The residents of Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge tend to be busy, active, creative people – and those are qualities that don’t just disappear upon retirement.
Once they move in, they tend to stay busy, applying their energies and talents to voluntary activities that shape the world around them. And sometimes, that involves making their world more beautiful.
Barbara Castelli is one of those people who stay busy making a difference. She was one of a couple of dozen women who pitched in earlier this year to make more than 700 surgical masks to protect associates and residents from the coronavirus. She still uses two of those masks, which are washable.
Barbara also serves on the WCBR Health Committee, and pitches in by working shifts at the gift shop, which has just recently reopened. She was very involved with hospice in New Jersey before she came to Charlottesville, so occasionally she helps out with that here, when there is a special event such as the 5k.
But the most obvious way she affects WCBR day in and day out is as chair of the Flower Decorating Committee.
Have you ever noticed the spectacular arrangements in the main lobby of Westminster? How about those that appear at the entrance to the main dining hall? They don’t appear there by magic, but through the efforts of Barbara and the 12-14 others in her group.
This is one group activity that was in no way impeded by COVID, because of the way the committee works. Social distancing is built into the process, as the members generally take turns doing the job alone, although sometimes with a partner – especially if there’s a new committee member learning the routine.
Every Thursday evening, a big tub of flowers – all kinds, all mixed together – are delivered to WCBR by a florist. The committee members never know what the florist will bring – “It’s his choice,” says Barbara. “We have no idea what flowers are coming; we have to use our imaginations.”
The committee member on the schedule for that week then applies her creativity to what she has to work with, and taking steps to make the flowers last. They put them in water, and angle-cut them so they can take up moisture better.
The things they do really work, because when the week is up, and it’s time to put a new arrangement in the lobby, the flowers still look great. So committee members rearrange them, removing any that have wilted, and move the revamped display to a large table outside the dining hall.
When another week has passed, the person who was responsible for putting that arrangement together cleans up, to make way for the next colorful display.
“The flowers are always beautiful, and always inviting as people come in,” Barbara says. The committee gets a lot of nice comments from people who praise their handiwork.
The committee was particularly determined to keep the public spaces at WCBR looking spectacular this year, since this is Westminster’s 30th anniversary. Beyond that, a part of their mission always been to mark special occasions – they create holiday-themed arrangements throughout the year.
Barbara has been doing this since she first arrived at WCBR three years ago. She had lived mostly in New Jersey over the years. But after her husband passed away, and she had a serious fall, “I decided I’d better do something,” and discovered Westminster.
Here, she has all she needs. She doesn’t drive, but one of her daughters lives just 10 minutes away, and helps get her to anywhere she needs or wants to go. It’s a great arrangement, and “I’m very happy here.”
And ever since she got here, she’s been helping make the place more beautiful. “I signed up right away,” she says. “This is what I want to do.”
And anyone who walks into the lobby and sees her group’s handiwork is glad that she does it.