GERRY – Over 100 members of the Heritage Ministries staff, along with residents and invited guests, were on hand Tuesday afternoon for a special recognition ceremony for the recently opened Homestead Stables.
Heritage’s Equestrian Facility, located on Damon Hill Rd. in Gerry, is the recipient of the 2019 Innovation of the Year Award from LeadingAge New York, which recognizes elderly care programs that stand out because of their ground-breaking creativity, vision, success, and ability to replicate.
Heritage President and CEO David Smeltzer said Homestead Stables opened in December as part of an effort to utilize available space and local history to create a unique equestrian program.
“We had a lot of property and were trying to figure out how to best improve our facilities and improve the services we provide to our residents and thought, ‘well, we live in the country. Why not tie in our programs with our roots in the country and the Gerry Rodeo.’ So this equestrian center was born as an idea and after about three years came to life,” Smeltzer explained.
Smeltzer adds that since opening, the center has not only helped residents at Heritage Ministries but is also used by outside community groups.
“We have programs for the residents where they learn about horses, horse behaviors and horse breeds. We also have programs where our residents get on horses and ride. We had one resident riding in the Gerry Memorial Day parade,” Smeltzer said. “But it’s also a way to try and reach out to the community. A lot of kids come for lessons – whether it be for IEA, horse, shows, competitions, or just to become a better rider. We’ve also got a lot of folks who board their horses here and those who rent our horses. So its sort of a creative way to provide for our residents and our community.”
The program has proven so successful in a short period of time that it was nominated for LeadingAge New York’s annual Innovation Award and received word that it would be the recipient of the award last month.
LeadingAge of New York is a statewide organization representing over 600 continuing care service organizations dedicated to assisting seniors. CEO Jim Clyne made the trip from Albany to Gerry on Tuesday to present the award. He told WRFA that acknowledging and highlighting programs like Homestead Stables helps to inspire other assisted living centers around the state to develop their own enrichment programming.
“Everybody knows we have an aging population as the baby boomers go into their 70s and soon they’ll be approaching their 80s. Innovation, new programs and different ways of engaging seniors and serving that population are really the future of aging services. So every year we offer one or two innovation awards to our non profit members,” Clyne said.
For more information on Heritage Ministries visit www.Heritage1886.org.