JoAnne Whicker earned a key to Grand Forks after her work on the veteran section of the cemetery, and now she has a new project: giving the residents of Maples in Heritage Grove a place to experience fresh air.
Whicker, a lifelong resident of East Grand Forks, moved into Maples after her husband, Stanley, died in August 2018, the day before they were supposed to move into Maples together. There, she said she found everything she needed except for one thing.
“You get done with lunch, you go upstairs and watch TV, and watch TV, and watch TV,” she said. “We’ve gotta have a place where we can go out and sit.”
To rectify this problem, Whicker spearheaded what had been a conversation topic among Maples residents: build an outside space where seniors could enjoy the weather. The planned patio is going to be on the green space to the right of the entrance to Maples. The pavilion space will be 14-by-18 feet with colored concrete surrounding it. It will be hooked up to electricity.
Cost is the main barrier to the project, with three phases costing a total of about $49,000. Phase 1, which Whicker said she hopes to begin as soon as possible, will cost nearly $27,000. The Good Samaritan Society, of which Heritage Grove is a part, is a nonprofit and after a water line break during the winter, the society does not have much in the way of funds to offer to the project.
Whicker is seeking donors to give a tax-deductible donation to the project. Currently, she has raised about $7,000.
Unlike residents of Pines and Oaks, Maples residents do not have a patio where they can enjoy the sun, air and community. There is a small patio in the back. However, it faces the back of the building rather than the front of the building, which Michaun Shetler said is very important to the residents.
“The residents don’t want to see the back of the building of the backyard .... Residents want the view of the comings and goings of the community,” said Shetler, who is the executive manager of Heritage Grove. “They want to be able to visit as people pass through.”
The limited number of chairs available at the front of the building, which Whicker said the residents appreciate, are also insufficient.
“When I got here, I wanted to go outside and the chairs were filled,” Whicker said. “So, I waited and waited until someone came in, but it takes a long time.”
The planned pavilion will provide a safe and accessible way for residents to enjoy the outdoors without worrying about overcrowding the sidewalk or being the welcome committee for any first responders who often come to the building.
One time, a resident set up a folding chair in the driveway, feet from the existing chairs, and “the first responders just about ran over her,” Whicker said. “There’s not enough room.”
The pavilion will have a roof to provide shade for residents who want it, and the electricity will be used to give power to oxygen machines and other life-saving devices residents may use.
Whicker said she hopes that the space can be decorated for the holidays and be used for celebrations and performances once it has been built.
Whicker also started the veterans’ project in the Grand Forks Memorial Park in 2015, which led to the straightening of headstones and a new monument. Of about $16,800 that she raised for the project, the leftover $8,000 went to a fund so the American Legion can maintain the cemetery.
“It was not long ago, so she’s ready for a new project,” Shetler said.
Whicker said she has confidence that comes partially from the success of her previous project. For Whicker, there’s only one possible outcome: “It’s gonna get done.”