, which the German Village Society Board would act on." Janet—who has an MA in the History of Dance and performed and taught—served several terms on the board, and was heavily involved in the restoration of Schiller Park, getting street lights, and planting and preserving trees. After these achievements, Janet decided to take some time to step back from the organization. Ed, on the other hand, was teaching and very dedicated to his students. It wasn’t until he retired that he would be able to get involved in the community. 

During her time away, Janet had read a New York Times article about Beacon Hill, the first Village in the United States. She had sensed a void in her community and this seemed to hold an answer. All around her were people just like her—professionals who had moved far away from family for work, who were growing older. After carrying a worn copy of the article around with her, unable to find others who shared her vision, Janet decided to come back to the Long Range Planning Committee with a new goal.

Newly retired, Ed also began attending Committee meetings. Carolyn McCall of the Long Range Planning Committee had seen the same void as Janet, and the committee jumped on the idea. And just like that, they were off!

Ed had seen the challenges aging friends had experienced first-hand. He lead a survey gauging community interest in the Village concept, discovering a wealth of

(Above: Ed and Katie White, the first Executive Director of Village Connections in 2014)

resources that had been in German Village all along—neighbors who worked for the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging or studied gerontology.
He says the ground was fertile, as people in German Village were “used to being involved and doing things for the community.”

While the German Village Society supported the idea of a Village, with different missions, it became clear that for this Village to work, a separate nonprofit would need to be created. Attorney Amy Borman rose to the challenge, offering to secure a 501(c)(3) status for the Village pro-bono. As an idea started to become reality, Ed was asked to take this project on. While he’s quick to mention everyone who supported him, Janet says “He was the legs.”

(Right: Janet and Ed pictured with the first Village Connections members, Bob & Carol Mullinax, in 2014) 

Ed was adamant that an Executive Director for Village Connections couldn’t be hired until they had at least a year’s salary. Janet’s solution was “Elberfest”: a ticketed event hosted by the Elberfeld’s—Ed and his wife Barb. With this event and several additional essential donors, they had the resources they needed.

Initially, it was envisioned that Village Connections would have three legs: a social element, volunteers, and qualified service providers. However, they quickly discovered that there was less of a need for service providers and a much greater need for community than they had realized. Ed says there was soon a “contagion”—everyone wanted to be a part of Village Connections or have their own Village. An early supporter had conducted surveys and equations, determining that for Village Connections to succeed, there would need to be a broader scope than just German Village. They decided upon several contingent areas: Merion Village, Schumacher Place, the Brewery District, and part of downtown.

(Left: Ed and his wife Barb preparing to deliver mums to members in partnership with the German Village Garten Club, 2020)

Janet says “it was amazing who [the Village concept] attracted…the resources were already here.” While she claims she “didn’t do anything but walk in with passion”, Ed attributes Janet’s gravitas and long-time

community involvement as being crucial to getting Village Connections started. Janet says “So much is timing…it was just about having the legs, the asker.” 

When asked about the future of Village Connections, Ed envisions a Village in every neighborhood, pointing out that studies show that institutional facilities aren’t working. Janet pictures alternative living arrangements like house-sharing—older adults sharing a home with access to professional providers. “My girlfriends have already divvied up my house” she jokes.
Ed stresses that even more important than aging in their homes, "...older adults want to age in a community." Both Ed and Janet hope that as time goes on, there will be more and more opportunities for the larger community to support Village Connections.
Although we couldn't all be together this year, we were grateful for the opportunity to be able to provide members who chose to participate with a traditional turkey dinner delivered to their door on Thanksgiving!

Look out for more special deliveries this holiday season, as we continue to find creative ways to stay connected, active, and independent.
Board President Kim Cowie delivering turkey dinners from Valter's to members on Thanksgiving
A warm welcome to our newest Social Members Edward Searle of HER Realty & Byron Tuttle, Rochelle & Alan Rosen, Barbara & Phillip Derrow, Stephanie & David Connor, newest Volunteers Maggie Maher, Dustin Speakman, Jennifer Brehm, and Kathyrn & Tom Brod, and newest Business Partner The Academy of Irish Dance!
The safety of our members is our number one priority. All events, in-person meetings, and group activities (including Walking Club) are currently on hold at the recommendation of the Ohio Department of Health and in accordance with Mayor Ginther's "Stay At Home" Advisory.

We will continue to monitor the situation carefully. Volunteers will keep providing essential services on an individual basis.
Village Connections wishes you a safe and happy holiday season however you choose to celebrate!
We encourage everyone to pick up the phone and see how your neighbor or a friend is doing. A little conversation can go a long way!
If you shop on Amazon or at Kroger, be sure
to link your account to support Village Connections!

Have you considered a gift to Village Connections in your Estate Planning?

Village Connections
588 S. 3rd Street
Columbus, OH 43215

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Village Connections · 588 South Third Street · Columbus, OH 43215 · USA

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