Rose Toti is uniquely familiar with the building she now calls home, and the building’s original residents—the Sisters of Providence (SPs). In fact, she was an honored guest invited to both the Grand Opening of Providence Place in 1999 and its 20th Anniversary Celebration in 2019!
An Associate of the Sisters of Providence, Rose enjoys a special relationship with the Congregation. In the past she would come to the building—formerly known as Providence Mother House—to attend special events and visit with the Sisters and Associates. Living alongside several Sisters now, she says, is just one of many benefits of living at Providence Place.
Born in Springfield, Rose attended the SPs’ Mercy Hospital School of Nursing and worked at Mercy Hospital for 30 years. She and her husband raised two children while living in West Springfield. Widowed in 1998, she planned to move to Providence Place when she turned 80, but “didn’t want to leave Agawam. I was very active and involved” with numerous groups including St. Ann’s Society in West Springfield, the Over 60 Club in Agawam, the Agawam Catholic Women’s Club, and the Mercy Alumni Association. Then came COVID-19.
“The virus did it,” Rose explained. “I was stuck at home. I am very social! I looked around my condo and saw all the work that needed to be done—like painting, the floors.” It was time. She moved on July 28, 2020. “I feel like I have been here forever. It is worry-free; it’s great! They call it Independent living,” she says, “but actually they keep an eye on you.”
Her family is happy too. “My grandson helped me move. He said, ‘Noni, I snuck into the library and they have some great books!’ My grandkids used to take me to old bookstores all the time. I love books.” Now Rose helps out in the library with another resident, Pat Gagnon (featured below) . “Pat saw me in there and asked if I could help out,” she explained. “If you are a reader, like me, being in the library is something you look forward to.”
Keeping active and learning new things remain important to Rose. She recently decided to try painting. “It’s a challenge,” she noted. “The people in the class are very good. But you never know, I get to spend an hour and a half learning something new!”
Rose looks forward to the time when she will feel comfortable to travel and hug her family again, but for now she feels connected with phone calls, letters and cards—and her new family at Providence Place.
Sally Mathieu has known about Providence Place’s excellent reputation for a long time. “I am a native Holyoker,” she says. “And I never heard a bad word about Providence Place.”
Widowed last March, Sally initially thought she would be fine living alone in her former apartment. She had friends in the building and was a regular volunteer at the Holyoke Senior Center. Still, she felt lonely. “It was a different climate there,” she explained, “because most of the people work and I felt pretty isolated. I’m a social butterfly! I knew about the wonderful comradery at Providence Place and that is why I always knew I would come here.”
And furthermore, she knew just who to call—Laurie Hoey, Marketing Director at Providence Place. “I have known Laurie since she was a little girl. Laurie’s mom and I are longtime friends—we went to school together,” Sally said. “Laurie is the perfect front-line person to talk to when you consider a place like this. She is thorough and thoughtful and always gets back to you.”
“From the day I got here,” she added, “everything was done right. The maintenance crew had everything all set up before I moved in. Where else can you find that?”
A retired nurse, Sally has always been active and she plans to remain that way. “When I retired it was like, ‘Okay, what do I do know?’” So, in addition to taking care of her mother during the end stages of a medical issue, Sally began to volunteer administering flu shots. She also taught billiards, for women, gave tours, and worked the front desk on Fridays at the Holyoke Senior Center. She loved it all. “People would come into the Center lonely,” she noted, adding that they might even live with family but were oftentimes alone during the day while others worked. She was drawn to Providence Place for the spirit of companionship and friendship.
Sally’s two daughters are happy knowing she is thriving in her new home. “Plus,” Sally added, “the idea of having my meals prepared for me—not having to go the grocery store, having everything all-inclusive is very appealing.” Continuing, she said, “Everyone is wonderful and so nice here! When you first come, you are assigned a Resident host, and they check on you every day. If you have any issue, the host knows who to call. You are never alone.”
Millie Leroux says, “I won’t lie. It was a big adjustment coming from a big home” to apartment living here at Providence Place. She and her husband Al, married for 40 years, have happy memories of their courtship days and their earlier homes, first in Hawaii and more recently in Ocala, Florida. Now, after downsizing from that big home and settling into life at Providence Place—all is good.
The couple said they came away from their first look at Providence Place feeling they couldn’t afford to live here. When asked why they felt that way, Millie replied, “Simply because they offered so much.”
Their daughter suggested that instead of making that assumption they take a look at their living costs over the previous two years. Taking that advice, they reviewed every cost they could think of related to maintaining their home. Those included homeowners’ insurance, real estate taxes, utility bills, the costs incurred for regular home maintenance, necessary repairs, property updates, and lawn services.
Armed with that knowledge, and learning further that Providence Place apartments are not priced uniformly but by square footage—they were in!
“I fell in love with our apartment the minute I walked in; I was just amazed when I saw the size of the kitchen. They’ve given us much more than we expected, they bend over backwards really. I don’t know how anyone could expect anything more.” Continuing, she added, “If you want a nail in the wall, they are here to do it. The activities and meals are wonderful. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Al added, “When it snows they clean off your car and if you have an early morning appointment they bring the car around the front of the building for you. They people are so friendly. Everyone I meet says, ‘If you need any help, just give me a call.’”
As a widow Doris Latulippe spent five years living alone in the house she and her husband once shared. Looking back, she says, that while her daughter and son-in-law were generous in helping her keep her home up to snuff, it simply got to be “too much.” It was time for her to “to move on.”
Relatively new to living at Providence Place, Doris says she has found the other residents “very friendly, and the staff as well.”
