The COVID-19 pandemic affected Hoosier Village Retirement Community, near Zionsville, like many other senior communities, causing it to shutter its doors and take unprecedented action to protect its residents.
Meanwhile, the retirement community’s staff was called on not only to care for residents but also to be their only line of support as families, friends and loved ones were barred from entering the facility.
In response, Hoosier Village’s approximately 650 residents commissioned three artists to carve a sculpture in honor of its more than 200 staff members and their commitment to the residents during the pandemic. The statue was unveiled Oct. 15 and is meant to serve as a lasting reminder of the dedication the staff has shown for more than 18 months.
Hoosier Village Arts Council Chair Ginger Bievenour, an artist who has participated in the Indiana Limestone Symposium, an annual event at Bybee Stone Co. in Ellettsville, contacted Bloomington-based artist Amy Brier, who, along with John Fisher of California and Sharon Fullingim of New Mexico, co-created the sculpture during this year’s symposium in July.
The three carved the sculpture out of Indiana limestone, and they began the commissioned piece not knowing what the final product would look like.
“We knew the theme and that it would be figurative,” Brier stated. “We started carving, and after removing about 30 percent of the stone, we collaboratively decided what the figures would be. It’s like finding shapes in the clouds.”
The artists finished the sculpture in 2 1/2 weeks. The piece, “In the Time of COVID,” consists of three stones, the tallest of which is approximately 8 feet. One stone depicts an exhausted health care worker, and another depicts four figures providing care. The third is filled with birds, which the artists say symbolize hope and life after the pandemic.
On Oct. 15, the sculpture arrived on a flatbed truck and was placed by a crane on a concrete pad near the intersection of Hoosier Village and Cherryleaf drives. Hoosier Village officials and residents later conducted a dedication ceremony and reception at the site.
Maria Blake, a member of the Hoosier Village Arts Council and chair of the resident council, said the sculpture provided residents “an overwhelming sense of satisfaction to be able to have something that honors staff,” calling what the staff has done in the past 18 months “superhuman.”
“I think that for those of us who live in independent housing, we had a lot more independence,” Blake said. “But for people who lived in the apartments, where they were locked down for months and didn’t have anyone able to visit them and they weren’t able to go out, the staff really kept their spirits up, checked on everybody, made sure no one was sliding into depression.”
Blake said the retirement community’s staff “did whatever it took to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible, and we residents wanted to publicly say ‘thank you.’”
“Thanking people isn’t always about money or things,” Blake said. “Sometimes, just having something there where people who are coming in the morning or leaving in the afternoon can say, ‘This community values me.’”
Remembering those who were lost
Don MacPherson, who, along with his wife, has been a resident at Hoosier village for 11 years, returned from a trip to Florida on March 10, 2020. He and his wife went grocery shopping the next day, and by that Thursday, businesses, schools and other organizations were locking down. Among those was Hoosier Village.
“We felt very safe, very secure, very well cared for,” MacPherson said. “There was excellent communication from the administration to let us know so many people had attracted the virus. We needed to stay in, and we stayed in for probably a full year. But then it started to loosen up.”
Although MacPherson said he “was never worried at any point,” he did lose two friends to COVID-19, and the retirement community did not go unscathed. To date, Hoosier Village has reported 20 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the Indiana State Dept. of Health.
Mindy Kantz, executive director of Hoosier Village, said staff was dedicated to a COVID-19 unit in the early months of the pandemic.
“A lot of people really early on, without knowing what we were dealing with, were fearless and did whatever needed to be done,” Kantz said. “And on the back end of it, when the vaccines were coming out, our staff again did a very good job of doing what needed to be done.”
As of Oct. 15, Kantz said 92 percent of Hoosier Village’s staff and 96 percent of its residents were fully vaccinated.