By Alexander Germanis
(As written in the March 2022 Issue of 50 Plus News and View Magazine – Greater Peoria Area Edition)
As data from the last census poured in, one statistic surfaced that can boggle the mind: More people have been leaving quiet, small-town life behind and have been migrating to big cities.
While cities may provide many opportunities, anyone who has ever lived in or even just visited one knows a metropolis lacks many of the things small towns offer.
The geniality in a smaller community easily rivals that of the disconnected, disinterested denizens of the city. In these small towns and villages, the residents’ closeness to one another have little to do with how near their homes are from each other. In fact, a good small community is really like a family.
At Snyder Village in Metamora, that tightly knit, familial community is everything.
Marge Cunningham, Snyder Village Social Service Director, has been connected to the residents at Snyder Village for over 30 years. “I was hired in May of 1988 to set up both the activity and social service programs prior to Snyder Village Health Center opening in July 1988,” she recalls. “People like to say I came with the building!” As the staff worked to prepare the building for its initial inspection, Marge enlisted volunteers to help clean. “This is a great community and we had plenty of people helping with that.”
Since those early years, Marge has been assisting residents and their families get used to a new life at Snyder Village as well as helping temporary skilled nursing residents get back to their normal lives in the greater Metamora community.
As a community within a community, Snyder Village is also involved with the surrounding town through sponsorship of local events and building relationships with other small businesses in the area, as well as the schools and civic organizations.
For example, students from Metamora High School football and basketball teams have volunteered to do service projects for Snyder Village, while Germantown Hills Middle School Student Council has done yard work, and local Scout troops have played Bingo with the residents and participated in other activities.
“We’re thankful for the many individual volunteers who also come help by serving in our bistros, helping with activities, assisting with fundraising events, and much more,” shares Angela Kauffman, Snyder Village Marketing/Communications Director. “We have many residents who also give of their time and energy to volunteer in the Snyder Village community and surrounding area. Our own residents also volunteer on campus by greeting visitors, serving in our bistros, delivering meals, and much more. Many residents are active in our local community serving in their churches, civic organizations, and community groups.”
The love for the community goes back to Snyder Village’s namesake, Bertha Snyder. Her charitable gift laid the foundation for Snyder Village, which, to this day, is governed by a board of directors from the local area who have a committed interest in the wellbeing of the community.
A Family Affair
The basic unit of any community is the family, even when that community is as small as Snyder Village. After decades of service there, Marge and her husband, Mark, believed in the mission of Snyder Village so much, they recently became fulltime residents of its community.
“Mark was actively looking for just the right cottage for us, but I had put in a few requests, like being able to see the countryside from some of our windows,” Marge says. “We had lived in the same home in Washington for 40 years and while we had good neighbors, the homes in our area were very close to one another. When this cottage at Snyder Village became available, we felt like it was a good time. This is our place to call home!”
The Snyder Village mission of committing to provide for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people in a loving, dignified, and Christian atmosphere is carried on to other members of Marge’s family as well.
“My mom moved into an apartment here five years ago,” Marge reveals. “She lived alone after my father died and was responsible for seeing that the lawn got mowed, the snow got shoveled, and had to arrange for any repairs needed at the house. So, she talked to me about moving to Snyder.”
After exploring the differences between cottage and apartment living, Marge’s mother chose the latter, so even in bad weather, she would have access to activities and meals. “She is able to visit with her neighbors and not have to go out in the snow or rain,” Marge says. “If something needs fixing, help is just a phone call away. She says it’s the best decision she ever made.”
This is a decision with which two other mother/daughter pairs on campus can empathize. Marge and her mother are just one of three multiple generation families who call Snyder Village home.
Snyder Village wouldn’t exist or function as a home, of course, without the efforts of its staff – men and women who are themselves as much a part of the community as the residents. The Snyder Village team is, in its way, a family taking care of families.
Currently, they are looking to add to their family as well. Hiring is now open for several different positions.
Main Street, USA
Something that has, unfortunately, gone by the wayside over the last few decades is the small-town main street. For a very long time it was common for businesses owners to live above their workplace or at least within a few minutes of it. At Snyder Village, however, Marge is still able to keep that main street feeling alive.
“It’s really nice to live so close to work,” she admits. “This fall I was able to ride my bicycle to work for the first time. I know that if I need to run into the office for a brief task, it won’t take long to get there and get back home.”
Never being far from her family makes it infinitely better. With her mother living at Snyder Village, spending time together is as simple now as it was when Marge was a kid. “We have always made time to do things together but now it’s even easier!” Marge elates. We’re looking forward to doing some walking back and forth between the cottage and the apartment when the weather is nice this spring/summer.”
Proximity is of vital importance when it comes to emergencies as well. Living and working at Snyder Village means Marge is personally able to check in on her mother even during a break. “As time goes by,” she adds, “I know if she needs more help or needs to move on to assisted living or even skilled nursing, it’s all available here.”
Marge is not alone when it comes to melding work and home into the same environment. Her husband has been volunteering at Snyder Village since Marge started working there. “Mark has enjoyed helping at the sausage and pancake breakfast different years. He’s been able to do more volunteer work since he retired and delivered meals out in the community over the summer,” she shares. “He brought donuts to the staff in the Health Center to cheer us up after COVID hit. We try to support different programs throughout the campus like sponsoring Brian ‘Fox’ Ellis to do an Irish history story telling in 2019 and donating towards the garden remodel at the front of the Health Center, which is happening this spring.”
Of course, it’s not all work for the Marge and Mark Cunningham. Living on campus also means meeting their new neighbors, forging new friendships, and joining some of the programs and retirement community activities.
Labor of Love
Just as with any strong community, Snyder Village has not achieved such success without a lot of determination. Keeping residents connected with each other and their families requires constant effort. Whether through virtual chats, phone calls, special activities, or safe, in-person visits, their sense of community is built as they socialize with one another during activities, parties, religious services, exercise classes, and entertainment opportunities.
That effort is exemplified by every member of the Snyder Village community. And like the town which Snyder Village calls home, it is much greater than the sum of its parts. As Angela attests, “The relationships among the residents, their families, and the team of Snyder Village employees truly make our community one big family.”
Snyder Village is located at 1200 East Partridge Street in Metamora, Illinois. To learn more about us or to apply for one of our open positions, please call us at (309) 367-4300 or visit us on the web at www.snydervillage.com.