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Café Makes for Meaningful Memories

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by Lisbeth Dodd

Former Red Sox pitcher, Bill Lee and Jeremy Carpenter of the Montpelier Memory Café. Photo courtesy of Montpelier Senior Activity Center.
Former Red Sox pitcher, Bill Lee and Jeremy Carpenter of the Montpelier Memory Café. Photo courtesy of Montpelier Senior Activity Center.

MONTPELIER — The Memory Café has been a wonderful place to go during the last year. Dementia is understood there, it’s accepted, not feared, and need not be explained; and the organizers celebrate abilities, build foundations for enjoyment, and understand what kinds of activities will work well for the participants. “My father can have a good time, but for me, it’s been nice to get to know others dealing with similar issues,” says Barbara Gefvert Gramuglia of Berlin.

Last January’s ice storm didn’t chill the spirits of hardy participants at the first Memory Café. Having performed then, Eric Friedman and Gretchen Doilon, are hoping for better weather when they will once again be guests, for the one-year anniversary café to be held Saturday, Jan. 10. Starting at 10 a.m., the Café is free, open to the public, and includes refreshments. These Saturday monthly cafes are for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related memory disorders. A care partner should accompany each participant.

Over 30 other guest presenters have offered diverse programming from poetry and flower arranging, to board games, and exercise demonstrations and Irish harp tunes to a ukulele ensemble. Forced indoors to its home base at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center, located at 48 Barre Street, a planned picnic with guests Red Sox pitcher, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, and Mountaineers General Manager, Brian Gallagher, was still a huge hit with café fans. (Potential guest presenters/performers are encouraged to contact the café.)

Since opening, over 350 visitors have enjoyed the café, with participants coming from Montpelier, Berlin, and other neighboring communities, and their family and friends visiting from New York, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. When started, the Montpelier Memory Café was only the second in Vermont, and individuals from other communities hoping to start their own Café have visited and gained assistance from the Montpelier group.

As a community-based initiative, the café is organized by a steering committee composed of people whose lives have been affected by dementia. A goal is for participants to help guide the direction of the Montpelier Memory Café, and is being realized. Ellen Sholk, volunteer and steering committee member, expressed these sentiments, “The Memory Café provides a fun and enriching environment where my mother and I can enjoy conversation, entertainment and refreshments together. People there know her and greet her with warmth and enthusiasm when she arrives. We look forward to each café and have attended almost every one in the past year!”

For further information contact Lisbeth Dodd, 229-9630, or visit the Montpelier Memory Café website. http://sympavt.wix.com/montpeliermemorycafe.

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