February 24, 2016 // Local

Building a culture of generosity at Saint Anne Communities

Henrietta Parrot has been a volunteer at Saint Anne Communities for 50 years.

By Amber Sewell

FORT WAYNE — Henrietta Parrot sits in an oversized leather recliner in the Rehab Suites at Saint Anne’s. At 97 years young, she shares some of her most notable memories spanning 50 years of involvement with Saint Anne Communities. Having been present for the groundbreaking ceremonies in 1966, she is truly part of Saint Anne’s foundation. “I remember it was kind of a nice day, right out there in the yard,” Parrot recalled. “I felt so excited that it was going to be built here in Fort Wayne. There were a lot of people who wanted it built outside of town. This woman, Geneva Davidson, left a lot of money for a home for the aging and handicapped, and there was a great need for it here.”

As a member of the Marians, an organization of women from Catholic Charities, Parrot started serving as a regular volunteer at Saint Anne’s shortly after the doors opened. She served as the first activity director before such a position existed.

Her pale blue eyes sparkle as they gaze out the window into the snow-speckled courtyard and she recalls events she hasn’t thought of in decades.

“That year at Christmas, we brought in the first Christmas tree, the lights, the trimmings, everything,” she said. “My husband brought it in and set it up to the right of the fireplace out there. There were seven people who were residents here at that time. They were so thrilled with the tree they all huddled around it. It was a real Christmas. You see, they didn’t know they would have one.”

She described Saint Anne’s as having been “still in the rough. This was a new experience for the whole city. There really wasn’t such a thing as a home for the aging at that time.” She deftly recalled establishing routines, “… crafts on Tuesdays, BINGO on Wednesdays, tea on Thursdays. It was a great thing … the place was really humming. On Tuesdays I always had a project for them. We would make things, like grade school kids do, but they loved it. One day we made a picture of flowers in a flowerpot with paint and construction paper. I remember one lady was so proud of hers, that her family had it framed for her and she brought it back to show me. It was just darling. She told me, ‘I just love this. I was so busy raising children that I didn’t have time for anything like this.’”

She chuckles at the story, remembering that the simplest pleasures often bring the most joy.

In January 2016, after nearly 50 years of giving her time and energy to countless residents of Saint Anne’s, Parrot found herself hospitalized after a fall in her home.

“I had to be taken care of. I couldn’t walk,” she said.

From the hospital, she came to The Rehab Suites at Saint Anne’s: an opportunity for her to be the recipient of a culture of care that she helped establish.

“Everyone here is exceptionally nice,” Parrot said. “They try to please you for everything. They treat you so kind, and like you belong to them. It’s remarkable.”

A long-time parishioner of Fort Wayne’s Queen of Angels Catholic Church, Parrot credits her longevity and good health to having a strong faith as well as to her upbringing, “I was raised to be kind to people and to never let anyone go hungry,” Parrot said. “If someone came into our yard my father would invite them in to eat, whether we had enough food or not.”

Her parents taught that everyone was owed kindness and gentleness, especially older people. Her mother had cared for her parents since Parrot was a young girl. At that time it was traditional for the youngest child to care for the aging parents.

“It seemed like it was born in us that we were to be taking care of somebody,” she said.

Parrot jests that she’s “made a hobby out of being a busy lady.” Along with the great amount of time she spent with the residents at Saint Anne’s, she also served on the Women’s Guild at Queen of Angels, the Mother’s Club at Central Catholic High School (where her children attended), volunteered at St. Joseph Hospital, and co-founded the Senior Women’s Golf Association at Shoaff Park. At this recollection, she smiles amusingly. “You know something, I never played a game of golf in my life before that, but once I started I think it helped keep me young.” Parrot enjoyed playing golf well into her 80s.

Saint Anne Communities have expanded enormously since that first Christmas, but a piece of Henrietta Parrot’s spirit is within the foundation. “I have a little motto,” she said brightly, “everybody needs a little hug at least once a day.” Her spirit of love and generosity continues to grow within the walls.

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