Explaining, “Everyone helps each other out.” And, as far as the amenities go—“There are beautiful tablecloths and real flowers in the dining room, and beautiful gardens. No matter what goes wrong, they are there for you. The chapel you can’t help but love” and “there are so many activities” you need to use your own discretion as to what to take part in. “Even though you get to see the program calendar before you move in here,” she added, “it is not until you live here that you appreciate how many activities there truly are. Then there is the fact that, the washing machines are free, not coin operated. And you can’t beat the security.”
Though her apartment has a full kitchen, she does “very little cooking now. I love the fish here, especially the salmon. If on occasion there is something on the daily menu I don’t feel like having there are always enough other menu choices to choose from. I have no complaints at all.”
She closed with, “It was a big move but only took me about a week living here to break loose and begin enjoying it. Not sorry I made the move. We are all treated well, with respect, so it’s very nice. I just love it, love it, love it.”
To the question “What brought you to Providence Place?” resident Eileen Romani has a two-word answer—“My children.” She went on to explain. “My children are good to me. I was comfortable (with) living alone—but they weren’t. Being at Providence Place,” she says, “gives them peace of mind.” It’s a peace she feels they deserve. “They have their houses, their kids, their lives to live.”
What does she especially like about living here? “They offer varied meals and everyone is so friendly.” Eileen doesn’t seem to miss routinely shopping for groceries or preparing the majority of her meals, either.
At dinnertime she finds it “…more diverse and interesting to sit with different people each night.” She’ll go “up to a group” and ask if they have a “full table.” With that approach, she says, “You get to meet and know more people. I don’t mind eating alone, either,” she adds. “I’m very comfortable here.”
Eileen is a woman with a number of interests. “I have enough,” she admits. She knits, paints, draws, reads and takes the Tai Chi sessions Providence Place offers.
She also assists in the Sisters’ chapel as a Eucharistic minister filling in for the sacristan in her absence. She says it is important “to stay responsible” for something, and her commitments give her that responsibility. With Mass being at 8:30 a.m. it requires Eileen “to get up and get ready. If you don’t have a responsibility” she advises, “you might be tempted to stay in bed.”
She says Providence Place has a jam-packed event and activities calendar for residents to participate in, yet at the same time “…is quiet and peaceful.” Residents have the choice of what they want or don’t want to do, or be involved in. “If you want a day to be alone to take care of things you can be alone. What you do is up to you.”
“It’s all good,” she says at the end.
Providence Place has a homelike feeling.
Moving isn’t always easy, however, the staff willingly lifts that burden from your shoulders.
Unlike some who have lived in the area for most of their life, I was a newcomer to this part of Massachusetts. The sweet and kindhearted employees are here to walk you through the steps of getting acclimated and help you feel a part of this wonderful community.
I now cherish the friends I have made and hope to meet more.
If you are one who likes your privacy, that opportunity is here as well. We have lots of activities—both indoors and out—and magnificent grounds for those who are walkers like me. It’s all here for you to enjoy. Wait ‘till you see our flower gardens bursting forth in the spring and summer!
What sets Providence Place apart from other similar facilities is its personal touch.
Frances Thompson has a long history with the Providence Place building—dating back to its prior time as Providence Mother House when her late sister, Gertrude, was Sister of Providence Marie Thaddeus.
When asked how she feels about living here now, she says, “It’s a dream coming true.”
She said when in the late 90s her sister told her that the Sisters of Providence were planning to transition their Mother House into the Providence Place retirement community, she joined her sister in attending the focus groups the Sisters had on the project. From what she heard at those meetings, she “wanted to move in from day one.” However her husband, Bill, wasn’t as eager, wanting instead to stay in their home.
Now here, Frances says she loves her apartment. “I don’t think of it as an apartment,” she continued. “It’s my home. I could stay in it all day.” She doesn’t though. Instead, she enjoys going to the concerts and entertainments, playing board games with other residents and most especially “playing cards with them on Friday nights.”
With Providence Place’s transportation services to grocery stores, banks, and the like, she is one of Providence Place’s residents who decided, “to give up my car. I miss it,” she admits. “But I wasn’t using it. It was just sitting there.”
As far as her level of contentment with her living arrangements, she says, “I don’t know what more anyone could, or would, want. And, I would be remiss,” she concluded, “If I didn’t add how fortunate we are, as residents, to have such a beautiful chapel—for our benefit—in our midst.”
Part of what drew Pat Gagnon to Providence Place was her disenchantment with what, as a longtime homeowner, she calls her “man-jobs.” Though still capable of caring for her former home’s yard and its like, she “just wasn’t motivated to do it anymore. And living in a tourist area finding help to get those jobs done was no easy task.”
Describing herself as “practical,” she noted that “since no one is getting any younger, including myself,” she decided to do what she could to put herself in a position “to age with grace.” That included her considering independent retirement living.
For others at her juncture in life, she advises, “not waiting until you have an issue. It’s important you make these decisions yourself because your kids don’t want to make them for you.”
When she first came to Providence Place making new friends wasn’t on her priority list. “After all,” she said, “I was thinking ‘It’s just an apartment.’” Now that apartment “feels like home” and she finds the other residents “a friendly group of people. The longer you live here,” she explained, “you begin to connect with them in different ways.”
For her, Providence Place means “security without worry, independence without isolation and choices with support as needed.”
Concluding she adds, “Providence Place is the place to find and nurture new interests, and to continue to use your abilities and interests. It’s a place that encourages quality of life, and healthy habits for body, mind and spirit.”